Originally posted on 6 A.M.
This week I spoke at Edelman’s fourth New Media Academic Summit, jointly hosted by New York University and Syracuse University, attended by more than 100 professors from 10 countries. My bold assertion is that there is a Third Way for companies to communicate, beyond paid and earned media, by embracing Public Engagement.
Today, there is a dispersion of authority, away from the mainstream media and classic sources of influence toward open platforms and new voices driven by passion and personal experience. Smart companies are changing their games, moving from strict message control to a more open discussion with stakeholders. Mike Slaby, who just joined our firm as chairman of Edelman Digital, said, “We are moving from speaking at audiences to participating with them by drawing them into organizations with authentic communications”.
The Third Way asserts that companies need to complement their usual paid and earned media strategies by embracing new, social and owned media. The Third Way envisages:
- Utilizing the evolved mainstream media, with its numerous opportunities for participation, such as video, commentary from mid-level employees and shared experiences of customers.
- Reaching out to new media with the convening credibility of expert voices. Recognize that Politico or Tech Crunch may be the best starting point for media outreach.
- Utilizing social networks as essential spaces for company embassies. Be an aggregator for discussion. Connect members to related stories. Provide multiple entry points for relating to personal experiences.
- Helping every company become a media company (thanks again, Andrew Heyward, for this quote) via an owned channel. This offers a faithful representation of the present situation while providing context that enables viewers to understand the full story.
The change from impression-based interactions to long-term relationships with clients’ stakeholders requires nothing short of a major reevaluation of our role as PR counsel. We need to provide strategic advice, not simply communications tactics. Our profession must now embrace research to distinguish among idea starters, amplifiers and viewers. We should create the central idea and enable the full exploitation across four screens (TV, PC, Slate and smart phone). Since online platforms and spaces are at the root of the current evolution of media, digital strategy can no longer be seen as a specialty area; it must become a core competence for all PR people.
The new principles adopted by Edelman practitioners in order to maintain our clients’ license to operate, are termed the rules of Public Engagement. These include:
- Open advocacy (why you are here)
- Listening with new intelligence
- Participating real time in conversations
- Create and co-create content
- Socialize media relations
- Build partnerships for the common good
- Embrace and navigate complexity
We should aim for measurable outcomes beyond media impressions and advertising equivalencies, including Building Trust, Changing Behaviors, Deeper Communities and Delivering Commercial Benefit. At the same time we must draw a clear line between journalism and public relations, as we rely on a discerning media sector as a cornerstone of our work.
We will proceed along two dimensions—to encompass a broader set of media options, from Mainstream to New to Social to Owned; and engage stakeholders in deeper, long-term social relationships, as all communications become public. In this way, PR can assume its proper role as the organizing principle for strategy and communications. Herein ends the lecture: please click through my slide show and as always, I welcome your views.