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March 9, 2010
PR's Becoming More 'Personal'

Valeria Maltoni makes an interesting, perhaps epochal, point about PR on her Conversation Agent blog -- public relations in the age of new media is becoming more personal, less institutional.

That is, to reach people via social media, people engaged in PR for clients or the organizations at which they work increasingly are speaking in their own voices and measuring their impact by the response to personally generated messages.

Press releases aren't "over," but perhaps they're being shunted aside for conversational exchanges. 

You don't, or at any rate shouldn't, put press releases on Twitter. Increasingly, Valerie suggests, PR people or employees blogging on behalf of employers are building their own brands to connect in social media communities (marketplaces). Some managements may not like that, she observes, and dilemmas may arise. Being personal may not always be pleasing in some quarters, though it may well be effective. 

"Many organizations," Maltoni writes, "are struggling with the fact that someone who is really good in new media helps pull the brand or company they connect by virtue of their own name recognition."  

She raises a good question: "Companies struggle with loss of control the most -- are we in danger of seeing that control shift from the message to the people who carry it?"

Another possilbe question: Is that really a danger? Why?

Social media indeed provide a new context for communicating responsibly. One needs to be extra clear on whose behalf one is speaking and why, and about how that may affect messages being "casually" dispersed in Web communities.

New and exciting ways exist to get conversations going and responses registered, but is the messenger becoming more of the medium -- is a historic shift in PR context underway?

This is something to be mindful of.  To be effective in new, hopefully valid, ways, PR may be getting rather personal.



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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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