Last night I deviated from my usual Monday evening routine of lying on the sofa feeling guilty for not going to the gym and instead went to the fabulous St Louis.
I met up with a couple of friends and brothers in arms from the PR trenches. Matt and Matt are good guys and I can highly recommend Matt’s Nerd Alert North (in the blogroll, under “Friends”) and their new collaborative blog, Pop Chopped. In abstensia was Chris Clarke who had to cry off to produce my favourite podcast. Apparently someone forgot to send him the file…I think he was doing a tech inventory.
We set the PR agency world to rights over quite a few beers and, in my case, even more wings.
Here are some of the pressing issues that three guys with almost seven years of experience (combined!) had on our minds.
What is our role as marketers in the new era of close knit online communities? Should we really be diving in head first and sullying a previously pure experience with marketing messages? My feeling, and one that was echoed by the boys, is that we should be trying to harness the power of the community around our clients, not inserting our clients into the community. That just feels dirty.
Are social media programs for everyone? As always with social media, the answer is, it depends. It depends on the agency, on the client and on the product. Chances are that there is a way to integrate an aspect of social media into your existing, traditional public relations strategy, but only if you’re prepared to cede control of the message and respect your audience.
One of the things we say to our clients at iStudio is that if you’re prepared to let go of your brand and put it in the hands of your customers, they will reward you for it. In other words, you don’t own your brand anymore. You merely enable people to interact with it.
For instance, I no longer own the “Ed Lee” brand. Now that I’m easy to find, interact with and critique, you, my readers, own my brand. If you say I’m a “good” blogger, then I am. If you say I’m a “snooty” blogger then, no matter how much it pains me, I am.
The ridiculousness of experienced agency veterans looking to people like us as experts. Both Matts are forging a reputation for themselves at their respective agencies for being the “social media guys”. They get looked at funny in the halls, are invited to all the brainstorms and get ‘asked’ to do educational presentations to senior staffers about this cool stuff we (you and I) are already talking about.
To put this into perspective here’s my grand sum of social media experience: almost six months blogging; co-hosted one podcast; producer of a podcast; blog reader for 18 months; podcast listener for nine months. Sure, I may know more than some people do, but only because I’ve taken the time to do so. Now I feel there’s a lot of pressure to be the “expert” in a sector where there are no experts. Thankfully Dave and the iStudio crew are around to make sure I don’t make an idiot of myself!
Our careers. That said, we can’t deny that social media has been good for our careers. Nerd Alert North Matt just snagged a great new job complete with promotion and my own career has certainly taken an upturn since I started blogging. We also asked the question that is asked whenever more than one agency flack meets up – “do you think you’ll stay in PR?”.
On the whole, we’re all very excited by this period of the industry’s history and by the possibilities it affords us. However we are going through a little crisis of confidence over the bright-eyed craziness that social media is generating and that we’re partially guilty for exacerbating.
Sidebar – get the medium wings with suicide on the side. Very nice.