With so much talk about social media (especially in the PR/communications/branding industry), you might think every company is excited about it and actively participating.
Well, that’s still not the case.
According to the 2009 Business.com B2B social media benchmark study:
• Only 22% of B2C companies use social media to produce webinars or podcasts
• Only 36% of B2B companies use it for recruiting
• Only 55% of B2C companies host blogs
• Only 50% of B2B companies upload content to social networks
• Only 49% of B2C companies are using Twitter
While many not-for-profits, consumer-facing and B2B companies are all over social media, many remain laggards, hesitant to take the dip.
Why the fear, uncertainty and trepidation (or lack of belief in social media)?
Here are the 5 most often heard misconceptions some CEO’s still have about social media:
5. “It’s too time consuming” – Many companies are hesitant because they know it takes time – and talent – to do it right. Social media isn’t a start-stop thing; consistency is the key to ROI, proof and returns. The companies who hold this view typically don’t have the infrastructure to Tweet, blog, comment, refine and search. While it’s not a good idea to start writing a blog and then stop (leaving black holes for weeks or months), it may be – arguably – even worse to never begin at all because measurable opportunity is lost. The more companies experiment with social media and learn from it, the more corporate confidence will grow.
4. “It’s still early days” - YouTube just celebrated its 5 year anniversary. LinkedIn has been in widespread use since 2005. Blogs have been mainstream since 2004 and over 5 million are being created monthly. Despite this ample evidence, many companies have the misconception that social media is still emerging. They’re waiting for more … evidence.
3. “Where’s the proof?” – Some executives of small- to mid-size companies look around their immediate ecosystem and draw wrong conclusions. Employees aren’t using social media for the business, but it’s because management isn’t advocating it. Traditional marketing campaigns may appear to be producing meaningful-enough results, but that’s because the superior measurement data generated by social media isn’t being generated. The CEO also isn’t feeling the heat from any … competitors.
2. “My competitors aren’t doing it” – Some companies compete in markets where nearly all the players parody each other. Differentiation is non-existent. Price is the only edge. Everyone sounds the same; they all co-opt each other’s messaging. Companies lead with feature-laden product discussions. There’s no brand personality. Everyone’s stuck, afraid to make a move in a new direction, worried about risking a misperception from … customers.
1. “My customers don’t use it” – This is the most common refrain of all from CEO’s. “My customers aren’t on Facebook. They don’t buy products after watching YouTube videos. They don’t read blogs. So why should we use social media?” While this may be the reality, today, the truth is it’s another Catch-22: customers aren’t using social media because the companies they deal with aren’t using it. Social media is transformational: once companies start using it, their customers get engaged. Individual voices come alive within a previously personality-free corporation and create brand personalities that yield competitive edge. You have to build the bridges first, then people cross over, communities get built and results follow.
Because April is APR month, I wanted to get a current view on accreditation. I spoke with Anne Dubois, APR, Fellow PRSA Chair within the Universal Accreditation Board, the group that oversees Accreditation. She had some interesting perspective:
- APR is moving in the right direction: “More professionals than ever are becoming accredited … we hope this growth continues.”
- APR still needs to create more momentum: “Not enough professionals are APR.”
- APR moves us forward: “The fundamental purpose of accreditation is to unify and advance the profession.”
- APR separates wheat from chaff: “On a personal level, achieving APR status gives professionals a mark of distinction that demonstrates their commitment to the profession and willingness to abide by the ethical and public standards held by the field.”
- APR needs more ROI focus and visibility: “We must be diligent to continue to educate the marketplace on the value of Accreditation.”
- APR isn’t consistently regarded by employers and clients: “It’s mixed.”
- APR will improve if it becomes more front-loaded (i.e. more emphasis on taking it at the beginning of a career vs. waiting later, similar to earning your CPA or passing the bar): “Interesting. We’re in the research and development phase of an entry-level certification. It’s our hope we’ll be able to roll-out this new certification within the next two years. We believe this will enhance the overall value of accreditation."
- APR needs to become more pervasive: “In a perfect world, all employers and hiring managers of public relations professionals would require Accreditation of every candidate applying for a public relations position.
“I learned as a boy that actions speak louder than words. Words can lie. If I say ‘apricots are good for
Bernays with David Letterman Source: Museum of Public Relations http://www.prmuseum.com/
Bernays was very conscious of the words he used. “In the U.S., words have the permanence of the wind and are subject to change without notice.” With a gleam in his eye he remarked. “I used to use the word ‘gay’ as in ‘I went to the gayest party,’ but if I use that today, they would incriminate me.” He was very conscious of using non-sexist language, consistently saying “she” every time he said “he.” This was no surprise because Bernays' wife and partner was the first woman to insist on using her maiden name on her U.S. passport.
Bernays retained a zest for life. I gave him a Beaupre coffee mug and he said “Do you sometimes drink whiskey out of this?” (uh…)
Bernays was proud of the way he had practiced. “We never worked with a company we didn’t enjoy. We’d just tell them, 'I’d like to cancel my contract.’ We never took on a client unless we got a six month or one year contract. One year would turn into 30 years.” To illustrate his point, he said United Fruit and Procter & Gamble were clients of his for three decades. He was proud to have turned down Hitler, Franco and Somoza as potential clients.
Bernays with David Letterman
Source: Museum of Public Relations http://www.prmuseum.com/
Bernays was living history. As I walked through his Cambridge home, the walls spoke a hundred tales. “Here I am with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1919.” “That’s Al Smith.” “This was the first flyer who flew to the U.S. from Europe.” “That’s when I worked for the State Department.” “That’s me and my wife on Fifth Avenue when we were first married.” “Here I am with the first television performer.”
Bernays was interested in people. While autographing his books for me, he asked about my personal situation. “That’s a French name.” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?" “You must have been married as a kid!” “Where did you grow up?” “What does your town do?” “Where did you get my books?” ”Are you going back to New Hampshire now?” “How long will it take you to get home?”
Bernays’s ego remained intact. As we walked through his library, I commented on his vast collection (he owned over 10,000 books). He remarked, “This is my ego shelf.” I asked him what he meant. He said, “All these books are about public relations or refer to it.” I asked if he had read all the books. He chuckled, “Well, I read the parts that referred to me.” Bernays had a hefty ego, loved to talk about himself and had many friends and contacts. He would have loved social media.
And a fascinating person to spend an afternoon with one-on-one.
Bernays was persistent. He never gave up on the idea that PR professionals should be licensed.
Bernays through the years
Bernays with Walter Cronkite and his
Bernays’ sense of humor was visibly intact. He recalled the time a woman told him she was “in public relations.” Bernays said “What do you do?” She repeated that she was “in public relations.” “I didn’t ask you that,” Bernays repeated. “What do you do?” The woman replied “I give out circulars in Harvard Square.” He loved that story because it personified his ardent belief that the public needed to be protected. “People can be rooked by somebody who just wants their money without really knowing what the hell they are doing.”
In 1990, Bernays was named one of Life Magazine's 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.
A lot of people disliked (hated) Bernays’ idea of licensing PR professionals. It was a violation of first amendment rights, stifling to entrepreneurialism and big brother domination.
"Torches of Freedom"
While I understand and largely support these views, Bernays ultimately believed it was imperative to protect society from “charlatans.”
Personally, I’d like to see a middle ground solution.
Edward Bernays with Eleanor Roosevelt
Edward Bernays with Eleanor Roosevelt
Four years before his death, I visited Bernays in his Cambridge, MA home. It was a memorable experience. We talked about a lot of things, including international politics, his impending 100th birthday, religion, his well-known clients, people power, the impact of action vs. words and of course his most precious topic… his belief that public relations practitioners should be licensed and regulated.
I’ll post a Bernays blog on three successive days this week to capture everything.
A little background about Bernays Bernays with President Eisenhower
By way of introduction for the uninitiated, Bernays coined the phrase “public relations counsel” in 1919 and is widely considered the modern day father of public relations. He’s credited with building public relations into a major industry by making corporations and institutions understand the value of PR, and pay for it.
Bernays was the nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. His seminal first book – Crystallizing Public Opinion – published in 1923 – was instrumental in making public relations an academic discipline. He created the PR industry’s first code of ethics.
In partnership with his wife Doris Fleischman, he advised such clients as Enrico Caruso, Samuel Goldwyn, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford and presidents of the
In 1990, Life magazine named him one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th Century. He lived a robust life, passing away at age 103.
One-on-one with Edward L. Bernays
Bernays greeted me personally at the side-door kitchen of his century-old
A diminutive figure with a neat moustache and time-worn jacket, he walked with unexpected ease over creaky floors and up a flight of stairs to his second story office, a narrow, long room facing
The first thing that struck me was the way he carried himself. Born in
The second thing that struck me was Bernays’ eagerness, an impressive attribute at the century mark. Sometimes it was hard getting a full question out of my mouth; he’d jump right in and start answering. He wasn’t being impolite, he just couldn’t wait to express his
Bernays was alert, informed and his global perspective impressive. Major political change had occurred in the Soviet Republic at the time of our conversation, so I recalled Bernays’ quote from 1958 citing the “monolithic propaganda of Soviet Russia,” asking what he thought of the historic transformations.
“It shows that people power is more dominant than central power. That was proven during the time of Louis XVI, years after the American Revolution, when one of the most powerful monarchs of the time was eliminated, kicked out. It was one of the great manifestations of people power which is the most important force in the world.” He repeated this view in the context of China.
My topic of
Bernays with President Eisenhower
In Bernays’ Biography of an Idea (1965), he explained how she became a “human symbol” to represent Lithuania. “She fought hard for recognition of her homeland,” he wrote, and over time “our articles and activities swung editorial opinion… and the word ‘Lithuania’ began to have meaning for Americans.” On July 27, 1922, the U.S. officially recognized Lithuania. Lithuania became independent in 1919 and stayed independent until the Soviets took it over in 1940.
At the time of our get-together, Lithuania was being admitted into the United Nations as an independent country. I'm sure that was particularly rewarding to him.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
I learned that Sam Adams moved and manipulated public opinion during the Revolutionary War. Alexander Hamilton published 85 Federalist letters urging ratification of the Constitution.
Amos Kendall served President Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet” as pollster, counselor, publicist and ghostwriter.
P.T. Barnum was a canny “press agent” showman who leveraged publicity for his Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
And Edward Bernays (who I had the pleasure of spending a day with in his Cambridge home) wrote many books about public relations, coined the term “public relations counsel,” and advised Presidents and CEOs.
But I never learned about notable African Americans who were influential in the formation of the PR industry.
But now, thanks to Marcia Taylor from Norfolk State University, I know there were many
I now know that Ida B. Wells-Barnett promoted women’s suffrage and the abolition of lynching.
I learned that Bayard Rustin was the social cause strategist who organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
And I know Inez Kaiser founded the first African-American, female-owned PR firm in America.
Thanks Marcia and PRSA, and congratulations to all the pioneers who should be recognized for their contributions to the PR industry.
Now the auto company that could once do no wrong has shut down production lines and instructed dealers not to sell some of its most popular models. The New York Times reported that Toyota knew about the acceleration problems two years before it issued the recall. Rep. Henry Waxman, one of Congress’ most persistent consumer watchdogs, announced he will hold hearings to investigate the sudden acceleration problem next month.
5. Green became greener. While greenwashing didn’t go away in 2009, most corporations understood the mantra of needing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. They also saw a direct line drawn between sustainability and profitability.
4. Personal corporate branding. Social networking is a one-to-many conversation loaded with self expression. Companies used to be cold and lifeless; now they're increasingly personified by flesh & bones employee personalities who put themselves out there online sharing opinions, interests and agendas. Now, thankfully, stakeholders can build helpful connections that humanize the company/customer connection.