What the 1930s can teach us about social media

07 May 2010

The shift towards social media is going to have a fundamental impact on the way most agencies work today. My good friend Johan Rönn at my former agency MS&L in Stockholm once gave me Dale B. Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people claiming that it is the only book a PR consultant would ever need to read. The book is from the late 1930s, which was when my current employer Hill&Knowlton really started picking up speed. 


Dale Carnegie thought the main key to sell more was by building relationships and that this was best done simply by showing genuine interest in people and how you work to get ideas across so that people think it was originally theirs to begin with. Among his ideas were the six rules for becoming liked by people (to make them buy your stuff - he was after all a sales trainer);


  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.


With his ideas in mind, and the very rapid shift in communication to social media and communications, it is easy to see that these ideas are timeless. And that if you believe in the power of these ideas, then it is easy to see where companies should invest - in relationships with their customers and potential customers, with their partners and other people in their ecosystem that have one thing in common – they influence more people than news paper clippings which is the most commonly known PR metric.


So how do you, as a company or person, influence them? You probably advertise in all the right magazines and media where they hang out. But how do you express genuine interest in them there? Maybe you sponsor causes of interest to them, or you get involved in activities where you show that you care for their cause.


You plant the idea with a journalist who writes about things of interest to these potential customers. Maybe not about you, but about the issues that will eventually lead the customers to you. You provide micro blogging streams that are helpful and of interest. You might set up a forum that makes your potential customers’ lives a bit easier. And you get involved. You chat, suggest, question and comment. You start talking to them; you make them feel you care. 


I see more and more organisations trying out social media on a smaller or larger scale, but political parties, commercial and non-commercial organizations mostly use them, for example Twitter, to pump out one-way communication in the same way as always. They are still not showing any interest in the people they are trying to influence and win over.


Sending a tweet saying that the plane will be late is not what it is about. That’s just a plain old one-to-many message to everyone (rather than to the ones that need to know). But responding to a question on why a plane is late is a good old PR thing to do and here we see failure upon failure because at the back-end, nothing has changed. This is where your PR investment could make a real difference.


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks

Leave a Reply