Putting the "P" Back in PR

by Shannon Paul on November 19, 2008

handsIt’s true, integrating social media into communication strategies puts the focus back on the public. It’s no longer just about the media.

Last week I gave a presentation on social media to the Central Michigan chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (CMPRSA).

I was the first speaker of the day, and I was followed by Leah Jones of Edelman’s Chicago office, and digital crisis PR expert, Dallas Lawrence. They both did a great job at teaching the people in attendance why they should engage in social media as well as how to engage in social media. I was extremely honored to be a part of this event.

Basically, my belief for PR practitioners looking to take the plunge into social media is to

  1. start listening and participating in conversations on blogs and in social networks
  2. start thinking about making your content searchable and shareable

Of course, people like Lee Odden know a whole lot more about SEO (search engine optimization) than I do, but here is a basic outline of things I think beginners should consider:

Keys to Searchability for Press Releases:

  • Link to relevant sites
  • Move links to the top of the release
  • Keep headlines short and informative
  • Replace language that real people would never use to describe your client/company’s product/service with natural language (not marketing-speak, or legal-speak for that matter)

Keys to Shareability for Press Releases and other content:

  • Include a ShareThis or AddThis feature for content posted online that allows the item to be easily posted to other social networks
  • Include images and video that can be easily emedded on blogs, websites or other social networks – don’t make people download.

By the way, if you think search doesn’t matter for media relations, think again:
64% of all journalists report using either Google or Yahoo! news search services to research story ideas, and nearly half of all journalists reported visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week, according to a study by Bulldog Reporter/
TEKGroup International

Here are my slides from the event — please feel free to use them however you like.

[slideshare id=753288&doc=cmprsa-1226681049666278-9&w=425]

Many thanks to Natalie Ebig Scott aka @natalie_joy on Twitter and Denise Donohue, one of the Directors-At-Large at the CMPRSA for the invitation. Also, thanks to Jeremy Pepper, for giving me the idea for the title of this presentation.

How are you adapting what you already do to gain better traction along the social web?

Photo by vern.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

November 20, 2008 Stacy Lukas 1

Unfortunately, at my present brick-and-mortar workplace, I am chided when I even do so much as mention integrating social media into what I already do, what THEY already do, because G-d forbid a company like theirs should keep with the times when they need it most. I feel like my hands are tied most of the time and I might as well be scrawling press releases on a chalkboard slate.

(I won’t give details here because that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah that’s best left offline.)

Regardless, when I’m NOT there I’m focusing my efforts into both educating myself and educating others. I live in a very strange geographical area that should be much more with the PR/SM times than they are … I literally have to drive 45 minutes in any direction to find people that know what the heck I’m talking about most of the time when it comes to this stuff. But some of the people around me (i.e. in my chamber of commerce) seem interested and have specifically asked me to help them understand and show them the ropes of what they need to do to get their small businesses engaged. As a person who loves to teach and help others I’m more than happy to do so, and as a Toastmaster I enjoy public speaking, so I’m putting together some future presentations to practice on my club and hopefully soon give some workshops within my chamber, and we’ll see where that leads. (Hopefully make a couple bucks in the process.)

I’m not going to sit around and wait for my boss who is presently pooh-pooh-ing the idea of changing techniques with the times to get his head out of his ass. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t have time for that. I’m taking my knowledge and hopefully spreading it for the goodwill of the people who live in the same vortex as I do, because frankly, they need to know these things and I honestly feel like the only person around who knows how to do it.


November 20, 2008 Josh Sternberg 2

I recently wrote a post about what public relations has become (and of course, where it should go), and regretfully, I ignored the social media aspect. After reading this post, I realized that social media needs to play a larger part — not just in media relations — but in internal communications, too.

My post was about the state of PR and the negative association that comes with it. Social media should play a larger part in revamping our industry from the organizational level. An argument can be made that the best indicators of your brand are a company’s employees. Get them involved with the company and the brand, and they will have positive messages, of which they will blog about.

Since PR has recently become seen as more media relations than anything else, now is the time to examine how social media can be incorporated into a broader communications platform. These tips help not only for media relations, but for other aspects of a more robust communications program. Thanks for the post and thought exercise!


November 20, 2008 davidmullen 3

Couldn’t agree more.

Yes many clients hire agencies to conduct media relations, but too many people lose sight of why we even pitch stories. It’s not about getting into X publication and calling it a day. It’s about connecting with that publications readers – the public.

To that end, I’ve been asked before to pitch pubs that in no way target any of the targeted stakeholders we had all agreed were important. It was for the sake of someone’s ego. That’s not entirely bad, but it shows that we’ve elevated media above the people we’re actually trying to reach. Media is a vehicle, a tool. Not the end goal.

I think this will become more noticeable as the social media sphere grows, along with the opportunities it represents to connect directly with People. Maybe that’s what the “P” should stand for – People Relations. In the end, isn’t that what we’re after? Connecting with people?


November 20, 2008 natalieebigscott 4

Another great post, Shannon. I’ve used your shareable and searchable language quite a bit since your presentation last week. For my organization, these simple ways to wade in seem to be whetting their appetite for more social media instead of scaring them with all that is out there.

Thanks for the shout-out. It was an honor to have you there. We are all riding this sea of change in public relations, and your presentation really helped attendees put on their life vests. Now, let’s hope they’re building tools to keep them riding the wave.

Feeling very nautical this morning, apparently. :)


November 20, 2008 Adam Denison 5

Great post, Shannon. I’ve often said that social media brings back the relationship side of PR that we seem to miss when we focus solely on media relations. It’s interesting you mention SEO and social media as being related. I suppose I see the relationship in that they are both Internet-based, but where is the social aspect of SEO? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

The CMU students are a great group. I had the opportunity to speak to them last year, and was really impressed with them.


November 20, 2008 Jennifer Holton 6

Shannon -

As a newbie in the social media realm of PR, I really appreciated your overview. It’s still overwhelming in where to you start, but I guess we all just need to jump in the deep end of the pool feet first.


November 20, 2008 Paul May 7

@Adam -
In my view, SEO is inherently social because the primary driver of search performance is linking. Seventy five percent of search performance is determined by off-page factors, of which the largest is the quantity and quality of sites that link to you. So, for example, if you write a post about social media marketing, and it inspires me to write a follow-on post, Google views my link to your post as a “vote” for you on the term “social media marketing.” This improves your placement when people search on that term.

The importance of developing links that provide real value is increasing because Google keeps getting smarter about identifying true links (as opposed to links obtained by gaming methods). What are high-value links built on top of? Relationships. Which is why there are so many people who are writing about how the disciplines of PR, social media and SEO are merging.

Some good posts from Kat French at Social Media Explorer and Steve Rubel below.



November 20, 2008 Leo Wurschmidt 8

I think the advice on avoiding language that normal people would not use to describe your company is such good advice.

David Meerman Scott uses the term gobbledygook to describe this phenomenon. Unfortunately, I have been very guilty of this in the past. I have been trying to rectify it since first reading his blog or book (I am not sure which came first).

Interesting statistics about how the (mature) media find information. That is pretty alarming if you are company that does not rely on an online press/media room.

Thanks for the info!


November 20, 2008 Dirk Singer 9

An excellent post Shannon and thank you for sharing your presentation, which as always has some great insights.

It also chimes in with something that appeared on Advergirl yesterday (and that I reblogged), about how this shouldn’t be the preserve of experts who do their smoke and mirrors routine, but intrinsic to everyone in an agency:




November 20, 2008 shannonpaul 10

@Stacy – I definitely feel your pain. I just try to remember that if everyone knew about this stuff, they wouldn’t need me — there is a strong desire for a lot of companies to learn this stuff, but there’s also a high learning curve. I started learning this stuff because I believed that eventually everything I was doing would pay off. I think that’s finally starting to happen, but all that really means is that the stakes have been raised. I still have to convince people who are ambivalent at best to all of this social media stuff — that simply doesn’t go away — at least not right away.

That’s part of the reason I gather and share all the information I can — I need all the data I can get to make my case at every turn and I empathize with others who may be facing similar challenges.

@josh – you’re welcome and I’m glad you found the post helpful for understanding how social media fits into PR.

@davidmullen – such a gem, “people relations”, I love it! What a great comment. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here.

@natalie – The nautical theme seems apropos. Thanks again for the invitation. I’m glad the shareable and searchable mantra is catching on. ;)

@Adam – I’m glad you asked why I think SEO is part of SM. I think being aware of search makes content available to the people who are looking for it. Being available is a huge part of being social — it’s why bloggers tag posts. Making content that is easy to locate within a site and the Internet at large may not be technically associated with Web 2.0, but making people work too hard to find your content just seems *anti-social*, right? — Also, like @paul says, linking (driven by social media) improves search. They’re very closely related. Does this make sense?

@Jennifer – I understand that, too — please feel free to drop me a line anytime you have a question — even if you think it’s not a very good question. I’m happy to help if I can.

@Paul – All great points about SEO – thanks for the information — it’s greatly appreciated. There’s also a pretty extensive post on the BuzzStream blog over here about the coming merger of SEO and PR: http://www.buzzstream.com/blog/seo-and-pr-are-merging.html

@Leo – Yes, I’m aware that David Meerman Scott refers to this as gobbledygook, which, unfortunately is also the name my mother gave to the imaginary monster she would threaten me with to get me to do things like put away my toys or eat all my vegetables. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? ;-)

I felt very much the same way about that statistic. I think online newsrooms make more sense than ever for this fact alone! If companies only realized that people are searching for them and they simply cannot be found. Ugh.

@Dirk – Yes! I agree – interactive/social media/digital – these things should be integrated as much as possible with all the other communications.


{ 4 trackbacks }

  • Selecting Keywords for SEO: A Quick Guide for PR and Social Media Pros | BuzzStream Blog November 21, 2008
  • The “P” in PR Should Stand for “People” « David Mullen November 21, 2008
  • Modern PR: The Next Wave | soloprpro.com March 9, 2009
  • People Relations: New Services & Platforms Demand Amalgamation, Not Evolution, of Industries « Legends of Aerocles July 6, 2009

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