Monday, September 27, 2010

PR pros, don't be digital media drop-outs

P EducationImage via Wikipedia
I really appreciate how our media friends have embraced the conversation on ways to improve education. From special reports on CNN to NBC's Education Nation, bringing education to the forefront of the dialogue is encouraging.

Perhaps the new conversation is tinged with typical politics for the election season and nothing new will come of it. On the other hand, having education in the public discourse through media like Oprah and even as the central theme in an upcoming documentary film, tells me it might be something more.

The stats are grim when taken as a whole. Bottom-line, we can all do better. School systems should operate like works-in-progress just as the students they teach and attempt to reach.

There is also a lesson for PR pros: Don't be a digital media drop-out. Don't be satisfied with where you are in your professional learning. I chose digital media specifically because that seems to be the area in our profession that is currently getting the bulk of the conversation. Social media integration concepts will continue to spread. It is my hope that PR pros won't take the easy road and, like a high school drop-out, just barely scratch the surface of usefulness of education for themselves.

Being a life-long learner would be a great example to set for students today and I believe that's a lesson worth sharing.
Special thanks to Shane Haggerty for bringing up this issue for other school PR people and framing the dialogue to advance and highlight local school district programs for communities.

Also, if you haven't seen it, I'd encourage you to check out the trailer for the documentary mentioned earlier:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social Media in Government - Schools at manor.govfresh #manorgf

Earlier this week, I ventured south to the small town of Manor, TX. The city, specifically the school district in Manor, was was the unlikely host of manor.govfresh conference. The conference brought together "government and industry innovators to share and learn about emerging, cost-effective technologies for state and local government."

I say unlikely host because at first glance this small city looks like any other. However, looks can be deceiving. Manor's innovative use of technology has been featured by government agencies and media, including the White House, Inc. Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Austin American Statesman, and others according to the conference press room. And the district is on par with technology innovation and student digital literacy instruction.

So what does this have to do with school communications or public relations?

I was asked to participate as a panelist for a session entitled Social Media in Government. Coordinating the panel was Andrew Krzmarzick, the GovLoop Community Manager. And rounding out the panel was Sandra Fernandez, Manager of Public Relations for the Houston Public Library, and Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D., public relations professor from TCU.

It was our job to convey strategic and tactical uses of social media in government in hopes of aspiring other local governments to look into ways to partner with each other, their school systems, libraries to better engage citizens and make educated decisions about social media tools.

Below are the slides from my portion of the session on school districts:Schools and Social Media -- Manor GovFresh
This was a significant step in a positive direction for open government in Texas and around the country.

Seeing the continued interest and conversations around government 2.0 is something that school district communicators need to be paying attention to and learning as shifts in community expectations lead us to further government transparency.

This shift puts greater emphasis and access to what is happening inside local government. I think this is a good thing.

I also like how Andy put it in a recent tweet about the manor.govfresh conference.
Here's the article by Alex Howard (@digiphile) "Harnessing the Civic Surplus for Open Government."

This is an area worth exploring deeper for school PR. What do you think? What are seeing or hearing in communities in the way of open government? The comments are yours.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

Photo: Frank Gruber via Flickr Creative Commons
I've been devouring a professional book for a while. I just finished reading Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge.

This book should be required reading for PR students as well as for those PR professionals willing to pursue and learn what's now and what's next in our profession.

After laying the foundation what New PR is, it's value, and what it looks like through relationships, the authors guide readers through some tactical ways to facilitate an organizations' conversations.

Breakenridge and Solis guide the reader beyond the surface-level of social media tools into deeper waters of conversation curation techniques.

Here are some of the more intriguing ideas and passages the struck me to share:
In a section called Don't Fear Change, the authors write
"Social Media is forcing changes that should have happened a long time ago in everything related to business...Whether or not you jump on board, these changes will continue to occur. And, to be honest, not every current PR professional will survive the transition: The fittest and those most willing and able to adapt will be the survivors...The PR professionals of tomorrow should all be engaged in meaningful conversations using the Social and New Media applications that enable forward-moving dialogue. In fact, every department of every business will soon find itself embracing social strategies."
I believe this sums up quite well the current trend in PR. What will be telling is whether or not communication professionals will embrace the conversations with, for, and by people as opposed to focusing just on the tools themselves. To ignore the people making the rants and raves is to ignore some of the very voices that make up a community. As Breakenridge and Solis point out [in a section on Micromedia], "When enough individual voices pool together, the whisper becomes a roar -- transforming micromedia into macro influence."

Later in the book, the authors move into PR 2.0: A Promising Future explaining new roles for professional communicators, the socialization of communication, customer service and breaking news in online communities.
"...[Y]ou must humanize your intent and story, and learn how, where, and why to participate. By doing so, you reset the dynamic for engagement from top-down to one-on-one's critical that you understand that PR is no longer rooted in broadcast methodologies and the single-focused, general messages that drive them. PR needs to follow the authoritative dialogue, where it takes place. Without you, who will answer questions, clarify confusion, defend the brand, or develop relationships for the long term?"
The authors weave theoretical with the tactical in such a way that the reader cannot help but learn of useful tools along the way. The section called A New Guide to Metrics alone is almost worth the price of the book itself.

The final section of Convergence puts it all together in a PR 2.0 + PR 1.0 formula with defining new public relations roles, the future of PR, and the conversation prism. I am very hopeful in their vision for the future of the PR profession.
"Next-generation PR professionals will exemplify a hybrid of several critical roles...PR will relearn the art of communications, listening, and interchange, and, in the process, become well versed in not only the new rules of PR, but also the following:
  • Web marketing and analytics
  • Viral marketing
  • Customer service and relationship management
  • Social tools
  • Focus groups and market audits
  • Market analysts"
Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis paint an amazing picture of what could be for the PR profession while providing a roadmap and instructions on how to get there.

Don't ignore this book.

[Note: You can check out a preview of this book on Google books and see for yourself, but I still highly recommend getting your own copy if you get an opportunity.]