Effective digital PR reaches beyond the Comms Department

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Before jumping on a plane to London last night, I was invited to speak to the senior legal officer of a major Canadian corporation. The point of the meeting was to discuss the impact that digital communications, and social media in particular, was having on organizations as a result of the heightened transparency being imposed upon them - both from within and without.

With thousands of employees potentially speaking on behalf of the corporation through blogs, social networks or other online channels - willingly or not, and appropriately or not - the level of exposure faced by many organizations is daunting.

Which makes our job that much more exciting – if not extraordinarily difficult – as the reputational implications of the social web bleed into other functional areas of the corporation — be it HR, Legal, IT, and the c-suite. It reinforces the need for communicators to become increasingly knowledgeable about all aspects of an organization, not simply communications or marketing.  And it is an area of opportunity that – if approached correctly – will allow PR to extend its reach beyond the traditional grey areas currently being fought over by ad firms, digital shops, and PR consultancies.

As the Arthur Page Society’sAuthentic Enterprise” whitepaper sets out, communicators must now become stewards of reputation rather than owners of it. Which means that tomorrow’s communicators must be trained not only to learn about the craft of communications, both traditional and digital, they must also learn about how organizations function beyond the narrow silo in which we currently operate, and be able to strategically apply their knowledge to supporting the challenges these functions now face. They must be able to guide and shape the behaviours of the organization, recognizing that virtually every employee is now a potential avenue – frightening as it may be to some – to communicate the organization’s messages, and perhaps do so better than the c-suite or PR department ever could.

I often ask organizations if they’re ready to embrace the changes being forced upon them as a result of the social web – but perhaps we need to be asking ourselves that same question.

5 Comments
22

Jun
2008

Colin McKay

This isn’t a new challenge – rather, megaphones and soapboxes are much cheaper nowadays. In the past, corporations counted on stiff command and control hierarchies to keep those whiners in line – not anymore.

It may boil down to actually treating your employees like humans.

22

Jun
2008

Brendan Hodgson

Hiya Colin, while the challenge itself may not be new, it creates new challenges for communications professionals in that we now have to consider issues that extend into other functional areas of the organization… my point being that I don’t think we’re prepared for that. Our existing levels of knowledge and exposure are potentially deficient.

27

Jun
2008

Brendan Hodgson

Summer in London may not be springtime in Paris, but at least it didn’t rain last week for an internal

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