4 things PR must do online in 2009

It’s a time for reflection on what’s been in 2008 and what is yet to come in 2009. We’ve had some wonderful examples of bad PR conducted online, most notably Miss. Whitman-Hess’ feud with Michael Arrington.

What can PRs do in 2009 to make comunications more effective and efficient, building better relationships on the way?

Hang back on the e-mail

Very few PRs it seems have to grips with exactly how e-mail should be used. The scatter-gun approach of e-mailing vast amounts of contacts garnered through Gorkana is not PR – it is spamming. This method does you no good as a PR, makes your agency/company look lazy and makes your client look foolish for hiring you. A good example of a bad e-mail pitch is on Drew B’s Blog here.

Make the phone your friend, or re-introduce yourselves. The phone call is the most important tool in a PR’s armoury and is key to developing relationships with journalists. Ok, so some hacks prefer to be-mailed, or if you’re getting in contact with a blog, you may only have the e-mail route to go down. But as long as e-mail is the last resort as an initial method of contact, you should be alright.

Stop treating bloggers like idiots

Talking of bloggers, it’s about time that we/they (I consider myself to sit on both sides of this particular fence) were treated as importantly as a journalist writing for the Guardian or the Sun and not approached as an after thought; “Oh we need some quick easy hits, I know lets find some bloggers”.

Bloggers are up there with your key journalists and are more than likely to be influencing their output. What the blogosphere picks up on is usually mainstream soon after. That horrid term ‘key influencers’ rears its head, but bloggers are the people who are making something hot or not and sometimes their egos need to be stroked, or they need to be brought out of their shells. They/we are happy to be contacted, in the right way, not as part of a large mailing list as the dying embers of a PR campaign glow.

Facebook is not just for creating groups

… and then leaving them dormant. Stimulate conversation and be a part of others’. This is something PR is very bad at. Many official groups started by PRs are initially piled full with exclusive content and the initial buzz surrounding a launch is great. It is after the first stage that the most important part of a conversation begins – the responding to questions/making small talk big part is key to gaining your audience’s trust, respect and ears.

The industry needs to carry on the conversation, listen to what’s being said and act upon it. That doesn’t mean that every single message needs to be relayed to the client – as a PR you’re a gatekeeper remember – but if there are huge trends occurring, make sure the client is made aware of them and pays attention.

Don’t Twitter for the sake of it

2009 may well be the year that PRs finally cotton onto the power of Twitter. Clients will be calling out “We’re not on Twitter, I need presence now” and profiles for abc corp. will be setup forthwith. Agencies will see the increasing number of journalists who are beginning to use Twitter as a resource for news stories and they will, sadly, begin to saturate updates with “My client has this news release, do you want to see it”.

The PR use of Twitter is still embryonic. As I spoke about before, i’ve had two very different experiences using Twitter as a PR tool , and you can see my top 5 tips to avoid Twitter/PR hell here. We’ve not yet got a set of gentleman’s rules, if you like, that give us core PR etiquette on Twitter. This is something that I believe will become clearer as the year goes on.

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