Yesterday I attended the 33rd annual PRSA-Maryland Chesapeake Conference, “Launching a New Decade of PR Excellence,” at the Towson Sheraton. This event is always an education, even for a PR veteran like myself of nearly a quarter century, but that’s the way it should be—if you’re not learning, you’re not dying, you’re already dead and just don’t know it.
It seems the topic PR folks are most interested in learning about these days, if the day’s agenda was any indication, is social media. Sessions explored such topics as “Social Media Measurement,” “Writing for the Web and Social Media,” “Social Media Law 101: A Legal Perspective for Communicators,” “Time Management Strategies for Social Media Activities,” “Writing with Search Engines in Mind: Putting SEO to Work”—about 80 percent of the agenda, all social media oriented…
…even the seemingly “old school” sessions, like the panel in which I was invited to speak, “Media Pitching: Best Practices and Worst Examples” Roundtable. One questions raised was, how best to reach the media? In the old days, that was simple. You picked up an envelope (snailmail) or the phone or you picked up your butt, put it in your car and drove to the journalist you wanted to meet. Then came email. Then came the social media.
I mentioned on the panel that at a meeting of PR professionals at the Sun a couple years ago, one editor noted that she was more inclined to pay attention to news that appeared in a “tweet” (on Twitter for those of you coming out of cryrogenic freeze) than if that same information appeared in a news release.
It’s a brave new world out there—the world is new and we in PR must be brave. Everyone is shouting to “get on FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE,” but you have to be careful about what you post. Bradley S. Shear, Esq. (www.shearsocialmedia.com), managing partner for the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC, spoke on the topic of social media and the law, noting that if you decide to post on Youtube, be sure to ask, “Does your client own ALL the rights to the video? Your Legal department may need to create a release” for whatever you are planning to post.
And what if you are considered a “prominent user of social media”? Does this apply just to Ashton Kutchers or anybody with more than a 1,000 friends? If you got three free nights at a hotel and post that you “Like” that chain, a disclosure of the fact that you got the freebie is required. “A disclosure is a good idea, even if you think it’s doubtful that the FCC is looking over your shoulder,” Shear said.
And don’t start lifting other folks’ info off their blogs and sites and posting it on your own. It never hurts to seek permission or at least link back.
Yes, a scary time to be in PR. You’ve got this wonderful communication tool that grants you, for basically NO cost, access to worldwide audiences, but there are dangers for those who go in unprepared. Call it “landmines in paradise,” or as Shear notes, “Everything is gray.” Which is great if you’re in the legal field!
More on my “education” at the PRSA Chesapeake conference in my next post!