Social Media is PR for the masses

Social Media is PR for the masses

Social Media is PR for the masses

Not only are the tools to build an online persona, and to gain a following, at the fingertips of everyone in possession of a smartphone, but the platform that it presents has led to the rise of a new breed of digital celebrities with a numerically greater power base than many mainstream print magazines.

This should hardly surprise us. It is, after all, the exploitation of a new, more democratic, medium. A ubiquitous medium, and one in which PR has become a self-concious act that we all participate in.

Reflect for a moment on the impulse that you have to keep on informing an online responsive audience about the minutiae of your life. A blizzard of confetti, each tiny piece capturing our thoughts and actions, from the banal, to the significant, and back to the banal.

With every update, tweet, post, and photo, we are all turning our hand to PR.

In his interview with Sarah Bailey Putnam, the New York Times columnist David Brooks put his finger on two significant ways in which social media has recalibrated our self-perceptions and habits:

There are two ways social media challenges us. The first is, the idea of broadcasting yourself all the time where we create an avatar of ourselves that is the fake person of ourselves. It’s the highlight reel we put on Instagram. That’s an act of propaganda. The fatal line of propaganda is, the only person it persuades is the author of propaganda. As we put fake images on Facebook and Instagram, we come to believe that’s who we are.

Perception, in this case, is a form of reality. The avatar of ourselves is how we wish to seen and perceived, even though we know that we are constructing it. It is not entirely fake, but it is carefully selected for PR purposes. It is there to communicate our core, sometimes wordless, messages to our digital audience. Precisely because we are forging this online persona, we are, at the same time, aware that others are doing exactly the same thing.

To live and breathe in this atmosphere is to willingly collude and participate in a world of artificial perceptions. In some shape or form, these are the rules of the game. The medium demands it. The really foolish thing is to be self-deceived by it, to believe our own propaganda.

Brooks drew out a further way that social media has recast our internal landscape:

The second is the distraction factor. I find it very hard to sit down and read books and read important things because I waste so much time answering e-mail and on Twitter. It’s like candy that’s always there, mental candy, and makes you shallower because you don’t carve out the time to read something that would make you spiritually enriched.

Doubtless this is partly because social media is not only PR for the masses, it is also a long term PR campaign.

The act of digital self-iconography makes constant demands on us precisely because others are, as we want them to be, responsive to each effort we make at re-presenting ourselves. And that takes time, the time that we could give to other things.

When a New York Times columnist complains that he finds it hard to sit down to read books and important things, we should all pause and worry a little about our own habits and practices.

Will any of us ever confess at the end of life, as we ponder our failures and list our regrets, that we didn’t spend enough time on social media?

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Finding the Plot

Online video is in demand. Facebook has been increasingly pushing the use of video within users’ news feeds.

Does marketing talk need a refresh?

Does marketing talk need a refresh?

Does marketing talk need a refresh?

Marketing talk needs a refresh

What exactly makes you different?

Here is a sample of what marketing businesses say about themselves and their services.

“Innovative” (Innovative, as in you came up with the iPod sort of innovative? Ah, not that kind of innovative)

“Expert team” (Well, they are not going to say “we’re an agency stuffed full of dummies, amateurs, and mediocre types”)

“Creative” (Another single word, non-description. Who would claim to be anything other than creative?)

“Unique, fresh, original…” (Fresh is fine. No-one is unique or original, we all have influences)

“We help our customers stand out from the competition and gain new business through creative thinking and design” (Hey, hang on a minute, all the other agencies are saying that!)

“Our work is driven by creativity” (Code for: Don’t trust the other guys, they are just in it for the money. And…between us…they just copy ideas)

“We pride ourselves on approaching marketing differently…” (Hang on…just checked…we’ll add you to the growing list of agencies making that claim! We’re all doing it differently)

“We deliver outstanding results on time!” (Bet you serve up some stuff that’s decidedly average, and a tad late on occasion too)

Do any of the words and phrases listed below tip you towards choosing them?

I haven’t made up any of these stock phrases. They were captured in real time, from real life companies.

And I left out the ever present, and particularly jaded adjective, “passionate”.

If you (the customer) are looking for help with your marketing, all that these phrases do is generate copious amounts of verbal fog. They are opaque, vague, an accumulation of characters to skim read and largely ignore.

Sameness doesn’t stand out

If every marketer you come across is an “expert” on social media, or a “guru” who can expand your online presence exponentially, how can you tell which one you should be choosing?

A further thing to notice from the not-made-up-phrases is their disappointing sameness. If an agency is innovative, creative, and different, why do they all sound the same? Not exactly a good start. Not exactly helpful. Not really doing what it claims to do on the tin.

Of course, marketing companies don’t have a monopoly on the use of clichés begging for retirement, as anyone who has encountered the overworked phrases “our customer service makes us different” or “a family run business” knows all too well.

Stale sales rhetoric

All of the not-made-up-phrases listed above are a species of rhetoric, marketing and sales rhetoric, to be precise. Now, I love a good rhetorical flourish as much as the next writer, but rhetoric, far from being a great accoutrement, can easily become empty and meaningless.

It is something of an irony that far too much sales and marketing language simply doesn’t stand out at all. None of this inspires confidence.

If you were a baker you wouldn’t serve stale bread. Why would you serve up stale language?

What makes you different?

Most businesses in this sector wax and wane, oscillating between work that is remarkable, thoughtful, compelling, and energetic, to work that is, in all honesty, middling, passable, and just plain “good”.

It’s time to look again at the language we use about ourselves. But an even better approach would be to showcase the language we put into the mouths of others.

There is a principle that offers a more objective standard.

It is: “Show, don’t tell”.

Don’t tell people that you are creative. Let them look at your work and tell you that it is creative.

Don’t tell people that you are innovative. If you are innovative, they will tell you.

If you really do things differently, others will notice.

Your portfolio makes you blend in or stand out, not what you claim for yourself.

Show, don’t tell.

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Finding the Plot

Online video is in demand. Facebook has been increasingly pushing the use of video within users’ news feeds.

Talent isn’t always recognised

Talent isn’t always recognised

Talent isn’t always recognised

Talent isn’t always recognised.

It doesn’t matter how good you are, you can still be overlooked.

We’d all like to believe that our product, service, skills, talent, or creativity, will stand out and get noticed.

We all tend to assume that those with the biggest audiences, on and offline, and the most media attention, got there by the sheer force of their own brilliance.

That isn’t always the case.

Here’s a story to prove the point.

In 2007 the Washington Post carried out an experiment with concert violinist Joshua Bell.

Bell, dressed in jeans, a long sleeve tee shirt, and baseball cap, played for about 45 minutes during the morning rush hour at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station.

During that time 1097 people walked passed as Bell played six classical pieces.

Two days before this experiment Joshua Bell had played to a packed house in Boston. Tickets had sold for $100 a seat.

His violin, the same one used in the Boston concert and at the Washington Metro station, was valued at $3.5 million.

What happened when this concert violinist, dressed in normal clothes, played unannounced before commuters that Monday morning?

A small handful of people stopped to listen.

When the performance ended there was silence.

No-one applauded.

About twenty people gave money, although the majority who did so dropped coins in the violin case without stopping.

In total he made $32. Yes, $32.

Too often we assume that talent is easy to recognise. It isn’t.

There isn’t always a sign post pointing out where to find creativity.

You can always ignore talent and creativity because you are too busy to stop and listen.

On that busy Monday morning most people missed out on experiencing beauty. Some of the greatest pieces of classical music were played by one of the most talented musicians on the planet, on one of the finest instruments ever made.

But almost everyone missed this. All because the context had been changed.

Which leaves us with a question.

What talent are you overlooking because you are just too busy?

And if your talent is being overlooked, you are in very good company, so don’t take it to heart.

By the way, you can see a time lapse video of the experiment with Joshua Bell here

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Finding the Plot

Online video is in demand. Facebook has been increasingly pushing the use of video within users’ news feeds.

Teach me how to play golf

Teach me how to play golf

Teach me how
to play golf

Jack Nicklaus was the Rory McIlroy, or Tiger Woods, of his day.

He dominated the golfing world for three decades, with 20 major victories, 71 PGA Tour wins, and the accolade of being one of only five players ever to have won all four major tournaments.

Nicklaus was mentored from 1950 by a man named Jack Grout. Grout was an outstanding teacher. His influence on Nicklaus is beyond calculation.

At the start of each new season Jack Nicklaus would visit Jack Grout to review his game, down to the very basics.

Nicklaus learned the very essence of the game from Grout every year.

Even at the height of his powers, fame, and success, Jack Nicklaus would still ask Jack Grout to teach him how to play golf.

When Jack Nicklaus was on tour, if his game began to dip, he would tap into the knowledge that he had gained from Grout.

But this blog post isn’t really about golf.

Neither is it about the importance of mentors and teachers, although both are vital.

It is about having the right attitude in the face of success and in its absence.

The reason why this story about Jack Nicklaus and Jack Grout never fails to inspire me is because it demonstrates that humility, and being teachable, lay at the heart of Jack Nicklaus’ phenomenal success.

Being at the top of his game, and staying there, meant going back again and again to the very basics of the sport, and doing them over and over again. Round after round, tournament after tournament, year after year.

After he became a giant in his field, Nicklaus was as humble and teachable as when he first began.

Success meant relearning and putting into action the fundamentals, and doing so under the continued tutelage of his first mentor.

One of the greatest players ever to pick up a golf club continually cultivated humility and a teachable spirit.

Why is it then that success so often has the opposite effect?

Whether your area is teaching, marketing, advertising, PR, consulting or sales, sometimes success leaves us thinking that we no longer need to keep learning.

What difference would it make for you and I to adopt Nicklaus’ spirit?

And, by the way, find the best mentors, teachers, and models available.

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Finding the Plot

Online video is in demand. Facebook has been increasingly pushing the use of video within users’ news feeds.