Among their findings in the June 2 edition update was a telling anecdote about their efforts to contact J.P. Rangaswami, chief information officer of British telecom giant BT, to discuss the outbreak of communications tools over the last few years. They write:
“We leave a message with the press department. A day passes. We wonder if we should try another number before it strikes us how silly we’ve been. We can go straight to the person! That’s what social media lets you do.”
The reporters left a comment on Rangaswami’s blog, thus bypassing BT’s corporate communications unit, and got a quick reply that he was flying to San Francisco before he left his Facebook, Twitter and cellphone contacts.
How’s that for evolution? The PR staff was completely taken out the equation in favor of three lynchpins of social media – a blog, a social network, and a microblog.
The writers had previously noted that every employee had the potential to become a voice for the company “either publicly or cloaked, some gaining more power than the entire public relations department.”
Not mentioned in the new piece are many of the campaigns and programs being orchestrated by PR and marketing firms utilizing social media tools. A lot of the horror stories of PR’s engagement with social media are widely covered, while the more prevalent successes often go unnoticed. [We can be as guilty of this as any media outlet, but it should also be noted that PR firms and corporate communications departments can also be gun-shy about highlighting their work for fear of criticism.]
But the social media “revolution” being described by many, and given cover prominence by outlets like BW, would mean little to the business world without savvy communications departments and PR firms taking the lead and convincing skeptical clients to take a plunge for the benefit of employee and customer engagement, or a humanizing boost to a reputation.
PR – as it often is, by nature – is an unsung troubadour in the social media phenomenon.
Other interesting notes from the piece:
Edelman’s digital media director and one of PR’s most prominent blog evangelists, Steve Rubel, has significantly cut back on his dozen-post-a-day blogging habit as so-called “Megablogs” like TechCrunch and GigaOm have taken over scoops and tech coverage. BW selflessly noted that more than 170K blogs link to TechCrunch, a number which eclipses the humbled BusinessWeek.com.
BW sees a bubble brewing, in part because of the megadeals like Google’s purchase of YouTube ($1.65B) and Microsoft’s slice of Facebook that valued the company at $15B. But the writers suggest that’s not the point: “Even if the bubble bursts—and we predict it will—the power of social media to transform our business and society will only grow.”