Social networking. Social media. Online communities. The news is filled with these terms, and conversations with friends and colleagues are sprinkled liberally with references to online activities. Experts abound, with advice on how to navigate this new world, which has become oh-so important.
But what’s it really all about? As a public affairs professional I have heard and read numerous times that this is the new way – we need to obliterate all our old ways of doing things and embrace the new way.
To me, public affairs or public relations or communications is all about relationships, and it always has been. I’ve been a writer for 24 years, and a public affairs manager for 15 of those 24 years. If you want your company in the news or if you want to catch the attention of your customers, you need to build relationships. First I built relationships by phone or in-person; then I added e-mail to that mix; now I’ve added online contacts and groups.
Pubic relations. Media relations. Internal relations. External relations. Customer relations. Constituent relations. The word has always been there loud and clear.
Yes, the internet and its growing applications is new, and we can all use the advice of the experts as we navigate our way around. Newspapers and other print media have had to change the way they do things. Those of us in the communications arena also need to change the way we do some things. But the basics remain. We need to recognize that online applications are simply new vehicles for disseminating our message. It’s still about building relationships with folks who have the capability/the network/the platform to see that our messages reach our target audiences, or better yet building relationships directly with our target audience members.
Cultivating relationships with our target audiences SOUNDS simple, given all the online activities and forums, but it is exactly due to all that activity that messages are lost unless there is a more than tenuous relationship established.