The above video has made its way around the PR blogosphere and Twittersphere, with people weighing in on both sides of the debate. First off, I’m a big fan of Jack O’Dwyer. He’s been doing this for 40 years and gets the industry. But as Bill Belichick, painfully proved on an even greater platform last night, even the best can be wrong with their decision making.
Jack makes the argument that PR people should only be dealing with other professionals (i.e. journalists) and not directly with consumers through social media. However, he seems to base this (from what I can get from the video) more on it being unfair for consumers, versus simply knocking its effectiveness. He makes the analogy to a pro-boxer challenging a citizen to a bar room fight to illustrate that. Maybe he wants to take the new FTC guidelines to another level???
If that truly is his argument then he’s really undervaluing the collective knowledge-base of consumers taking part in brand discussions on the Web. He’s also outdated in thinking that PR practitioners are trying to spin consumers through these new channels as they have in the past with journalists. Its a different channel, a different audience and a different voice altogether.
First of all, the majority of bloggers (and I’ll surmise avid Twitter users) are more affluent and and educated than the general population. 75% of bloggers have college degrees and 40% have graduate degrees. But more importantly, which Jack really misses, is they are taking part in a two-way conversation that they want to be a part of.
Razorfish’s recent study noted that 70% of connected consumers have read blogs produced by brands, 40% have friended a brand on Facebook or MySpace and 26% follow brands on Twitter. Consumers want this engagement, the voice, the inside scoop and ultimately the deals. There really isn’t a decision to be made. Your brand is part of social media and you can either try to influence that in a good way or let the discussion go on without out you.
The only argument left is who should own social media. To that argument I revert back to who currently produces content and has experience with reaching different audiences with different messages. Yes, that would be PR folks.