Share This Live – How Social Media Is Changing Business and Communications

Last year, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) published a book with short essays from some of the UK’s leading communicators and digital strategists. Entitled Share This the aim of the first book was to establish social and digital as a core skill in 21st Century Public Relations. This year we are publishing it’s follow-up, Share This Too.

The books, the first of which the first of which was published to great acclaim, see contributors outline their vision on how social media, digital media and technology are changing not just how perceptions are built and protected, but how businesses are established and managed.

Share This Too aims to expand on these initial essays, to inspire and lead a way to better engage with audiences for better businesses, services and engagement.

On Thursday 11 July the CIPR hosts at Microsoft in London it’s second social media conference where influencers from PR, journalism and the business world, will share insight on how these channels have helped them improve engagement.

Speakers include Digital Editor for The Economist and Editor-in-Chief of Economist.com Tom Standage, Head of Mobile at LBi, ex-Global Head of Mobile at Thompson Reuters Ilicco Elia and Digital Development Editor at The Guardian Joanna Geary.

I’ll be charing a session on how social media can facilitate business change and using social across international borders. This is the subject of my chapter in Share This Too, which is an area that is often ignored by certain communication ‘professionals’. The assumption is wrongly made that because the majority of social networking channels originated in the US, the language of choice must therefore be English. But language is only a small part of issues that have to be considered. Cultural differences comes into play as well, which when considered can help drive up engagement. We will be debating this and so much more on the day.

Speaking on my panel will be the Political Minister and Embassy of Japan to the UK, Noriyuki Shikata and Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications Allan Schoenberg. This is a not to be missed session with leaders PR leaders from the financial and diplomatic worlds.

A limited number of tickets for the Share This Too Live Conference are still available here.

I hope to see some of you at the conference!!

CIPR Share This Launch at Google Campus (Image from Gorkana)

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (@cipr_uk) Social Media Advisory Panel (#ciprsm) has this week announced its objectives for 2013.

During the forthcoming year the panel will focus its effort on updates to its Best Practice and Wikipedia Guidelines, a specification for the skills for the future PR practitioner and guidance on social media and the law. It will also be working on Share This Too (@sharethistoo), a follow-up to Share This – the bestselling book it produced last year.

Set up in April 2010, the panel – which I’ve had the pleasure of being a member of since it was founded three years ago, brought together some of the communications industry’s leading digital and social media thinkers. The aim was to establish best practice and share knowledge with public relations and communications professionals by brining together experts in social who work in a range of disciplines ranging from public and government affairs, to consumer, international and brand development.

Let’s remember that while people today use these channels as a matter of fact, companies, brands and decision-makers are still cautious and suspicious of engaging in online conversations with their publics. It is this misunderstanding that we are committed to challenging.

In 2012, the panel developed industry-leading guidance and events including:

  • Social Media Guidance (PDF) – a best practice guide to social media for public relations, downloaded more than 4,500 times in 2012.
  • Social Media Measurement Guidance (PDF) – a practical guide to measurement resulting from the panel’s relationship with AMEC, downloaded more than 1,500 times in 2012.
  • Social Summer – a series of evening events around the country on various aspects of social media, attended by more than 500 people in 2012.

Today perception and reputation is shaped by people – by how they are connected and how they share their thoughts and opinions.

Brands can no longer rely on ‘push communications’. Social is very public, and is transforming how public and private sectors organisations communicate and engage with consumers and stakeholders.

You can follow members of the panel through this #ciprsm twitter list I have set-up.

This is an exciting time to be in public relations.

Essential Reading: The CIPR’s Share This Social Media Handbook

Public relations is a job that has seen enormous changes during the past seven years.  Digital and social channels have grown in importance, changing how audiences consume news and engage with companies, governments and individuals.

During the past 3 years the CIPR’s social media panel has provided counsel and guidance to the institute.  Made up of some of the UK’s leading PR professionals, last year we thought that the time was right to put together a book for everybody in business – those in PR and communications, as well as those in marketing, finance, sales and customer service.  After all, social cut’s across business disciplines.

The appropriately titled ‘Share This‘, delivers chapter after chapter on all things that you should know about if your job is to build brands and protect reputations.

If you are in PR , the fact is that you can no longer just broadcast your opinions and expect the audience to consume them without question.  People privately talked about you before, often without your knowledge.  Today though they do so publicly and it is a business requirement that you not just listen, but you understand your audiences, who create communities that in real-time forensically analyse your every message and statement.

If your business or organisation gets something wrong you’ll not just hear about it, but you’ll see the voice and sentiment in real-time.  Never has the old PR statement of ‘bad news being repeated 11 times, while good news being repeated only 3 times’ been so apt.

While social has empowered the public relations and communications professions, it still needs to change traditions that are engrained into the DNA of business.  PRs are a board’s counsel.  With social, PRs are empowered to better advise on communications and reputation building and management.

My chapter, Pitching Using Social Media, gives you best practice advice Using case studies using case studies on reaching out to journalists, bloggers and online influencers.  Their working practices have changed and you should know how best to reach those that you want to talk with.

Share This delivers insight that you can action in whatever organisation your work in.  It is not just a book for better PR.  It is a book for better business.

To buy the Share This book, head to Amazon where you can pre-order the book.  You can also buy Share This from iTunes for iBooks here.

Storm clouds have been gathering over the UK public relations industry after a couple of its top agencies were caught editing Wikipedia pages on behalf of their clients.  Last month Bell Pottinger was outted in a sting by The Independent and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, whose journalists posed as businessmen from Uzbekistan.  This month PR agency Portland Communications tried to edit out Stella Artois from the Wikipedia page for Wife-beater – the UK urban description of this beer brand.

The issue at hand was not that they tried to edit Wikipedia pages for clients, more that they failed to declare a conflict of interest in these edits.

Wikipedia, the free, collaborative and multilingual online encyclopaedia, is seen as a first port of call for accurate information and description because it is built on 3 key pillars – 1, contributors and editors must have a neutral point of view and no conflict of interest; 2, content must be verifiable; 3, articles must not contain new analysis or synthesis.

Today, Wikipedia has over 20 million articles – over 3.8 million in English, is available in over 280 languages and is edited and monitored by over 10,000 active editors around the world.  The fact is that anybody anywhere can access and edit nearly any Wikipedia page – some are controversially protected and can only be edited by Wikipedia’s own system administrators, is one of it’s key strengths.

Let’s be honest, managing and editing reputations on Wikipedia is not an action confined to individuals working in the global public relations industry – the internet has connected millions of people around the world.  Vandalism and trolling are a growing issue that has affected and will continue to affect this platform, though Wikipedia’s own systems, based on the power of the community, has thankfully enabled it to so far keep it in check.

The issue is about transparency, or lack of by certain communicators who fail to declare they are representing the individual or brand they are editing.  This not just damages the reputation of the brand they are working for, but that of our own profession.

Everybody has the right to a voice and to a reputation.  That reputation though is based on the actions of a client and not the image that a PR might subsequently provide.  Social networking has educated the wider audience to believe what members of their trusted community say and while PRs continue to hide behind a cloak of secrecy this profession will find it harder in it’s primary mission, which is to ‘help establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between public, private and not-for-profit organisations and their various audiences.’  I ask this, knowing how connected the world is and how communities work, was it strategically wise to try to edit out Stella Artois from the page in question?  Total control is no longer an option in today’s connected world.

The Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR), the UK’s professional body for PR, issued a statement yesterday (6 January 2011) stating it’s commitment to put together clear guidance for the profession on using and editing Wikipedia by working with representatives of Wikimedia UK.  The CIPR already has in place social media guidelines that were developed by the institute’s own social media advisory board, which I sit on.  Before being adopted the guidelines were put out on a wiki for comment and debate to the UK PR community.

While here in the UK the CIPR has taken the first step in seeking and securing a partnership for the specific creation of  dedicated guidelines for PRs we should remember that the issue, like our profession, is global.  Public relations is a profession and industry in the rest of Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Wikipedia and it’s community should use this opportunity to work with PRs around the world so that these guidelines can be adopted globally.  Groups are already coming together to encourage a dialogue and understanding of what PRs do.  I personally do not expect everybody to be won over.  In fact I wouldn’t want this.  Debate is healthy and fuels change.  But I do hope that we can demystify what PRs around the world do and and contribute.

After all, we live in a globally  connected world filled with different cultures and jurisdictions that is unifying and shaping us and our opinions.  Our views are shaped by those we know and trust within our networks.  It is time that public relations professionals improved the PR for themselves.

The Adverting Standards Authority (ASA) siloed approach to regulating social media highlights this regulatory body’s lack of understanding of real-time communication channels.

On 1st September the ASA announced that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) had empowered it to police ‘marketing communications online, including the rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children.’ The statement from the ASA added that, ‘the remit will apply to all sectors and all businesses and organisations regardless of size.’

It all sounded very well, apart from one specific paragraph, which stated, that journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes and ideas – except those that are direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising – were to be excluded from the remit.

And here lie the problem.  The guidelines and regulations that the ASA wishes to apply to social media and networking channels appear to have been written from a 20th centaury perspective, where marketing disciplines where siloed  – advertising was the big beast, direct marketing was direct marketing and public relations was, well, media relations.  There appears to have been little understanding of the fact that social media and networking crosses all these marketing disciplines.  In fact, it brings them together and maximises message penetration.

You would have therefore thought that the ASA would have consulted widely before announcing that it was to regulate social media channels.  Well, its statement said that the regulations that it would be enforcing were formed as a result of ‘formal recommendations from a wide cross-section of UK industry.’  Very odd thing to say given that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and it’s Social Media Advisory Board, which I should declare that I sit on, had been omitted from any consultation even though numerous requests were made.

Without a doubt social media has to a certain extent be regulated – best practice needs to promoted.  The CIPR is currently reviewing its social media guidelines and has uploaded these to a wiki where people can register and share their thoughts.

Online and social media has changed the way that companies, brands and consumers interact with each other.  Transparency has a higher value than ever before, especially in a world where the old ‘broadcast communications model’ is taking a back seat to a ‘conversational’ one where consumers and stakeholders can cross examine business.

The ASA is right, there is a need to regulate.  But before doing so there needs to be a clear understanding of what one are trying to regulate, and why.  Marketing communications is changing.  Six months, the time until 1 March – when the regulations are currently due to come into force, is a long time in social media terms.

Engagement, dialogue and understanding comes through dialogue.  So lets start here.