By John Fisher
In chapter 5 of "Putting the Public Back in PR", Solis and Breakenridge write that PR is about relationships. And "only active engagement and listening can lead to meaningful relationships." The new PR is not about broadcasting and selling pitches. The new PR is about "one-to-one" relationships rather than "one-to-many."
Reporters and analysts are on one end of the media spectrum while A-list bloggers are at the other. It's the magic middle where we can find our customers and so its in the middle that we want to develop relationships.
The first thing to do in developing relationships is to find out the people's preferred forms of communication. We can do that by listening to their conversations. Solis gives the example of Robert Scoble, and A-list tech blogger. Scoble wrote, "It's amazing that in the age of Twitter that people still send email. I hate email. I hate direct Tweets. I hate Facebook messages."
By going to Technorati, Blogged.com, Google BlogSearch and the blogrolls of bloggers we can see what bloggers are writing. A google search will allow you to see the latest twitters to and about someone. For example, search "twitter scobleizer" and you can see his latest tweets. What you read is a conversation that is taking place. "You need to watch and listen to the people with whom you want to interact.," write Solis and Breakenridge. The most effective campaigns start with listening, reading, watching and observing.
They recommend that we become sociologists and market experts. "This is a shift from pitching to participating, from selling a story to telling a story." The best way to do this is to become a participant observer. Here the observer doesn't hide his identity and is truthful about his goals and objectives.
I like the following analogy. Watching a conversation from the outside is like "engaging in cultural voyeurism." This is like "setting up camp next to a village ... and expecting the village to integrate you into its society."
What traditional marketing and PR consider harmless activities is discouraged in social media. For example, one of the most annoying things a marketer can do is put sales information on my blog as a comment. Or spam me on twitter with products they are selling.
As Solis and Breakenridge write, "In PR, relationships are the currency required to prosper. For these relations to increase in value over time, they must be cultivated from both sides."