Timeliness is next to godliness

2 Challenges and the 8 practices to combat the timeliness of the web. Especially if you’re not used to it.

The media has changed and the public’s perception of power in buying decisions, beliefs and trust in organizations has changed with it. PR has used the media and built relationships with key journalists and editors to get key messages to the public. But now, we don’t obtain our information from one, trusted source.

More than ever we get it from various, real time sources. We talk to each other when something we bought breaks within a couple of weeks of using it. We demand an organic response from the company we purchased the product from.

The public has become participatory, and we as practioners have to participate as well.

But for all the talk and discussion, can we really as busy practioners keep up with the speed in which the internet moves?

Not everyone wants to move at the speed of online communications. Some just want to move at their own facing these challenges:

1. It can be overwhelming. There’s too much to check and keep track of. There is a certain pressure to always be checking and to be on top of every single nuance of a trend or piece of news. Most people do not like to be on a computer outside of work: they like to get out and have quality time away from a desk.

2. Timeliness. Feeling overwhelmed can be due to the fact that being timely in contributing to social media is important. Part of the issue is the fact that it’s not what you knew before or what you know now, but you know before it’s done. What you can anticipate and the trends you see before hand. Many people simply don’t have the time, or the inclination to have that high level of anticipation.

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What if you just don’t care to much to participate online? Here’s a few ways that will let you participate without losing your sanity:

1. Just like everything else you start, take your time to learn and build credibility

Sign up for the social media tools that you find interesting, and explore if others in your social network are using it.

I have a MySpace account that I think I’ve used about a dozen or so times. I have a grand total of 5 friends in my network. My social and (emerging) professional networks simply do not use it. So, I don’t use it.

Inorganic use of a communications tool does not lend credibility to your online reputation. Without a good reputation, you might as well give up on using social media tools. You’re dead in the water and your key messages just float to the top.

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the power of “key influencers” and I think that while they’re important, it’s a tighly coupled system of ensuring trust in your organization. In a study conducted by James Coyle, assistant professor of marketing at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business, Elizabeth Lightfoot of CNET Networks, and Ted Smith and Amy Scott of MedTrackAlert conducted the study… Said Coyle:

“We find that trying to track down key influencers, people who have extremely large social networks, is typically unnecessary and, more importantly, can actually limit a campaign or advertisement’s viral potential. Instead, marketers need to realize that the majority of their audience, not just the well-connected few, is eager and willing to pass along well-designed and relevant messages.”

Basically, it takes good actions and participation to build good relationship with your publics. If the key influencers you’ve built relationships with fall hard, your organization may fall with them.

2. Develop the habit online communications

Easier said than done, but once a learned behaviour becomes a habit, it’s difficult to break. But like everything new, getting started is the most difficult part.

Christine Perkitt has some good tips and reasons to at the very least, give Online PR practices a shot here.

2. Read like your audience: SCAN

This article from Slate, sums up quite nicely why we skim through text when reading online.

The online environment itself is a factor for the lack of attention we exhibit when reading online. Every single bit of information is right at our finger tips.

The notion of hypertext and linking makes reading information dynamic, but it can also tempt users away from your content. Make sure the most relevant information is first, and treat them like you would a journalist who would read a press release.

They’re getting inundated with information, so you have to consider “Why do I need to read this?” With the hypertext element of Web 2.0, if a random thought pops up in your reader’s head like “I wonder why cats are finicky eaters?”, then most likely, they will be right onto google and away from your content.

4. Write concisely

This is a tactic that’s at the root of good public relations practice. Too much rhetoric or techno-babble or flowerly, expressive language doesn’t give people the information they need. That goes for the public, the media and stakeholders.

It’s tied in closely with the reading habits of online users, but good writing online is the same as good writing in print.

5. Don’t write about online PR practices exclusively – if there’s a topic about an old fashioned communications practice get on it!

PR is PR. Online communications is a tool, and a tool that’s important to public relations practice in 2008. But the same issues remain constant, and the same tactics remain viable. There’s always a public relations triumph or failure in the news and a lesson to be learned by it.

Reputation management takes on a whole new meaning in an online space. Information and news travels much faster and more collaboratively than in traditional mass communications. I’m convinced though, that online communications remains the same as traditional mass media since it’s still the same audiences that read it and interact with it.

People remember one bad crisis and don’t remember the stellar repuatation that a organization has built over years or even decades. Though the tools change, PR practices and tactics always remain the same.

6. Be involved in real life

I know this seems a tad condescending, but when you’re out there and going to events, concerts, participating in group activities, you get a different sense how people are communicating. And, what it is they are interested in and care about.

7. Have fun with these new fangled tools.

It’s easier to say “this is so useless, I’m not going to use this for anything, I don’t like, THIS IS POINTLESS!” than to simply just have a bit of fun with twitter, your blog or a Flickr account.

I believe that these new tools should generate a genuine interest in users, and if you’re forcing yourself to use any kind of social media tool, it may be a waste of time. If you aren’t feeling it, or your own social network isn’t using the tool, then you don’t get the most out of what they can offer.

When I began using Twitter, I wasn’t skeptical of why this was in use, but how people use it. I took some time to watch how people:

1. Interacted with one another

2. Interacted with the tool

3. What they were posting

Now I’m quickly realizing that it’s more of a connecting point of a person’s real life and online activities. And a useful tool in connecting and sharing ideas with colleagues and friends.

But without a fun and positive attitude towards an alien tool, I don’t think I could get through the clutter to see what everyone was talking about.

8. The most obvious thing you can consider – your audience.

Do they use all this stuff? Would they be on facebook? Are they looking for authority, or a similar viewpoint from a peer?

It really depends upon the importance of the issue to the audience. When it comes to issues surrounding health care, education or public safety, the public wants to have a authoritative voice in the form of a doctor or expert in the field.

Social media may bring authorities on a more level playing field, and though social media is more peer-to-peer based, knowing that your audience requires an authoritative stance, may pose some serious questions on whether peer based information and collaboration would be beneficial.

Sometimes, social media may not fit the bill.

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One response to “Timeliness is next to godliness

  1. Meighan,

    Good post and useful tips! thanks so much for including us/our blog. We appreciate it!

    Looking forward to staying connected online!

    All the best,
    Christine Perkett

    p.s. I have a dog named Mojo :-)

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