A great way to expedite learning about social media for companies is to watch this classic scene in the movie Stripes. It’s the discovery process of new army recruits getting to know each other during training– “Army training, Sir!” In the scene, the character Francis (aka Psycho, who really hates being called Francis) is, shall we say, a bit anti-social. He barks out the line “I don’t like nobody touching my stuff. If I catch you touching my stuff, I’ll kill you.” The current day corporate translation is “cease and desist using our logo.”
In that same scene, we also learn that Bill Murray’s character, John Winger, befriends Lee Harvey, saying,”I wanna party with you, cowboy.” The first half of the movie is funny, but once they get to Europe, you can go back to blogging.
That five and a half minute scene is the executive version of Social Media 101. If you don’t want people touching your stuff, then there is no reason to join the ranks of social participants. Blogging, Twitter, YouTube, etc.– none of that is for you because you really don’t want to discover why Lee Harvey is such a mad man, and you sure don’t care about what other people think of your stuff. That might seem harsh, but let’s just cut to the chase and save a lot of time. That’s OK– dialogue isn’t for everyone, and that’s why some kids don’t volunteer to answer in class, why some adults hate going to receptions, and why some companies have poor customer service.
The dilemma, however, is this: you may want to play by the old rules, and send a media pitch to a reporter, for example, but the reporter now plays by the social rules, and can blog about how bad the pitch was. Ouch. Look at it from a college exam question format: true or false – social media is to free speech as the NRA is to gun control – that would be true. The previous sentence should be emphasized for those companies attempting to practice PR through their VP of Sales or by reading a book. No offense to the authors of “How To” PR books, but it’s not like following a pizza dough recipe… my 12 year old can do that better than me. While I make the case here for knowledgeable, creative PR professionals, the world has changed for them as well, as we quickly move to Social Media 102 and beyond.
Keys to the Relationships
It used to be that a PR professional was the holder of the relationship with the media entity writer or producer. I believe that is changing. In addition to being the relationship holder for some journalists, the PR professional now maintains the role of relationship broker between a journalist, blogger, podcaster, and a company representative who will invest the time to be social. I view it as a tremendous value to introduce a company representative to a recognized blogger in their industry and get out of the way. To see that relationship flourish, where that company exec reads and comments on the blogger’s site and visa versa, is a job well done–perhaps it’s a job that is over in that case, but well done nonetheless.
At times, I believe some company executives try to overlay the efficiencies of technology with the establishment of relationships. Todd Defren alludes to this in his post on personal branding and PR. They believe this can be an automated process in the same way other technologies automate processes in other parts of a company. Sure, technology compresses time, but it has little impact on the thought process of connecting person A’s interests with company B’s message.
What takes even more time is finding that special connection between entities, a shared experience or interest, (same schools, coach basketball, or a love of dogs as BL Ochman does with her Benny, etc.) This is the investment of time and emotion that is rewarded by social media and facilitated by the use of its tools. Company leaders need to decide if they are going to be Francis or Winger. It’s up to you–after all, it’s your stuff.
Albert Maruggi is the president of Provident Partners, a PR and social media consultancy. He is also the host of the Marketing Edge podcast and a senior fellow of the Society for New Communications Research. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @albertmaruggi on Twitter.