The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

social media fud and no comment 2.0

It's one of the most worn-out things for someone like me to say but some clients are so gripped by the fear of what might go wrong with their social media strategy that very little can actually go right.

However, I'm fortunate enough to work with clients who, in the main, are not only excited about the potential of digital comms but they get it. I guess that may have led to a certain amount of complacency on my part – I'd started assuming that everyone was enlightened in the ways of social media.

A conversation in the office this morning with a colleague made me realise how off-the-mark this assumption of mine is. It also brought to mind challenging conversations I'd had with clients about regular-grade PR, never mind the digital flavour.

Have I, I then asked myself, stopped thinking about things from the perspective of those who live and work outside the comms and media bubble?

Is there still a job of education to be done?

Or could it be that some people (by which I mean businesses, organisations and the individuals that work in them) will never get to grips with external comms?

The most common objection I have heard from comms-deniers generally goes a little like this, and if you work in PR I reckon you’ll have heard a rendition of this one at some time:

"We don't want to talk about X because it isn’t one of the things that we sell/offer/promote."

PR person's typical response:

"I understand, but you asked us to raise your profile, and you have said you want to be a thought-leader. So you need to have opinions on a wide range of subjects, not just your own products but your industry."

Like most PR folk, I've been involved in running clients' twitter streams to varying degrees, and it is here that some of this reluctance keeps cropping up frequently.

"We should really only be tweeting about our company and products," is one comment I’ve seen recently.

Face, meet palm. Palm, meet face. I've a feeling you two will be spending a lot of time together.

I have some sympathy with the paranoia of being quoted out of context, or being asked questions you can’t answer, that leads some clients to stay entrenched in their comfort zone. There is that whole you can't unring a bell thing about once you’ve said something to a journalist it's hard to take it back.

But this outlook is very destructive when it comes to social media engagement.

There, look… I said it – engagement. That word gets over-used for a reason.

There is no value to either party in simply pumping out a one-way, mono-dimensional stream of tweets.

Your followers will grow bored of you. They come to resent your lack of willingness to enter into a dialogue, or impart any wisdom. They will switch off, not just from your tweets but from your brand too.

Net result – more harm than good.

That’s not to say every corporate tweet needs to be hugely informal, or irreverent. Far from it. It's important to reflect your brand values as well as inject some personality into things.

Ultimately people will be drawn to those brands that offer them something of value. On the high street that may take the form of sale-prices, in the case of a call to register a complaint you want someone who listens and then takes ownership of your problem, and online that’s most likely going to be content that you find interesting and of value.

When I was a boy, my mother used to say to me "if you haven't got anything good to say, don't say anything." To this day I get called taciturn. But maybe, all kidding aside, this isn't such a terrible piece of advice for brands taking their first steps online.

Think about what it is you hope to achieve, what it is about the brands you admire in the digital space that you like, and try to bring some of that good stuff together in a way that will work for you and the people you want to engage with.

Find something good to say.  Otherwise, maybe we need to head off down another well-trod PR path, that of the dreaded "no comment."

Almost never a good idea in the face of a direct question, I have an inkling that no comment 2.0 might start weaving its way into social media advice some brands need for their own good.

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