Summer Book Club Discussion: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

As a part of the PRSA New Pros Blog Summer Book Club, our first book was “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” by Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis. The book had good insight on the future of public relations, where we are now and how public relations and social media work together for the PR 2.0 era. Both have since released updated books on public relations and business since this 2009 release.

Here are a few highlights of the book and things to note.


  • The book is really about how social media is putting the public back in public relations and has “reinvented” public relations and how the industry has to change and evolve.
  • We have a lot of issues facing the public relations field, and some even say our industry needs a PR makeover. Traditional PR tactics aren’t always as effective anymore.
  • We have to a part of the story and the actual conversation now more than ever. It’s not about us, it’s about the consumer and the consistent messaging and dialogue.
  • There are so many social tools out there, but the tools will change and the people using social media will not.
  • Rather than focusing on the need to get brand information out there, the focus should be on the social factor of social media. Facilitate conversation and relationships; do not just broadcast, and change from spin to influence.
  • Social media is not just public relations, it affects the entire organization/company.
  • The future of public relations is about community and community building (they also throw in a lot of tips and guidelines for community managers here).
  • New titles in the PR industry include: chief social officer, community advocate, community builder, community relations manager, social media evangelist.
  • The past of PR meets the future of PR by embracing changes brought on by social media and incorporating strategy for marketing, analytics, customer service, crowdsourcing and more.

Things to note:

  • A lot of this book is based on opinion and does not necessarily have data, polls, research, case studies, etc. to back up what is proposed.
  • Social media is not new anymore, and the content of this book is beyond basics at this point in 2013; it could be more for late adapters of social media.
  • Public relations changed with social media, but a lot of the basics still remain the same, and social media is just a tool in the entire box.

Did you read the book? What are your thoughts?


  • What do you think is the future of public relations? If social media was PR 2.0, what will PR 3.0 look like?
  • Is social media really a new thing anymore? What brands are using it best?
  • How do you get the community involved more in your brand conversation?
  • Do you think social media has put a focus back on ethics in PR with its need for transparency?
  • How do you win leadership support for your social media tactics, or do you face little push-back?


Lauren GrayLauren Gray is a junior associate in digital at Finn Partners in New York City and also serves as the PRSSA immediate past president for the current National Committee. Connect with her on Twitter: @laurenkgray.

Intro to Digital PR

What does a day in the life of the digital public relations professional look like? Today, your practice can be described in two simple words: you are “always on.” When the Internet became our stomping ground for public communications, reaction time had to be much more immediate. Of course, social media continued to fuel the “always on” feeling even more because networks don’t rest and brands have to be prepared. When you accept a position in PR, you quickly learn the nature of the job requires attention at all times of the day or night, and new skills and practices are constantly in development.

My book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” presents many new practices that demonstrate this notion of “always on.” As a matter of fact, if you break down the average day of the digital PR professional, you will quickly see why you need to incorporate this idea of “always on” into your everyday activities and your daily regimen.

As a digital PR professional, you’re “always on” because you are:

Technology Savvy: PR people don’t have to code databases, unless it’s something you want to learn. However, you do need to know how to create a WordPress blog and build profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other major social channels. Understanding where and how your audiences participate on different platforms, with a good working knowledge of strategic use, is also critical. If you can’t answer questions about Pinterest vs. Instagram or Facebook vs. Tumblr, then you need to roll up your sleeves and learn those differences quickly. Ask yourself a simple question: How will you guide your executives’ brand communication if you can’t answer these questions for them?

Proactive: There is no sitting back (ever) and feeling complacent that your stakeholders have what they need. You must be proactively “listening” or monitoring their conversations, feelings, ideas and ways they want to interact with you. Being proactive means that you are using the latest technology to fully understand these conversations and the consumer perceptions they expose. You’re learning how to engage as a better partner, employer, resource and problem solver. Of course, actively listening and being connected through social media will also prevent negative dialogue from escalating into unexpected crisis situations.

Flexible: Thinking your day will be the same every day is almost asking for the impossible. Are you really able to predict what your day looks like? As a best practice, you can plan your initiatives, but in the age of public communications, your daily interactions may change drastically from hour to hour or even minute to minute. Having the flexibility to respond to your stakeholders in real time is where digital PR professionals can truly serve their brands. You also have to be open and willing to explore new ways of communication as technology continues to advance and platforms improve their functionality.

Strategic/Critical Thinker: PR professionals use tactics to support their communications programs. However, we are not just tactical doers. On the contrary, brands are looking for strategists who focus on a planned approach with goals and objectives in place, show a deep understanding of their audience, develop messages that resonate with stakeholders, reach people where they congregate and use measurement that will capture the desired actions. Sending out news releases, tweeting and posting to Facebook are the tactical elements of a communications program. Why, when and how we participate, through specific channels, is the strategic thinking required for communications success.

Accountable: PR professionals have to take accountability to a higher level. Accountability tied directly to the bottom line is the accountability that executives love to see. However, that’s not always possible. The good news is they also want to see communications impact in the form of customer satisfaction tied to positive sentiment and testimonials, editorial coverage across different media (including social media), reputation maintenance and greater awareness of the brand, which is often a part of the ROI puzzle. PR doesn’t always have a direct tie to the bottom line, but when our results are a part of a larger marketing and sales picture, the accountability becomes more visible. Another key takeaway here is that you can’t work in a vacuum and your accountability should be a part of a larger team effort.

Of course, these are only a few of the skills and practices that should be on your digital PR checklist. Call it a part of the job description of the future, or what you might see in a job posting for a PR position. Either way, it’s your opportunity to blend great PR skills with new media communications. To truly embrace the “always on” mindset, you must commit yourself to newer skills and practices on a daily basis and as a part of your professional development.


Deirdre BreakenridgeDeirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. A 25-year veteran in public relations, she teaches at NYU and speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of PR, marketing and social media. She is the author of five business books, with her most recent book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” published by Financial Times Press in May 2012.

April Twitter Chat Highlights: SEO and Digital PR

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the April #NPPRSA Twitter chat.

Specifically, we’d like to thank our special guest for the month Carrie Morgan, author of the upcoming book, “Digital Haystack: Essential Digital PR Tactics to Get Found Online.”

Join us again on May 9 at 9 p.m. EST for the next #NPPRSA Twitter chat.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the April chat? What strategies do you believe are vital to digital PR success? How do you optimize your content for search?


Amy BishopAmy Bishop is the digital marketing manager for Cru Global, a faith-based nonprofit. Bishop helps align Cru’s global marketing, branding and digital strategies with new technology systems. She is the social media chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

When It Comes to Social Data, Tell a Story

If you’ve been paying attention to trends in measurement and analytics, you’ve likely heard the phrase big data, which is this utopian concept that describes the extraordinary amount of data that exists in our hyperconnected world. This amount of data also presents organizations with the opportunity to translate it into actionable insight. It’s a great concept, but it often challenges public relations professionals that are already trying to mine the seemingly unlimited social data and present it in a meaningful way.

One of the biggest mistakes PR professionals make is overthinking social data. With the often unmanageable amount of data we now have from Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics, social monitoring tools like Radian6 and Sysomos and more, it becomes easier to have a lack of focus.

So, where do you start? When it comes to telling a story with the data, adopt the principles established by journalism: tell a story by answering who, what, where, when and why. Using this framework can help you tell a story that will help make a more meaningful impact with your clients and bosses. You can apply the five Ws framework to social media monitoring reports, social channel reports (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), trends and industry reports and other vehicles for delivering social data.

Below are the key components for each section when telling a story with data:


In every good story, there is a cast of characters that you follow. In social data, these characters comprise your target audience. Reports should answer who is talking about your brand and what their character traits are. Knowing the audience and understanding different demographic information can help you and your clients be more informed about who your social audience is.


What is your audience saying? What are the topics of conversation? Providing context and more qualitative analysis can add a sort of plot line to the story you’re trying to tell with the data. The answers to “what” can be social metrics around brand sentiment, the level of penetration when it comes to key messages or a breakdown of what the topics include.


One of the most important questions your data can answer is from where the data is coming. Understanding which platforms are hosting social conversations about your clients can help inform where future marketing dollars should go. For instance, if you’re spending your entire budget on Facebook, but your social monitoring reveals a large amount of conversation occurring on discussion forums, it would be reevaluating where your marketing dollars are going.


In a story, timing is often a key element that impacts how the story plays out. This is also true with social data – cadence and scheduling can help drive more impact for your clients. For instance, if you have a food brand and your social data reveals that the majority of social conversations are happening late at night, consider adjusting your content and social community management to reflect this.


This question is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who, what, where and when are mostly observations that can be made, but answering why requires higher level of analysis. When building out your story, always ask why for each observation you make. Having a clear understanding of the psychology behind the data can help you pull more meaningful insight.

Working in PR, you probably never thought you would be leveraging similar traits to authors and storytellers. However, translating all of the data that goes across your computer screen into an easily digestible story can help you demonstrate value for your clients.


Nick Lucido

Nick Lucido joined Edelman as an intern in May 2009 and is currently an account executive within Edelman Digital. Lucido is a member of the firm’s digital strategy team, providing online conversation research, measurement analysis and strategic insights for clients in a variety of industries. He is the PRSA New Professionals Section PRSSA liaison.

Lessons from PRSA International Conference: A New Professional’s Perspective

The last time I attended PRSA International Conference in 2010, I was convinced that I needed (and wanted) to join Twitter after sitting in on so many compelling social media sessions. Joining Twitter when I did was one of the best decisions I made in my early career. On my way to San Francisco last month, I couldn’t wait to see what the 2012 conference would have in store for me.

In a three-day whirlwind, I furiously monitored Twitter feeds, filled numerous pages with notes (am I the only one who still takes handwritten notes?) and even had time to kick back and socialize with industry peers. The conference flew by, and my brain was on overload on my flight back to Chicago. I was excited about all the new tips and tricks I was going to implement right after conference, but once the overflowing inboxes and pressing deadlines kicked into my routine again, it would be easy to forget everything I learned and go back to doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Even though a month has passed since conference, a few key takeaways made a lasting impression on me. Here’s what I’m still thinking about four weeks later:

Content is king: One of the themes across many sessions and keynotes was that traditional sales-y press releases and marketing speak are no longer tolerated, by either the media or consumers. The key to achieving great results for PR campaigns is developing and sharing relevant content targeted to your audience. The question “So what?” has never been more important.

When the spreading of information is placed in the hands of the public—not just the media—content can cause your communications to sink or swim. Newsletters, images, tweets, blog posts and videos should all be developed with the audience in mind, making sure to show what’s in it for the consumer when spending their precious time on your communications. Provide interesting content and both consumers and the media will keep coming back to your brand for more.

Social media should supplement, not replace: Tim Westergren, keynote speaker and founder/chief strategy officer of Pandora, mentioned in his general session that social media would never replace his town hall meetings or personalized emails to Pandora users. Other presenters echoed his sentiments that social media is a great tool, but it’s not a strategy and should not be the lone tool in your toolbox.

Even the Conference committee realized that social media is no substitute for in-person networking and relationship-building and hosted a tweetup (my first!) for attendees, allowing us to meet face-to-face with other PR professionals we follow on Twitter, as well as make new connections. Being able to speak with other professionals in sound bites longer than 140 characters was an irreplaceable opportunity to make more meaningful impressions.

Don’t rest on social media alone to converse with your audience and provide relevant content for their use. You might be missing out on great chances to connect.

Passion drives success: Both Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and keynote speaker at Conference, and Westergren made one point clear—passion and belief in their business was the driving force behind their success.

As new professionals, we may not always have the privilege of working in an industry for which we have a specific passion. The truth is, because of the economy many of us are either still looking for positions or are working in positions that might not get us jazzed every morning. Maybe you love sports, but you’re interning at a local hospital, or you’re working for a corporation and long to be involved with political campaigns.

However, if we can learn anything from Stone and Westergren, it’s that the passion for what we do will determine our success. If you focus on your dedication to pitching reporters, keeping up with social media trends and providing the best results for your organization or client, you will succeed in your career. If you have a great idea, don’t give up on it. Dedicate yourself to PR and your goals.

I know I really do love PR, I love learning and I love when I achieve top-tier media coverage for a client. It’s all interconnected.


Who else attended PRSA International Conference? What else would you add? What did you learn?


Heather SliwinskiHeather Sliwinski is an account executive at KemperLesnik, a Chicago-based public relations agency, providing media relations and social media services to a variety of B2B clients. She has held positions in marketing and event planning for corporations, nonprofits and higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications with an emphasis in strategic communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sliwinski is the blog co-chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.