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Brian Solis Sheds Light on PR 2.0

Sometimes you conduct an interview, and you realize the subject Really Gets It. Brian Solis, author of the popular PR 2.0 blog, has given some brilliant answers to the very real issues of PR in the new media era, corporate blogging, and the 2.0 trend in general. With strong statements like, “In the game of social media, PR is not invited to the party,” and the logic to back it up, here are Brian’s thoughts…

How did you make PR 2.0 one of the higher ranked marketing blogs?

I would love to believe that it’s because of the gripping, insightful, and controversial stances I take on marketing, PR, and Social Media – but the truth is, like anything that is publicly available, you have to do the legwork to get people to know it’s out there.

Blog consistently. Write compelling, thought-provoking articles. And, participate in the communities around you.

You’re in the heart of technology development (Silicon Valley) and the new media sea change. What insights/tips do you have for your East Coast brethren?

First, most of the innovation I see is further north of Silicon Valley. All of the excitement and new business models are stemming out of San Francisco. Silicon Valley has fallen into an old regime and they’re now forcing evolution in order to catch up. Everyone seems to have a 2.0 strategy nowadays – whether it’s viable or not.

The difference between San Francisco and the rest of the world is that we have an incredibly active tech community. Everyone comes together almost nightly. Events such as STIRR, SFBeta, SF and Silicon Valley Newtech Meetups, SF Win, Tech Connect, Social Media Club, etc, etc., rally hundreds of people at each and every event. It’s only growing month-to-month.

Technology is abundant across the globe. I would start or join and promote any movement on the East Coast dedicated to new tech, new media and social media. When people get behind movements an epicenter is created for showcasing new ideas and capabilities. Many of the companies that highlight new technology online apps, and Web services over here are also from outside the bay area, including France, Chicago, and New York. There’s no geographic limit to innovation – they just need a hub and a group of champions.

Many pundits say web 2.0 and these new media forms are going to suffer a crash similar to the first generation of web technologies. What are your thoughts?

This is a topic that I hear and discuss almost on a daily basis. It’s the primary reason I started http://bub.blicio.us.

Listen, we are far from a crash – seriously. The only crash on our horizon may be due to real estate and all of the bad and unethical loans that are funding to get people into overpriced homes that they really can not afford. I recently talked to Jason Calacanis and his two predictive factors for the crash were bad loans and a looming war with Iran. There is no evidence of a potential tech crash , at least not yet. There’s more excitement now then there has been for six years. Yes, VC funding is ramping up, but it’s nowhere near the levels of the last tech boom.

Part of it was hype, but the main difference between now and then is that companies are focusing on building products and services – and also a community around them – before they even think about taking VC money. And, when they do, it’s a much more humble, realistic Series A or B to help them get to the next level. Many companies I know have secured anywhere from a few hundred thousand to a few million – and some of them waited until they had 500,000 users. Company founders would rather hold out, increase valuation and retain greater control.

Another point of differentiation was that most companies back then focused on staffing up and development and a short-sighted exit strategy of an IPO or a reverse IPO. The market crashed because a ton of overvalued dotbombs hit the market without real business models. Entrepreneurs are less concerned with cashing out these days than they are building something that will change the world or make their life easier somehow.

Web 2.0 opened the door to a more interactive Web. Office 2.0 is helping businesses become more productive wherever, whenever. Enterprise 2.0 is streamlining internal and external workflow, processes and services. This time around, it’s about solutions. It’s not based on hype, but rather, capabilities and community.

What’s different about 2.0 media from a PR perspective? Do you think this is a permanent shift?

Let me start with the last question. Yes, Social Media will permanently shift media. It already has. Blogs are skyrocketing in popularity and in influence. Newspapers are shrinking. Media properties are integrating blog-like, social platforms to build a hybrid between traditional journalism and social media. Citizen and camera phone journalists are more important and relevant than ever before.

It’s the socialization of news that makes it 2.0 aka social media aka the Live Web (per Doc Searls) – and it’s this socialization that will make it permanent. Many complain about the terms Media 2.0 and Social Media, but to me, it’s more about a classification of media, rather than trying to capitalize on trends. Social media, in principle, is important, as it relates to the democratization of news and information.

I think we all agree that there are social elements driving the rampant exchange of information among people and its definitely worth documenting. After all, it’s changing how we communicate – as people and communications professionals. The difference is, today you have to know what you’re talking about and you have to be transparent to engage.

Even though only a small fraction of the global population is actually socializing, these new tools and platforms are already creating the framework for a broader, more sophisticated Social Media platform for the immediate future.

So to those critics of the term Social Media, we have to remember that its about the people who understand what’s going on and helping to define the landscape, not the ones that are screaming about it.

The way we read and share information will only continue to change until it completely transforms from one-to-many to many-to-many.

How has this changed our business?

Many PR people don’t even read the trades that matter to the companies they represent, let alone participate in social media. Social PR does not take the place of traditional PR – and nothing beats relationships.

I speak about this subject quite a bit, and the only way to get the PR industry to listen is through shock therapy. Why? Because PR people have a horrible reputation that’s in the same boat as lawyers and used car salesmen. Yet there’s little done to correct it outside of the PR echo chamber.

In the game of social media, PR is not invited to the party. This is because PR, as a whole, is believed to be incapable of engaging at any level that requires believable engagement.

Afterall we are spin doctors. We don’t get it. We can’t write. We like adjectives. We are simply spammers of information and not at all able to speak to influencers (or the people formerly known as the audience) because we’re too dumb to understand what we’re talking about and why it’s important. And, we try to always control the message.

All this because as an industry, we have not done a good job of PR for PR. Therefore I encourage those who really want to learn, to participate without an agenda, to help change this dreadful perception.

It’s critical that we understand the infrastructure of social media and respect it in order to participate in the dialogue. And more importantly, if you don’t have the expertise to contribute from a professional standpoint then don’t bother. And I’m not talking about PR, I’m referring to their understanding of the product and market related to the company you represent.

This is all about making professionals more successful in traditional public relations and in the brave new world of Social Media. They are both necessary and distinct in the strategies and tactics that drive each towards success.

At the end of the day, this is all about shifting from monologue to dialogue, and this powerful shift will take no prisoners but will yield many casualties. This is about people, on both sides of the conversation – not audiences.

This is the premise of the PR 2.0 philosophy I’ve been talking about since the first boom. PR 2.0 is not formed or fed by Web 2.0. It was/is a manifesto for improving our profession in a new age of communications.

With Web 2.0 starting to crossover into the mainstream, PR 2.0 (and everything 2.0) has become the golden ticket for misguided marketing professionals. But, back in the mid 90s, we analyzed how the Web and multimedia was redefining PR and marketing communications, while also building a new toolkit to reinvent how companies communicate with influencers and directly with people.

It was a chance to not only work with traditional journalists, but also engage directly with a new set of accidental influencers, and, it was also our ability to talk with customers directly. No BS. No hype. Just an understanding of markets, the needs of people, and how to reach them at the street level – without insulting everyone along the way.

It continues to this day. It forced traditional media to evolve. It created an entirely new set of influencers with a completely different mechanism for collecting and sharing information. And, its reforming the daily routines of how people searched for news.

Targeting Social Media + Traditional Media = today’s communications professionals.

What do you think of the recent trend of corporate blogs coming online? What tips do you have for corporate bloggers?

This is a loaded question. Blogging is nothing new, yet it is still highly underrated and misunderstood by Corporate America. I believe that all companies should blog. I just don’t see that many respect it or even understand why they need it.

Some [businesses] get it, and they’re highly successful at cultivating relationships and providing expertise – without blatant marketing. Others treat it as just another arm of marketing communications – no different than creating a product sheet, brochure or a press release. In fact, the most unbelievable thing to me is that many executives have their PR or marketing person ghostwrite the posts and simply put their name on it. Whereas content was king in Web 1.0, now participation is king. But, you can’t market “to� customers, you must engage “with� them.

Blogging is considered one form of social media, and it has become a viable, respected and a tremendously influential channel for corporate communications and customer relations. Businesses are learning to experiment with executive and corporate blogs as a means to tap into this rich and evolving vein of CRM, leveraging the power of social media and the prospect of sparking new conversations within markets.

The key to social media is not to propagate or pontificate. Instead of using the corporate blog as an arm of marketing, identify customer pain points and deliver the painkiller in a direct, personal, and believable fashion. Try segmenting information across each market to make the interaction more personal and believable. The “people” constantly referred to in the realm of social media, is [actually layered into segments of] customers, employees, peers, channel partners, decision makers, and competitors. It’s important to address each of these audiences, acknowledging that crossover exists.

Remember, people blog, not companies. Make sure that you start real conversations… and have something to bring to the table. This is about conversations – people talking to people – not about “corporate communications.” It takes a new level of engagement.

Also, please don’t get tied down to linking the metrics of blogging to the bottomline. It’s all about opening up the corporate kimono – exposing the soul and personality of the company to facilitate genuine communication.

About Geoff Livingston:

7 Comments on “Brian Solis Sheds Light on PR 2.0

  1. Pingback: PR 2.0 - Silicon Valley

  2. Pingback: Brian Solis Sheds Light on PR 2.0 by Geoff Livingston - New PR

  3. Pingback: media coffee blog » Klaus-Peter Frahm » Not done a good job of PR for PR

  4.  by  KP Frahm

    Hello Geoff, thanks for you comment, and for this interesting interview, rgd life across the pond, please go check out yourself, it’s beautiful :)

  5. Pingback: keine zeit zum bloggen « informationcommunication

  6. Pingback: PR News from Spin Thicket

  7.  by  frank

    A blog which doesn’t allow comments is still a blog. When I started blogging over six years ago, there were many many blogs already. Yes, I know it seems to many as if in the year 2000 you had to hunt around to find a blog. You didn’t. They were “everywhere�. Most have just closed down since then.

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