Thursday, September 18, 2008

4 Ways Social Media Makes Me a Better Communicator

I consider myself to be a competent communications professional working in school public relations. I understand the fundamentals of how to be an effective communicator and try to put into practice all of the lessons I've learned both from my education and on the job trials by fire.

I was doing quite well before all of this social media information smog hit me. What I didn't foresee were some very simple ideas becoming instant game-changers for me.

I have developed a growing online profile for myself both professionally and personally. Big deal, right? Right.

The idea of a personal brand never even crossed my mind until recently. I'm finding out that social media is making me better, both professionally and personally.

Chris Brogan, a great conversation creator, posed an interesting set of questions:
“Why are we threading the social web? Why are we spending hours a day reaching out, building connections, cultivating relationships, producing and consuming media that only a sliver of the world is even noticing?”
My answer for these questions comes down to four ways in which social media makes me a better communicator.

People matter. The social web has allowed for me to engage in conversations, ask questions and have random discussions with folks. Many of these conversations have led to new and deepened some established relationships with colleagues, journalists, friends, and family thus enriching a variety of communities for me. I think Todd Defren says it nicely in his post, What is PR's Elevator pitch?
“PR pros are now much more focused on the ‘Relations’ side of ‘Public Relations.’”
related social web tools: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twellow, SmugMug, Flickr, Ning

Professional Development
There are so many great conferences, workshops, meetings that I would like to attend, but for a variety of reasons, don't. That's ok, because I can access most of the information and speakers through the wonderful network of people who attend these events and are willing to share their experiences via blogging (and microblogging) plus live or recorded video-streaming. Seeking knowledge is a tremendous benefit to make up for limitations in access. Paying attention to what people are reading, tagging, reviewing, and recommending helps make me smarter.
related social web tools: Twitter Search, Twitter, Google Blog Search, Google Reader, Delicious, Digg

When opportunity knocks are you going to be ready to take action? Using social media has allowed me to pay attention and listen for opportunities to connect with people, pitch a story, or offer my consulting services to name a few. Could I have done these types of things without SM? Yes, but I would have only heard the faint sounds of opportunity as opposed to the reverberating beat of many chances to engage.
related social web tools: Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google Reader

Abraham Lincoln told us, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” I choose to be a good communications professional. I have found some great inspiration from other intelligent and wise PR people and talented designers. I agree with Daniel Pink, author of A whole New Mind, who argues that we’re “moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.” He writes:
“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers.

But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” [emphasis added]
In other words “[e]conomic advantage and professional success no longer come from the logical, analytical skills of knowledge workers but from creative, conceptual, and relationship skills.” (Innovate or Die: Why Creativity is Economic Priority Number One)

Why do I thread the social web? I want to be a part of the connections and help facilitate conversations that might never had occurred before such a time as this.

Recommended Related Reading:
(photo credits: top thomieh, bottom Bright Meadow)