After a few days off to enjoy the holiday with my family, I’m back with a new and exciting interview. I recently had the opportunity to interview PR 2.0 expert Deirdre Breakenridge. Deirdre is President and Director of Communications at PFS Marketwyse as well as an accomplished author with her 4th book due on bookshelves in early 2009. Deirdre’s 3rd book, published in April 2008, titled, PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences, helps communications professionals to understand the exciting changes that are occurring in the PR industry, and how using social media tools we can build better relationships.
There are so many key differences between PR 1.0 and PR 2.0. To start, PR 1.0 was a time of web functionality. PR professionals were able to use the Internet to produce better research, build stronger relationships with third party endorsers including the media and use the Web to get their news releases distributed more efficiently and in a timely manner. During that time, new and improved services were born so that professionals could access incredible information and market research that helped them produce targeted communications and PR campaigns with greater coverage. The functionality of the PR 1.0 made PR professionals feel comfortable and successful in their communications.
However, today, through Web 2.0 applications and social media tools, we have a new PR approach labeled PR 2.0. PR 2.0 is an exciting time for PR people. Yet, it poses many challenges. Suddenly, PR people are feeling a little less comfortable with social media tools, which allow companies to speak directly to markets. They can reach out to their customers, engage in conversations and even hear what their customers are saying to each other. In many instances, PR people and their brands no longer have to go through traditional third party influencers such as the media. Instead there are new influencers including bloggers and customers themselves who are sharing information in web communities. For so long, communications professionals controlled the brand message and in PR 2.0, you can no longer control what’s being said and by whom. The best part about PR 2.0 is that it allows companies to listen carefully and engage in meaningful conversations with stakeholders. Although very different, I believe that the convergence of PR 1.0 and PR 2.0 will lead to the best communication and stronger relationships for brands.
How do PR agencies have to change their strategies and methods of execution to be successful in this PR 2.0 world?
It’s a whole new manner of thinking for PR people. Of course, we know that there are traditional PR practices to reach media and analysts that will still be a part of how we roll out with our product launches and campaigns. However, we have to open up our frame of reference to learn a new process of relationship building. When it comes to PR 2.0, communications professionals can’t really think about messages, audiences and the “pitch” anymore. That’s not the way to reach people in web communities. Everyone is different, and they all want to gather, organize and share information in a meaningful way. First and foremost, when you interact through social media you take off your marketing hat, whether it’s communications with A-List bloggers, customers or citizen journalists. You are peers who are engaging in dialog to share valuable information. The strategy is no longer the broadcast message, but really tailored information to help someone make an informed decision.
The process has even changed from how we observe communities to the new rules of breaking news. This new process includes how you have to be respectful of interactions with bloggers. Now, you have to think about blogger relations, similar to how you handled media relations of the past. There are so many different considerations in the PR 2.0 realm, from the way you form relationships to the social media tools that you select to reach people. In PR 2.0 you are not marketing to them or speaking at them, rather you are talking with them and sharing the information that they need.
Part of PR 2.0 is utilizing social media/internet press releases. What do you see as being the benefits of using social media press releases as compared to traditional press releases?
The Social Media Release (SMR) is a valuable tool that allows journalists and bloggers to build their stories quickly and with more resources. However, the SRM is also a direct to consumer tool that helps people who are interested in your product or services to make informed decision or purchase. The SMR is very interactive and depending on the template allows companies to really tell their story in a meaningful and compelling way through video, podcasts, outside links and resources, bookmarking, etc. They are free from the BS, hype, jargon and canned quotes of traditional news releases. I think that the information in the SMR is better organized to provide more interactive material and resources than a traditional release. The SMR is a great tool and the templates will continue to improve to provide a company’s stakeholders with valuable information more quickly and efficiently, much more than the traditional news release of the past.
You are someone who is active on various social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. There have been plenty of articles written about the zap on productivity that is caused by social networks. However, a lot of people I talk to in PR can’t say enough about the benefits of these networks. What benefit would you say these networks have for a company or business professional that isn’t actively using them?
There are tremendous benefits to using social networks. I would never look at Facebook, Twitter, MyRagan, PitchEngine or any other one of my social networks as something that zaps productivity. On the contrary, if anything, these networks lead to incredible first hand research, excellent conversations that allow you to make decisions personally and professionally, business opportunities including leads, real world networking (where you actually meet your followers or friends offline) and connections to like-minded people who you would never have the opportunity to speak with before.
Businesses especially can benefit from the market research that is available on social networks, so that they can place the feedback whether positive or negative back into product development. The ability to be a part of the conversation and to interact first hand is tremendously important. After all markets are conversations and in order to truly know what customers are saying, you have to participate or at least observe those conversations.
You are currently writing a new book. Can you provide some information about it including title, release date and what it’ll be about?
I’m very excited about the new book. Although I can’t release the title quite yet, it’s going to dig deeper into the area of PR 2.0 and social media. Communications professionals will benefit from this book as they learn that web communities are small societies in and of themselves, based on culture and rules of engagement. Suddenly PR people need to be more understanding and focused on the social sciences. The book also discusses many changes in PR and the customer service processes, including how to handle the socialization of communication and service. There are so many exciting topics, including how to best use micromedia and what’s the approach for breaking news when you’re dealing with bloggers. There are also many challenges brought to the surface with discussion and examples to provide PR people with information allowing them to become PR champions for their companies. I believe that my book highlights topics that will ultimately advance the PR industry, so that, once again, it is recognized as a valuable resource within any organization.
Deirdre Breakenridge has been involved in marketing in public relations for 20 years. Deirdre is currently President and Director of Communications at PFS Marketwyse, a traditional and new media marketing and public relations firm located in Totowa, New Jersey. Besides her responsibilities at PFS, Deirdre is an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. She is an instructor for the University’s GBM program and she focuses on teaching undergraduate students the latest real world business strategies in PR and interactive marketing.
Deirdre has also been an author for Pearson Education since 1999. During that time she has published three books and is currently working on a fourth title, which is due out in early 2009. When not busy at PFS, teaching or writing, Deirdre also spends a great deal of time speaking to different groups on the topic of PR, PR 2.0, social media, branding and interactive marketing.