Yesterday I ran a New/Social Media training day at Jardine International, where our focus was on helping clients recognise how to integrate relevant online developments into their PR campaigns.
As well as covering off a lot of the online jargon and techniques – for which the Common Craft plain English videos (and my own unique “glossary”) are hard to beat – we talked about how brands could be seen as genuinely interested in social networks, provide interesting multimedia and avoid generating the type of negative cyber-buzz that would make clients run for the virtual hills.
One thing I found interesting was how, as PR professionals, we have learned to adopt a style of writing and thinking that no longer comes across as human. It is a little like the way you see television presenters talk to children, in that online the “artificial” PR-way seems quite cheesy. It was very helpful to undertake exercises that enabled a real voice to be heard and break ourselves of the PR-habit.
PR practitioners are not alone in their approach to writing, as organisations generally seem to adopt a style of communications that bears little resemblance to how real people engage. Indeed, I received a really expensive looking mailing piece in the post recently from a car company that was so over-stylised, it was an instant turn-off.
The need to communicate in a genuine fashion is particularly relevant for one Jardine project – the Bridgestone GP2 E-Reporter. This is a competition open to students, aged 18-30, in full time education anywhere in Europe. Appealing for “young journalistic talent”, eight finalists will win the chance to attend a European Formula One Grand Prix weekend to report on the Bridgestone-backed GP2 series. The deadline for submitting a 300 word article and interview questions is 31 March 2008.
So, how best to use new/social media to reach out to journalist, PR and other students who might be interesting in the great prize? During the lunch-break yesterday, a Facebook group was set up and previous winners immediately responded to a request to be friends in the group. We identified two specialist automotive journalist courses, and have made contact with the tutors there.
Opportunities to promote the previous winning entries, identify footage for YouTube and connect into online student groups and advocates were identified. But what more can the guys do? This is a real-life challenge that I will present to my Bournemouth University seminar groups over the next couple of weeks as we look at PR and new media. Not only might this opportunity stimulate a few ideas for the Jardine guys, but it will give me greater insight into how the students themselves interact with new/social media.
As “digital immigrants”, can we really understand how “digital natives” use new/social media? How can we tap into appropriate word of mouth, without coming over as “big business”?
I’ll let you know what I discover – but in the meantime, if you know anyone who’d love a shot at becoming an E-Reporter – direct them to: http://www.bridgestone-ereporter.eu/ereporter/