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Writing the conversation: How social media is redefining PR’s content creation: PRSA 2/20/10 10:36 PM

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Writing the conversation: How social media is redefining PR’s Join Us!
content creation
By Katie Winchell 8 Comments

February 1, 2010

The explosion of social media, combined with the decline of

traditional media, presents a new challenge for PR writing.
How do we shift focus from our message to our audience,
while still crafting campaigns that are measurable, goal-
driven and compelling? It is as simple — and as difficult — as
adopting a different mindset.

The old-school press release

For decades, the triad of print media, journalistic standards

and the AP Stylebook-driven press release meant that PR
professionals could key in on content.

Because PR writing was aimed primarily at journalists who

were in turn reporting to a passive readership, there was
little motivation to understand the wants, needs and opinions of the individuals who were using a product or service.
“Publics” and “audiences” were addressed, but there wasn’t true familiarity.

As a result, Brain Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge, co-authors of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” wrote
that the old-fashioned press release didn’t change much for 100 years.

Then Web 2.0 happened. Anyone, from anywhere, could create and distribute content. Now, Facebook users share
more than 3.5 billion pieces of content while popular YouTube videos can garner more than100 million views.

Suddenly, the conversation is going on all around you. Your brand is being evangelized, dismissed, measured and
documented in real time online. If you haven’t already done so, then it’s time to join the conversation and show your
company or client cares — a mission perfectly suited for the PR professional.

As social media adviser Chris Brogan blogged recently on, “the people who know how to storytell in
this new space, and who know how to be a personality while telling these stories, are poised to do interesting things.
The medium has changed. The methods have changed. The opportunity has changed.”

Blogger and journalist outreach

Bloggers and journalists are still critical influencers, and most PR practitioners are adept at identifying them, cultivating
relationships with them and supplying relevant stories and information.

Twitter lists provide an excellent way to keep tabs to spot blogger relation opportunities, and social media releases
provide visual, textual and social content in a useful format. features an educational tutorial on social
media releases, and is a powerful, free social media release creator.

Social network participation

“Go to where the people hang out and write about them on their terms,” digital strategist Steve Farnsworth suggests.
A social media-optimized online press room is wonderful for your Web site, but the majority of your customers are
somewhere else — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, forums or blogs.

Locate and listen first, then join the conversation respectfully. Each venue has a culture and an etiquette that must be
honored, yet far too many so-called experts still use these channels for boorish one-way broadcasts. Page 1 of 2
Writing the conversation: How social media is redefining PR’s content creation: PRSA 2/20/10 10:36 PM


Public relations has always been about the blending of art and science — relationships and results, storytelling and
statistics. If 2009 was the year that most PR practitioners finally joined the conversation in Web 2.0 venues such as
blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook and Ning, then 2010 will be the year that social media campaign measurement will be
standardized and expected.

“Stop taking orders, and start creating true demand for your insights and the outcomes they drive,” says
communications consultant Valeria Maltoni. “That means becoming more adept at tracking and measuring results, and
more accountable to the organizations and people you serve.”

It’s a new environment for the PR writer — one that’s richer and more diverse due to the thousands of people that
may be converging around your brand.

As Solis and Breakenridge wrote in their book, “You can be more effective and valuable as a genuine enthusiast for
who and what you represent . . .The key is to let go and embrace the chaos.”

Notable social media communicators talk writing

Tactics reached out to four social media experts for writing tips. Here’s what they had to say:

Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan)

President of New Marketing Labs, co-author of “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation
and Earn Trust”
“It becomes a matter of telling stories from the heart, about the people, and in a way that makes for good reading
and not just company dogma. Great creativity will go a long way in empowering companies.”

Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

Chief digital strategist at Jolt Social Media, former client- and agency-side PR professional
“With social media, you interact with the content, change it in some way, and share it with your network. You need to
write about the users’ experiences, not the product. If you want people to interact with your content, there has to be
zero corporate-speak and it must be from one human being to another.”

Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge)

Italy- and U.S.-based communications consultant, ConversationAgent blog creator, contributor to Fast
Company/Marketing Profs blogs
“PR professionals need to become more adept at researching and shaping stories, collecting data, inserting their
organization in market conversations by spotting and building on trends, engaging in people relations, and being open
to the new.”

Brian Solis (@briansolis)

Principal of FutureWorks, PR 2.0 blog creator, co-author of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations”
“The evolution of writing in public relations reflects the ability to connect a story to the people who could benefit from
it. We shift from the inward writing process where executives and clients are our audience to writing for the very
people we’re hoping to reach — in the language, style and spirit that resonates with them.”

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