Share This Too launched

Share This Too

The start of term is looming and preparation and planning is underway. That’s why it’s taken me a week to get around to posting about the launch of, Share This Too, the second social media handbook published by Wiley.

Written by the CIPR‘s Social Media Advisory Panel and a range of practitioner friends there’s a  pretty impressive array of topics covered, including:

  • Creating content frameworks
  • Analysing online audiences and planning
  • Gamification
  • Content curation
  • Community management
  • And loads more

My chapter looks at the rise of big data and how data mining can be used to plan and deliver strategic PR activity. It looks at this practically using a case where data was used to identify potential consumer issues for an organisation before they become full blown complaints. By being able to ‘predict’ and address these issues the organisation aimed to reduce its workload.

I conclude by arguing that this kind of innovative, data-led PR can help the PR discipline achieve a more strategic position – both within organisations and within the wider business and marketing consultancy industries.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Don’t let Brian Solis’ foreword put you off, go and get a copy from Wiley or Amazon.

 

 

CIPR Guide to Social Media Monitoring: new publication

I’m really pleased to say that the CIPR has launched its new Guide to Social Media Monitoring today. I’ve been responsible for co-ordinating and contributing to the Guide which has been written collaboratively by members of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel. I’ve embedded the document below as well as provided a bit of context and background to its origins.

From personal experience as well as evidence from CIPR member feedback it is clear that social media monitoring (SMM) is a key issue for PR practitioners at the moment. And while many practitioners know SMM is increasingly important, they don’t necessarily know exactly what monitoring entails, which tools and technologies are good for certain tasks and how to integrate it into wider strategies and practices.

So this became the primary driver for the document: we wanted it to explain what SMM is, what tools are available (both free and paid-for), how they work – and how they differ from other social media management platforms – as well as provide an overview of some of the leading tools in the market.

But we also recognised that in order to be practically useful we needed to add some wider organisational context around the tools and technologies piece. So, the guide also features sections covering how to build a business case for monitoring, how to set monitoring objectives as well as how to develop organisational workflows to get the most out of monitoring. The ultimate aim of this is PR practitioners will be empowered to make sense of SMM, recognise its potential and apply it to their organisations.

Social media helping PR operate more strategically?

The Chartered Institute of PR’s (CIPR) annual State of the Profession report suggests a potentially interesting development for the sector and the role PR plays within organisations.

In her introduction to the survey of 1,273 of its members, CIPR CEO, Jane Wilson, reports that PR “is moving away from having a primary media relations focus to embracing the opportunity presented to us by social media to participate in two-way conversations with our publics.”

While ‘two-way communications’ is an often misused or misunderstood term its adoption here is potentially significant as it might  indicate a shift from a traditionally media relations-focused tactical function to more strategic organisational as PR has to undertake greater research and planning to deal with the complexity of social media.

OK. So, this is pretty flimsy speculation but there’s another interesting insight in the report which adds some more – albeit speculative – weight to the hypothesis.

The increasing convergence and collaboration of siloed departments necessary to manage the increasingly social environment and support the move towards becoming a ‘social business’ is also affecting PR professionals. In the section titled ‘Converging areas of practice’ the report reveals that “[PR] [d]epartments working increasingly closely together has directly resulted in areas of work converging. Around half of PR professionals say that departments that now work more closely with each other share responsibility for social or digital media management (51%), branding (48%) or internal communications (48%).”

While it doesn’t indicate whether PR teams are taking the lead on driving forward a newly converged organisational strategy, these are interesting findings that may indicate that as organisations become increasing socialised and converged this may well be a catalyst for PR to recognise and capitalise on its long-absent organisational strategic prowess?

PR, it has long been argued, is best conceived as a strategic management function operating at board level to understand wider society and help shape the long-term vision and operation of organisations. In theory PR plays a central role identifying and connecting internal stakeholders with external ones, building long-term relationships with them, interpreting their changing needs and feeding this information up to the board to shape organisational strategy. The reality, alas, has seen PR all too often become relegated to marketing-led communications and reactive issue management.

But is social media forcing a change for the better? As building relationships with online communities and networks through two-way communications becomes increasingly central to an organisation’s success; and social media-empowered consumers and stakeholders are increasingly driving organisational convergence will PR’s ‘boundary-spanning’ role helping join up an organisation’s departments with its external environment help it operate at a higher, more strategic level?

I guess only time will tell. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised as I believe PR has the potential to play a central role in helping organisations adapt to the complexity of social media at a business level – in theory, at least!

As a footnote it should also be noted that two other findings from the report may have a bearing on this. Firstly, the report argues that in terms of its current strategic presence “three in five [respondents] say that they directly brief board members or senior staff, whilst over a third of those in-house with a direct responsibility for PR sit on the board“. However, “fewer than half say that this extends to influencing wider business and organisational strategy.”

And secondly, “by some margin, the area of public relations that is seen as presenting the biggest challenge is social or digital media management. Two-thirds of PR professionals (66%) say that they think it will present a challenge to them as PR professionals, whilst half (53%) say that they think it will present a challenge to their organisation.”

So, there’s still a way to go before PR operates consistently at a strategic, management level, although social media may be well be the catalyst necessary to shift this reality. But, it’s a catalyst that’s also perceived as a major challenge – both to the profession and individual practitioners. Perhaps it’s digital’s disruptive potential will win out and help the PR industry come of age.

 

Share This: Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals

I’ve been involved with a great project over the past few months which finally came to fruition last week as the CIPR’s Social Media Advisory Panel launched a new social media and PR handbook.

Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals contains 25 chapters spanning strategic resources, practical guidance, industry change and tools and technologies across a range of different sectors written by a range of experienced practitioners.

The book came about, as fellow panel-ee Julio Romo writes, because after three years providing social media counsel for the CIPR:

“last year we thought that the time was right to put together a book for everybody in business – those in PR and communications, as well as those in marketing, finance, sales and customer service. After all, social cut’s across business disciplines.”

Since being listed on Amazon the book has sold out – not a bad performance by a book originally conceived as a sharable pdf ebook. Ever the inquisitor, I was thinking about what has made the book so popular earlier this week and I believe I’ve distilled it into the following factors:

  1. Firstly, the handbook draws together a wealth of smart and experienced senior practitioners who cover a wide range of different topics yielding comprehensive, expert content
  2. Secondly, the book provides specific cases and practical detail for the changing nature of social media and PR – not just repeating platitudes about how social media is ‘changing everything’
  3. Finally, many social media books are written by US authors whereas Share This comes at the topic from a clear UK context, incorporating case studies; campaigns results; statistics and insight from UK-based practitioners

My contribution, ‘Social Media and The Third Sector’, features in the industry change section and examines how organisations in the non-profit sector need to think about their communications and campaigning strategies in relation to what I term the ‘new networked reality‘ in which they now operate.

I suggest that the nature of the sector should be ideally suited to the socially motivated aspects of this networked space but that a lot of the strategic and tactical changes that organisations need to make can run counter to conventional organisational thinking.

The chapter concludes by pointing to a future where organisations will need to become ‘hybrid’ and work with strategically aligned online networks of supporters, partner organisations and the increasingly networked and active public.

 

CIPR Summer Social: is the PR industry falling behind SEO?

I’ve been very remiss in failing to mention and big up the CIPR’s Summer Social.

The Summer Social is a series of informal meet ups organised through the CIPRs Social Media Advisory Panel (DISC: of which I am a member).

So I'm making amends as of now and urging anyone in the PR, marketing and social media sectors to get along to this week’s event as it tackles an oft-debated and really important issue: where do the lines between SEO and PR blur? When is it right and where does it put your clients at risk?

The event takes place from 5pm – 7pm at the CIPR HQ, 52-53 Russell Square, London, WC1B 4HP. and is hosted by Speed Communications' Stephen Waddington who asks: "Has the PR industry failed to reskill for SEO – and will social media be the next missed opportunity?":



“Search agencies are increasingly packaging planning, content development and analytics, into a payment-by-results model. It’s a compelling proposition for a marketing director that is seeking guaranteed outcomes.



Now search agencies are starting to use PR tactics such as press releases, by-lined content and wire distribution to drive their campaigns prompting the scrutiny of the role of PR versus SEO.



This week’s CIPR’s Social Summer 2010 workshop will ask what the PR industry can do to regain ground on SEO. And whether social media, like SEO before it, will be the next missed opportunity for the PR industry.”

The idea of Summer Socials is to offer PR and marketing professionals the chance to learn and find out more about social media and a host of related topics.

It’s less formal and structured than traditional CIPR events or workshop which is a good thing as for the £10 cost we serve beer and nibbles and you get to quiz experts and fellow practitioners about the emerging media landscape.

Looking forward, future Socials include sessions from Wolfstar MD Stuart Bruce, MD of Tweetdeck, Iain Dodsworth and Julio Romo with guests form Channel 4 and the BBC.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

I’m back damnit and here’s your starter for 10: an OpenCIPR

OK. I'm back blogging again. Apologies for the haitus. Twas caused by busy, busy work and too much homelife going on.

So I have a few thoughts on s0me issues around public engagement and social media which I aim to write up soonest, in the meantime I wanted to float this idea:

Does the desire exist among UK PR types for an OpenCIPR?

Well, is there? I didn;t renew my membership earleir this year but after discussions with a good few digtial PR types was convinced that there are a number of areas where an organisation of social media and digital PR and communications types would be very useful, e.g. taking the marketing and ad agencies on through thought-leadership; developing and sharing best practice communally (a la Will McInnes' Measurement Camp); knwoeldge sharing, networking, drinking, etc.

But this thought led naturally to the next…. in a social/digital age do we need (a) formal organisation to organise? My opinion: no.

So I propose re-joining the CIPR and establishing a OpenCIPR grassroots version. This is something David Wilcox and others did with the RSA. And if they can do it with the RSA we can do it with the CIPR.

But I need to know a) that this isn't a stupid idea and b) others are willing to get involved.

Please leave your views in the comments. kthxbai

Tags: CIPR, OpenCIPR, open source organising

Organising in the age of Networked Movements

I posted last week about my decision to not renew my membership of the UK’s PR trade body, the CIPR for various reasons.

I'm currently re-considering (more to come on that one hopefully) my lapsed membership, but weighing up the pros and cons of why I didn’t renew my membership helped me crystallise a line of thought I’ve had for a few weeks.

This thought is thus: the primary problem with trade organisations such as the CIPR or NUJ is quite simply that they are organisations.

That is, they struggle (or appear to be struggling) to adapt to the challenges posed by a socially-enabled Internet precisely because their organisational structure is geared towards fulfilling a role in an industrial, non-networked world.

For example, I don’t need the CIPR to co-ordinate a venue, guestlist, speaker and refreshments in order to attend a networking vent because a network of 50 people connected via the Internet can achieve something similar – moreover, they can achieve something better by co-creating the event.

This idea is also relevant when thinking about the way political parties (in the UK) are adapting to social media. While the Labour Party is making great strides in freeing up debate and campaigning I stand by the argument that they are never going to really get social until they do one of two things.

The first, is to radically restructure the way the party organises itself. That is, turn the party from a top-down campaigning body to a purely bottom-up network of campaigners. The difference may appear subtle but the effect is radically different.

Secondly, they could do what Obama did with the Democrat Party in the 2008 Presidential Election campaign. Rather than restructure the party (although there were definitely some changes made to the way to party operates), the Obama team centralised a large part of the campaign organisation but significantly they devolved a lot of the on-the-ground ‘campaigning’ activity to its networks of supporters.

For example, quoting Micah Sifry in an excellent essay, Sarah Oates, notes “campaigns are designed to share tasks, but not authority”. Conversely “networks share authority but not tasks”. The real test, for the Obama team, Sifry notes, will come when his team looks how to carry forward the ‘shared authority’ created during the campaign into the White House. I suspect that the Obama movement will struggle to integrate its decentralised, networked, informal organisation into the traditionally top-down formality of government.

Of course, I may be wrong and we have already seen Obama’s Change.gov programme initiate attempts to crowd-source policy making. But how successful this will be over the longer-term remains to be seen (and is the topic of another post!).

More significantly, this idea of sharing ‘authority’ vs sharing ‘activity’ (or tasks) illustrates that real political co-creation and networked campaigning appears – so far – to work best in opposition where parties and organisations are not fettered by the constraints of top-down government.

Having said that, I appreciate Obama is trying to change this and the UK government has a number of great social media thinkers and doers currently engaged in trying to make Government more networked. This is an interesting space and will continue to become curiouser and curioser. I plan to track progress in the UK and on the other side of the Atlantic and keep you posted on developments.

Technorati tags: Organisation, Barack Obama, CIPR, Micah Sifry, Paula Oates

What does the CIPR and NUJ have in common?

So I have a confession. I let my CIPR membership lapse last month. I may still renew it, but to be perfectly honest I’m not sure what *real* benefits I get out of the organisaiton anymore.

The particular benefits they sold me on during the post-lapse sales call included: meeting other PR professionals at breakfast briefings and networking events and the all inclusive PR Week subscription.

But I find I do my best networking online, reading and commenting on blogs. And now by following and engaging others via Twitter (and other social media tools).

On top of that I try to get along to events like Twestival; alternative ‘networking’ events organised by non-traditional players in non-traditional spaces. Likewise I find I get all the latest news, gossip and cutting-edge thinking from blogs and Twitter too, rather than PR Week.

In short I just don’t think I need to be a member of the CIPR anymore.

Of course, this also means I don’t get to claim I’m an accredited PR practitioner or use the professional suffix MCIPR. Like I say, I may still renew but I’m struggling to see the benefits so would welcome others’ opinions.

As I mull over these thoughts, it was also good to see another blogger's encounter with his professional organisation, the NUJ.

Adam Tinworth's blog post starts innocently enough but soon degenerates/ascends into a car crash of a comment thread. With friends like these…. as they say!

Technorati tags: CIPR, NUJ, membership organisations

“Ghost blogging is illegal”, says CIPR

Rather an interesting statement has made its way into the latest iteration of the CIPR’s Social Media Guidelines. According to the section in the Guidelines covering Social Media and the CIPR Code of Conduct:

"[CIPR] Members' use of social media must be transparent, and they must make extra effort to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. … In this regard, members should be aware that ‘ghosting’ a blog is illegal"

Uh, sorry? Come again. “[M]embers should be aware that ‘ghosting’ a blog is illegal”. Since when? Well, according to last year’s Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, misleading marketing practices are illegal. But does this really extend to any blog that is ghosted?

Back to the CIPR: “[c]reating fake blogs (‘ghosting’)” is an example of a social media activity that falls under this legislation."

I’m not so sure. Yes, I agree a ghosted blog is disingenuous, bad social media practice and yes, I would agree that a blog purporting to be written by a genuine customer but in reality written by a marketing team would breach the legislation.

But can you go as far as to issue a blanket statement claiming *all* ghosted blogs breach unfair trading regulations? I think it’s unlikely.

So what’s the CIPR’s rational? To be honest, I’m not sure. It always errs on the side of caution, but this is potentially misleading. Interestingly, the statement is a new addition from the original consultation document so maybe they took on advice from someone at the consultation stage.

If they did then great. As usual I blogged my submission which was largely similar to the previous year's and also as usual I didn’t receive any feedback on my submission so I don’t know who submitted recommendations and what changes were made. 

CIPR Social Media Guidelines: an open response

The UK’s PR industry professional body, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recently opened up its Social Media Guidelines for consultation. It does this once a year and this year only two bloggers I know posted about it.

I received a very polite reminder from the CIPR today asking me if I wanted to contribute. I hesitated submitting my views this time around after my previous experience left me with a distinct “we’re listening but not hearing” feeling from senior CIPR protagonists.

But after re-reading the amended guidelines I decided to submit a response. What follows is a version of my submission. I must stress that this submission represents my personal rather than professional views and I am a fully-paid up member of the CIPR.

The consultation asks two specific questions:

  • Do you believe this document covers the issues highlighted in sufficient depth?
  • Do you believe there are other important issues which should be addressed (and if so, what are they)?

But it also welcomes “general views”

To my mind the guidelines document does cover the issues highlighted in sufficient depth and also covers off all of the major online issues.

However, whether the issues are the right issues and whether all other issues included, e.g. online advertising and SEO, are directly relevant to PROs remains to be seen.

In short my more general contribution is this: Firstly, I am not entirely clear why the CIPR social media guidelines are required seeing as so much of the core social media behaviour PROs need to adhere to is subsumed within the CIPR’s Code of Conduct: integrity, competence and confidentiality.

This is especially highlighted when there appears to inherent contradictions in the guidelines. For example, the Guidelines state:

particular care should be taken when ‘ghosting’ a blog

as this behaviour may break the CoC if the ghost-blogger isn’t transparent about their motivations/intentions. I went further and suggested that ghosting is pretty much condemned and denounced by all bloggers so in my opinion the CIPR should make a blanket recommendation to its members to avoid the practice.

However, further into the Guidelines ghost-blogging is flagged as likely to be illegal anyway in light of the recent OFT’s ‘Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008′. Here the CIPR goes as far as to state that  “[e]xamples of social media activities outlawed under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations” include ”Creating Fake blogs (‘ghosting’)”. This to me is confusing and risks sending mixed messages.

Secondly. the CIPR seems to have maintained its position whereby social media is an additional ‘channel’ to traditional PR rather than addressing the fundamental shifts in media (and thus PR) that the Internet is bringing about.

As an example, the guidelines specifically recommend:

  • flagging up your professional role every time you leave a comment on a blogs
  • no deep linking
  • using copyrighted material
  • employers curtailing - through policy – personal use of social media during working hours

I suggested that none of these practices are realistic. No deep links? WTF?

In light of the way the social web functions PR professionals who really want to succeed in ‘social media’ must immerse themselves and learn how the online space operates in such a radically different way to traditional media.

The idea of following top-down stipulations that fundamentally contradict the environment in which they’re designed to apply seems counter-productive.

While I totally understand that the CIPR needs to appear as if it is dealing with the issue at hand, I still stand by what I said in my letter to PR Week in January 2008. It was this: that the PR industry (in the UK at least) is losing (has lost?) out in terms of industry leadership to other industries that are investing greater effort to understand social/digital media (indeed it’s perhaps no surprise to find the CIPR directing it’s members to the ASA’s guidance on social media!).

I suspect I am being too critical or at least taking the guidelines apart in an overly forensic way. If I am being constructively critical then I get the feeling that the Guidelines are too equivocal. I’ve already highlighted the discrepancy when it comes to ghost blogging. There’s a similar tension that runs throughout the Guidelines. They suggest PR professionals should “err on the side of disclosure” but then draw attention to legal requirements.

This – to me, at least – is a tension between following the existing rules and listening the emerging best practice of online communities. Rigid, trenchant laws fail to take into account the messiness (to paraphrase Weinberger and Shirky) of media/PR on the Internet. But they are the domain of the traditional organisation to which it can fall back on.

The challenge here is for the CIPR to get ‘social and abandon formalised consultations to learn real-life lessons form those immersed or involved in social media. Only then will it start to get a ‘feel’ for the way its Guidelines should be developed and take a real and significant step towards leading the PR industry (and related industries) into a digital future.

Technorati tags: Chartered institute of Public Relations, CIPR, Social Media, Guidelines