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Twitter Won't Replace the Press Conference
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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In just a few short years, social media, digital marketing, and content creation have completely changed how the profession functions within agencies and brand marketing departments. Clearly, though, not everything has changed. We look to David J. Neff for the answers…

PR changing by the day

No longer just about boozy lunches, press tours, and well-placed newspaper editorials, PR today is about building campaigns that successfully harness the newest and most effective social media channels, understand Google algorithms, and deploy digital strategies that influence (and enthuse) all shareholders.

Pro sports high-tech social media campaigns are the perfect case in point, as recently noted in a piece by NPR on the new PR strategies of NASCAR, the NFL, and other sports leagues (please see link).  

So where does today’s PR professional sit in all of this, and what skills are needed to work in and, indeed, lead this dynamic profession?

To help with the answers, I asked strategy consultant, digital marketer, and University of Texas PR guest lecturer David J. Neff (@daveiam) to discuss how these changes have changed the face of PR.

As a Digital Strategist at PwC in Austin, David works with Fortune 500 brands on the customer impact of digital strategy. He is author of The Future of Non-profits: Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age (Wiley, 2011) and 501derful.org — one of the longest running and most popular blogs for non-profit technology and media.

Q. Who controls social media for a brand? The digital team or the PR team?

That’s a great question. I often see it controlled by multiple departments depending on their internal structure. This requires a great amount of coordination and alignment among the teams. In other organizations, I’ve seen it often reside in marketing, communications, or customer relations. Ideally these should all be working together on the strategy and execution of social media. Today’s brands look for agencies that have the depth to create content (PRs) and the technical knowhow to master the channels (digital). No matter how it’s parsed out, it has to be a team exercise.

Q. Pinterest is the third most popular social network behind Twitter and Facebook. What’s the next big social media channel and what type of brands will be the best to leverage it?

It has to be one the growing mobile platforms. The folks at AdAge had a great article a month or two back that highlighted all the mobile messaging platforms (such as WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, and Kik), and their brand friendliness. Brands that are already talking to multiple mobile platform companies (even before they are brand-friendly) are going to be successful in the new mobile world of generation Z. PRs need to stay well ahead of these emerging platforms, but still utilize their basic skill package of researching, disseminating, and simplifying the complex. In other words, telling stories to relevant audiences.

Q. 65% of Fortune 500 companies have a Twitter account. Has this replaced the press conference?

Great question. I don’ think so. There are also hundreds of millions of Twitter accounts that are active and pushing out information. It’s fun to keep up with brand as a consumer or a journalist, but Twitter can’t replace a personal invite to hear something new or important at an official press conference or live event. It’s still about personal relationships.

Q. 91% of marketers say social media campaigns have increased web traffic. 78% say it generates more quality leads. Do we still need the newspaper editor?

Yes. It all comes down to trust. Who do you believe delivers the best news and information to you on a daily basis? I think that’s still journalists and not my friends on Facebook. No offense, guys! ;-)

Q. But great PR is still about relationships. Can you expound on that?

All great social media is about relationships. These are relationships between brands, relationships between consumers, and relationships between the media. Whom do you trust? Who’s in your inside circle that you trust and provides value to you on an everyday basis? What’s your connected digital experience with a brand? Is that value discounts, sales, or amazing customer service?None of that messaging matters if you don’t build a personal relationship built on trust.

A great PR is someone who can give out trusted information to relevant stakeholders (including the media) no matter what the channel. I don’t see this ever changing, no matter how digital or social we become.

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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