Digital PR Musings

I had a chance to sit with Edelman’s Steve Rubel and Converseon’s Rob Key on a Publicity Club of New York and PRSA NY co-sponsored breakfast panel at F-H this morning titled “What PR Pros Need to Know About Social Media.” Of course, I brought my digital recorder, which halfway through the discussion, started beeping then flashed that the memory was full. Geesh. (One day I’ll figure it out.)

Anyway, the conversation was wide ranging. Some highlights included Steve Rubel’s assessment that “blogging has peaked” in terms of numbers of (active?) bloggers and amount of content created. He did reserve final judgment pending the release of the next wave of Technorati data.

Rob, whose company specializes in “conversation mining,” SEM/SEO, building social networks, search engine reputation management, etc., said that starting a PR campaign without an up-front analysis of “the conversation” is comparable to approaching a group engaged in conversation at a party and just start talking. Steve took it a step further by saying it’s like entering a social affair wearing a football uniform with a number on it.

The conversation included a take on “Second Life” to which both Converseon and Edelman have taken a different approaches than others for establishing their respective presence. Rob is “planting a forest” as a way to raise monies for an environmental cause. Steve says, for visitors, it’s all about making money.

We also talked about the unveiling this week of Edelman’s version of the social news release and its “StoryCrafter” template to build it. Steve did acknowledge Todd Defren’s work in this area as somewhat of an “inspiration,” but that the Edelman version is more “evolved.” I asked whether it will be available to the industry as an “open source” application. He said that he believed it would, but Edelman clients would get their own special treatment.

The net net for me was that the PR and media landscapes are fast changing, as are the rules for engagement. YouTube, MySpace and Second Life are first-mover brand leaders today, but is their popularity sustainable? When someone asked about good books to read, and the names of Cluetrain, Long Tail, The Search and Naked Conversations were dropped, Steve opined that even those books are somewhat outmoded since first being published (and that’s just a couple of years ago). Personally, I still think they’re worth a read.

I want to thank Steve and Rob for their candor, and for Steve’s voluntary comments on his firm’s recent unpleasant experience with one of its major clients. While he personally was not involved, he was drawn into it, and is “better off for it.” Important lessons were learned from these “mistakes.”

Update Dec. 8: Fleishman-Hillard’s SVP and social media mover David Bradfield posts these thoughtful observations of the session. Dec. 9: Naked Conversations co-author Shel Israel weighs in on the conversation here.