Editor’s Note: At a time when anyone can broadcast their opinions about your startup to the world, public relations requires a new level of engagement on the part of companies and entrepreneurs. But what are the new rules of PR? Guest author Brian Solis, who earlier this month wrote a post for us on the evolution of the press release, explains how public relations has changed and offers up 12 secrets of PR for startups. Warning: This a lengthy post. Its intent is to help companies navigate through the rough seas of traditional PR as it struggles, forcibly, to evolve and adapt to the new rules set forth by the Web (regardless of version number) .Solis is the Principal of FutureWorks, a PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley and also blogs at PR 2.0. Along with Geoff Livingston, Solis recently co-authored Now is Gone, a book that helps businesses learn how to leverage new and social media.
I’ve been overwhelmed with requests from executives and PR professionals to explain how this new media (r)evolution applies to them specifically and how they can make PR more effective and personal during these interesting times. I recently discussed it here and have been doing so for a long, long time. But since conversations and attention is discontinuous and distributed, I asked if I could bring this discussion to a more prominent online epicenter to help reach a wider array of those looking for answers.
The Long Road Back to Public Relations
Public Relations is experiencing a long overdue renaissance and its forcing PR stereotypes out from behind the curtain where they operated comfortably for far too many decades. It didn’t begin this transformation because of Web 2.0 or the latest Social Media wave, but instead in the 90’s when the Web gained mass adoption. Yes, it’s taken that long and it will continue to evolve over the next decade as communications professionals struggle with putting the public back in public relations.
Regardless of what we think we know about PR and the New Media or Social Media revolution, the truth is that we actually may know less about everything than we care to believe. These are times where we can lead and learn in order to improve an industry long plagued by misconceptions and the lack of PR for itself.
PR is now more than ever, something more capable and influential than simply writing and sending press releases to contacts generated by media databases. The media landscape has been completely blown open to not only include traditional media, but also bloggers and most importantly the very people we want to reach, our customers.
About 100 years ago, Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays created and defined the art and science of modern-day PR. Believe it or not, their philosophies and contributions can still be used to further evolve PR today – especially when it comes to Social Sciences.
Over the years, the PR 1.0 publicity machine lost its way and its spark. We got caught up in hype, spin, buzzwords, and spam, and forgot that PR was supposed to be about Public Relations. But, its still how many companies continue to approach PR today.
Enter Social Media and the democratization of the Web and content. Now media and content producers are pushing back, demanding a more targeted and relevant form of outreach. For those who confuse Social Media with online marketing, Social Media is anything that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations between people – it is not the practice of social marketing. I say people, because it humanizes the process of communications when you think about conversations instead of companies marketing at audiences.
PR 2.0 = Conversational PR
The Web changed everything and this ongoing reinvention of PR has been dubbed PR 2.0 or New PR.
PR 2.0, as I defined it many years ago, is the realization that the Web changed everything, inserting people equally into the process of traditional influence. Suddenly we were presented with the opportunity to not only reach our audiences through media gatekeepers, but also use the online channels where they publish and share information to communicate more directly and genuinely.
At the very least, PR 2.0 is going back to the roots of PR to bring back relating to the public back into the process.
Now it’s about listening and, in turn, engaging influencers and stakeholders on their level. It forces PR to stop broadcasting and start connecting.
It is a chance to not only work with traditional journalists, but also engage directly with a new set of accidental influencers, and, it is also our ability to talk with customers directly.
No BS. No hype. It’s an understanding of markets, the needs of people, and how to reach them at the street level—without insulting everyone along the way. Conversational PR is becoming a hybrid of communications, customer service, evangelism, and Web marketing.
The evolution from PR 1.0 to PR 2.0 will result in more informed, effective, and meaningful Public Relations, without a version number. It’ll just be good PR.
So what does this mean for you?
It means you have to start thinking about things more intelligently, differently, and personally.
Maybe you’re an entrepreneur with a recently funded company in need of users, or perhaps you’re bootstrapped and actively seeking financing and you need a little something that will land you a more attractive term sheet.
Every VC, as well as every successful entrepreneur, will tell you that great PR can make you, whereas bad or mediocre PR can stifle your growth and possibly damage existing and prospective relationships. And, they all have ideas on how you should proceed.
But right now, the main thing that stands between you and success is getting those customers – and good press (traditional and new media) builds the bridge between you and them.
In order to get to the next level, you need to know the secrets of effective PR, especially in today’s competitive Web 2.0 world.
These are critical times for your business and you can’t simply entrust the future of your brand to anyone who knows how to write a press release, place it on the wire, and send it via email.
Understand You’re Not the Only Story in Town
Bloggers and reporters are some of the busiest people you could possibly hope to meet. They’re actively looking for the most interesting, relevant, and linkable stories out there, preferably before anyone else can run with it. But truthfully, they spend most of their time hacking through the weeds of generic or over-the-top inbound emails, press releases, Facebook messages, Skypes, SMSes, Tweets, and IMs. It’s almost a small miracle that anyone can ever get their story told.
At the end of the day, you’re not the only company with a great story. Just because your story is new doesn’t make it newsworthy.
Bloggers and journalists are interested in good stories and the more time you spend developing that story up front, for each person you’re trying to reach, the more you can help them help you.