Robert Scoble recently asked whether or not Facebook may represent a new kind of press release.
Let me answer this for you.
No. Facebook is not the next template for press releases, no more than Pownce, Twitter, and Jaiku collectively represent the replacement for traditional wire services.
I know he wasn't serious about it becoming the next template for a press release, but what he is saying is loud and clear, and you should pay attention. Reading between the lines, "I get too many emails. I can not respond to most of them. Find a way to stand out. Be creative and reach me in a way that appeals to me. Oh, and give me another reason to love my iPhone."
For those who have yet to join Facebook, it is a social network. And, in my opinion, it is the most prominent social network out there today. It's everything Myspace could never be and it is important, significant, and only beginning its reign of economic influence. The difference is the caliber of people in the network and the tools they use to communicate with each other inside and outside the network.
On each profile in Facebook, there is a "wall" for people to leave comments, questions, recommendations, and also share media with each member, which is not unlike the comments section in Myspace. Each addition is visible to anyone and everyone.
With a little imagination, you can envision how the new generation of social presence applications and social networks appeal to marketers and PR. If you can read it above, there are two quick pitches made on Robert's wall. If not, click here for a larger view.
This is why I write about social media, networks, and social applications in the first place. They represents the ability to spark conversations with people directly, as well as those that influence them, in new and unique ways. And, they're forcing PR to evolve and step out from behind its cloak of anonymity.
Now that Facebook is open to everyone, as well as all of the latest social applications, it's very easy to join and find the people that matter to you and your company, wherever they may congregate.
While they represent new opportunities to reach people however, they are also indicative of why today's PR practice will fail miserably in the realm of social media, unless a new approach is embraced. And, it's not easy. A deep philosophical examination of the PR practice today and its ills, is critical and necessary in order to even THINK about participating.
The first problem is that we as PR people (generally speaking), don't understand what it is we represent and why it is important and also unique to specific people. The second problem is that we speak in messages and assume that one message covers all the bases. The next issue is that we view journalists and customers as an audience speaking "at" them and ignoring (or forgetting) that audiences are comprised of different groups of people from a variety of horizontal and vertical groups. Finally, we use antiquated tools that broadcast the afore mentioned problems to the masses with little regard for the recipient's wants and needs.
I wholeheartedly believe that leaving a traditional pitch on the wall of Facebook for all too see is fundamentally a bad idea.
It's the difference between spam and information - and it's a fine line.
Whether participating in social media is a good or bad idea, the answer lies in our ability to understand the culture of any community and why we should be there. We must analyze why other people are there, who they are, how they participate, while understanding the differences between journalists, bloggers, and everyday people.
The price of admission is respect, listening, and transparency. This is about relationships. And remember, this isn't the one and only time you may need to reach certain people. So take the time to do this the right way.
What if we as PR, took the time to analyze what it would take to be compelling to each person as it relates to the culture of the community we're evaluating? What if we reverse-engineered where people went for their information and in turn, truly understood how to use the same tools they use to communicate. What if after thinking through these challenges you developed something that looked nothing like a pitch, but ultimately effective? Well, we'd end up creating a new breed of PR professionals that will survive the impending collision between old and new PR.
Here's my top 10 list of what to do whether targeting people through social or traditional media:
1. Determine your value proposition and the most likely markets that will benefit from your news.
2. Humanize the story. Personalize the story. One version no longer cuts it.
3. Identify the people you'd like to reach and how they prefer to see information.
4. Read and/or watch their work.
5. Participate in their communities and use their tools of choice - but as a person first, not as a PR spammer. Don't start pitching right out of the gate.
6. Monitor the vibe and how people share information within their communities. Learn the dynamics and the rules of engagement. Listen. Learn. Respect.
7. Don't pitch. Stand out. Be compelling.
8. Use a variety of approaches, but without spamming!
9. Don't forget the traditional tools that work. Make sure that you cultivate relationships across the board.
10. Repeat the previous steps as you move across the disparate groups of people you need to reach. This is how to do PR with across the bell curve of customer adoption and in the long tail.
Just for good measure, I placed a link to this post on Scoble's Facebook wall rather than write a comment on his blog or send an email.
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