Lindsay Olson

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What Does It Mean to Be the Media?

This is a guest post from PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

There’s been a lot of talk in PR about how the media has changed in the past few years and what that means for PR practitioners, for brands and for organizations.  One axiom that I keep hearing and find interesting is that now we are the media.  In essence:  traditional media outlets are shrinking, and many are incorporating user-generated content, while self-publishing opportunities are expanding greatly thanks to social media, e.g. blogs, YouTube videos.

So, if we’re all now de facto content publishers, what does that mean?

Does it mean that we take oaths to uphold traditional journalistic values like openness, transparency and access? Quite the contrary, marketers continue to promote their product or view but doing it through social media contributions can make it appear more objective.  In the Social Media Playbook from Eloqua’s Joe Chernov and Jess3, professors Peter Kollock and Marc Smith say the motivations for contributing to online communities do not rely on altruistic behavior on the part of the contributor, they depend on these four pillars:  anticipated reciprocity, increased recognition, sense of efficacy and communion.  One of the few social media ethics guidelines can be found on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s ethics/disclosure page.

Does it mean we need to hire an editorial board? Perhaps.  If you’re jumping in to social media with both feet, it is wise to have someone on board who is media savvy.  Depending on your organization’s size and involvement with social media that resource could be one person in your organization, a cross-section of your PR team or a special social media “swat team” comprised of resources from PR, marketing, sales and customer support.

Does it mean that we are now concerned with traditional media measurement metrics like circulation numbers and ad buys? In a word: yes.  Except in the new media world influence is measured by the number of followers a brand has on Twitter, the number of clicks and amount of time visitors spend on a web site and how many of these lead to conversions.

What do you think?  How do you see PR incorporating “traditional” media practices?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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