Arment Dietrich

Five Ways to Become a PR Technologist

By: Arment Dietrich | June 27, 2012 | 

This week our guest posts focus on adapting the traditional to the new. The week will culminate tomorrow with a webinar on How to Socialize Your Newsroom.

Today: The Role of the PR Professional by Lisa Gerber.

We have a joke around the office: Gini Dietrich is a junior programmer, vying for a senior programmer position.

Patti Knight is the webinar production assistant, Molli Megasko is our social network tester, and I’m the designer.

In fact, Molli is so excited about the new company features and analytics from LinkedIn, it’s all we hear about.

The PR professional as a technologist is not a new topic but one I’m pretty passionate about.

For one, I love technology and what it can do to expand knowledge, relationships, and productivity. I have no patience for the haughty “I have more important things to do with my life than to be on Facebook.” I mean, come on.

But I also love it because it allows me to do what I do from my home in Sandpoint, Idaho, working from my office pictured above. 

As PR/marketing professionals, it is our responsibility to stay ahead of technology. For that matter, it is the responsibility of any professional regardless of industry.

Deirdre Breakenridge dedicates a chapter of her book Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional to this topic. The PR pro as a technology tester is one of the eight new practices we need to perform in order to transform our position at the decision-making table and to remain relevant in today’s marketplace.

We’ve covered her book here, and hosted her for an excellent webinar on the topic which you can still catch on-demand here.

Still, I’d like to delve into this particular chapter more.

Being a technologist is key and it means more than just being able to use Facebook and know what a retweet is. It means you understand how to use a content management system. You know the principles of search engine optimization. You know what inbound links mean to your site traffic. You know how to do keyword research. And you know how to look at analytics and understand what they mean.

There are six categories in which technology understanding should exist.

  1. Social media monitoring and measurement tools;
  2. Analytics and measurement;
  3. Social media influence tools;
  4. Collaborative social media platforms;
  5. Content management systems; and
  6. Social media news release platforms and distribution.

We can’t know it all, and for some of you, you have large enough teams where you can rely on experts in each area, but it’s important to have a level of curiosity and a need to self-inform.

In the book, Deirdre lists four ways to stay ahead of technology and I’ve added a fifth.

Five ways to stay ahead of technology.

  1. Use it for yourself, personally. Filter the Shiny Object Syndrome for your clients or your employers by testing out the technology for yourself. Use your critical-thinking skills to determine how this could be applied from a business perspective. Be able to answer the question when your boss or client asks about it.
  2. Follow blogs and influencers. You’re reading this blog so that’s a good start. We strive to play that role for you. Subscribe to and read other blogs, such as TechCrunch and Mashable. Follow influencers and other respected names in the social media space (Deirdre’s blog is one of them).
  3. Test new technology. When Google+ first came out, we set up our own page and started playing with it before we told our clients to hop on it.We use GoToMeeting for webinars and client meetings, Skype for conference calls, and Yammer for internal collaboration. We test the tools so we can give educated recommendations to our clients.
  4. Don’t take short cuts. We talk about this all the time, and couldn’t agree more with Deirdre. There is no quick and easy way with any of the tools and technology. It’s designed to make our lives easier and more productive, but never to replace the fundamentals of hard work and real relationship building.
  5. Understand the language. We need to know what PHP, Javascript, and HTML5 are, for example. We should know what Penguin means, and latent semantic indexing. We need to know enough to be dangerous so we can have the conversation with our IT team. It is impossible to execute marketing campaigns today without a basic understanding of the capabilities of technology.

Remember the days when IT used to hate marketing and marketing thought IT was full of guys that said, “That can’t be done”? Those days should be over now. We need to know more.

What do you think?

  • LisaDJenkins

    “It is impossible to execute marketing campaigns today without a basic understanding of the capabilities of technology.”  Thank you.  Half of the value I bring is understanding the back-end of all the platforms involved in a comprehensive campaign and it’s what differentiates me from the “gal who will put you on Facebook for $100 a month”.

    •  @LisaDJenkins and the funny thing is, we bring less value in actually facebooking for them. They should do that part themselves! 

  • YEAH!!!! i am so glad you wrote this!! Number 5 is key!!! For us, when we work with PR or marketing people who know the definition not just technical name/term the project runs much smoother, is quoted accurately and gets done faster!! You gotta talk the talk! 

    •  @sydcon_mktg RIght? Coming from you this means a lot. 🙂 In my ski marketing days, we used to have all these great ideas, but then IT would say, “ummmm, you can’t really do that.” We just thought they were a bunch of No-people. Turns out, you sort of need to know this stuff in the creation process. 

  • Part of what makes our job so exciting is that we get paid to play with the shiny new technologies. In fact, we just had a conversation at our office about the importance of knowing code (if only enough to be dangerous.)
    I took a class in college that taught me some HTML, and I would never have thought at the time that the skills would find its way into my PR career but, sure enough, there it is.
    I’m glad you wrote this post because it clearly points out the areas in which we need to get better.

    •  @bradmarley Just ask ginidietrich she knows ALL ABOUT coding. 🙂 

  • dbreakenridge

    @lisagerber Thanks, Lisa, for the great article about the #PR Tech Tester on @spinsucks –>

  • I think this type of advice can apply to most professions. The only way to truly understand a technology is to use it. Thanks for the write up!

    •  @Collectual actually, I was thinking that as I wrote this. Every single profession has a responsibility to stay ahead. In fact…. I was thinking about hair dressers for some reason. I guess because I live in a small town. You want to make sure they are staying up with the trends so you don’t walk out of there with a mullet! OMG! I wish I had thought of this while I was writing it. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber  @Collectual I don’t know that an inadvertent mullet-do is necessarily peculiar to only small towns. My brother, in a vain attempt to improve my fashion sense, scheduled a hair cut for me in NYC. I was expecting high-end, big city glamor but instead emerged with a classic mullet. Sadly, there are pictures.  

        •  @Collectual Oh- for sure! those were somewhat disconnected thoughts…. and I think we need to see those pictures. Wow – it has to take a long time to recover from a mullet? 

      •  @Lisa Gerber @Collectual Agreed. More and more, every department needs to have an understanding (not a full knowledge, just an understanding) of how these technologies work and how they can benefit their individual departments.

        •  @AdamBritten  @Collectual exactly. Let the experts work out the details, but when you’re in concept stage, there needs to be an understanding. 

  • lisagerber

    @bradmarley LOL! Best tweet ever.

  • You single out six technological areas that PR folks should command. Can you provide an example of each? For instance, do you group a tool such as Google Analytics under #1 or #2?

    •  @Ari Herzog Sure!  and to be clear, @dbreakenridge cites the 6 areas in her book. So you need to buy her book. 🙂 Here is one example in each section according to the book: 1. hootsuite
      2. Google analytics
      3. Traackr
      4. Yammer
      5. WordPress
      6. Pitchengine

  • chrisbrogan

    @ginidietrich – this is one of the BIGGEST “must haves” that is so weakly adopted in PR overall. Glad you’re sharing it.

    • ginidietrich

      @chrisbrogan The PR industry (I’m generalizing) makes me nuts. I so wish my peers would progress. Badly.

      • lornepike

        @ginidietrich Isn’t that the problem… that they ARE progressing badly?

        • ginidietrich

          @lornepike They’re not progressing at all. They’re stuck in 1980.

        • lornepike

          @ginidietrich Yah, sad. Hey wait. I’m in your industry. And my iTunes playlist is full of 1980. Well this is awkward…

        • ginidietrich

          @lornepike I like you so much, I won’t tell a soul!

        • lornepike

          @ginidietrich 🙂 Yesss!!! But please, tell everyone… Not a chance they’d believe it if I told them.

        • ginidietrich

          @lornepike Deal!

        • lornepike

          @ginidietrich Have you ever read something later & realized it meant something very different? Case in point: your tweet from two days ago:

        • lornepike

          @ginidietrich Thought you meant you’d never tell a soul you liked me. Now I see you were referring to my being stuck in the 80s.

        • lornepike

          @ginidietrich Not sure which is worse, but at least now I know what you meant! 🙂

  • ACHenton

    @ginidietrich This is a great post. Thank you for sharing it.

  • I love your office. That is all. 

    •  @KenMueller I love my office. I couldn’t get the silhouette of the mountains in the background AND the foreground on my iphone. It’s fairly ridunkulous. Your porch and work buddy, Shadow, are pretty nice too!

  • SydneyHoltPR

    @ginidietrich @lisagerber Great article. Looking forward to viewing the webinar.

  • Wait. Why is it a joke? I AM the junior programmer!

    •  @ginidietrich OMG. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think you’d see that. It’s not a joke. at all. it’s very serious. You’re the best programmer ever. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber Oh phew. I was concerned I was going to get fired!

  • mayoreo

    @lindsaybayuk @spinsucks

  • John_Trader1

    Far be it for me to assume that PR people should be trained in knowing how to use the tools that lead to creating and adjusting content but I believe that PR pros should be trained in how to use the basics of platforms like Photoshop (for graphic art), tools like Audacity (for audio content), and video content creation interfaces like ULead or VegasPro, or Microsoft Movie Maker or whatever the MAC equivalent is (not a MAC user). Why? PR needs to be the ones that are cross trained in case of an emergency (aka crisis) or to make a quick change in a pinch if the marketer isn’t available. Besides, isn’t PR taking the lead in modern content generation anyways? Or is it still in the hands of marketing? Or both?
    Don’t limit yourself to only knowing how to use social media platforms, internal communication portals or video conference tools. Expand your horizons even more by mastering other software tools to be a backup, and be even more prepared in times of crisis, which as we all know can happen in an instant.

    •  @John_Trader1 And once you understand many different platforms, you can actually figure out enough to get by on new ones…. so, as you said, if in a pinch, we could figure out how to accomplish a simple task on a new to us platform. Even bigger than that, is understanding things PR pros won’t necessarily use, but will ask IT teams to execute. Sometimes we come up with these crazy ideas of you know, maybe have dancing bears come streaming across the splash page when it is launched. 🙂 Um, no. 

  • lisagerber

    @dantisch Hi Dan, thanks for the share! Where are you today on this globe?

    • DanTisch

      @lisagerber Toronto! Just back from #IABC12. I had thought I might see you there. Had a great visit to Finland for conference in early June.

      • lisagerber

        @dantisch Awww, sounds excellent. and no… sorry to miss #IABC12.

  • This post should run on a continual loop in every school of communication, PR agency, private business enterprise, corporation and be part of the course curriculum for PRSA. It is just that darn good. 
    I see by your eclectic and panoramic office that you have all of  the necessary state of the art technology for the social media environment but I could not see a smart phone?  I was wondering if the item in the top left hand corner might be a bullhorn that you use to communicate with  @ginidietrich at the Chicago office? I have this vision of her in skinny bike shorts donning a head cam helmet with pony tail waving in the wind riding her bicycle down Michigan Avenue trying to catch your echo from the Idaho hills. Would that be an accurate vision? 😉
    Thank you for this article, terrific.

    •  @annelizhannan  @ginidietrich ahahahahaha! That item actually is the bullhorn we use. It has a reallyl really really long cord that we used to connect all the way to Chicago. It also doubles as a mosquito repellent lantern which is really odd but interestingly very useful to me. 
      And the smartphone was the instrument used to take said photo. Oh! I just noticed my moleskine was cut out of the photo. darn. 
      and thank you!!!!

  • lisagerber

    @thepaulsutton Thank you, Paul!

  • lisagerber

    @marchellgillis Thank you, Marchell!

  • SeeTrotman

    Completely agreed.  In some respects I appreciated the stance my PR Post-Graduate program took with regards to NOT teaching us all the technical elements involved in public relations.  As professionals there are certain things that we just have to explore for ourselves and learn on our own.  A natural curiosity is a necessity for the profession.
    However, even if a PR program isn’t teaching these skills, highlighting the importance of being knowledgeable in all of these areas is crucial.  Great read.

    •  @SeeTrotman Thanks! right – we can’t be the person that falls back on the “I’m technogically ignorant.” excuse. Doesn’t work. I just reading about canonical URL’s this morning. I thought my eyes might roll back into my head, but we need to know this stuff as we’re building sites and campaigns for clients that we want to get found. 
      Are you glad you did the PR Post grad thing? 

  • lisagerber

    @jasonkonopinski 🙂 Thank you. 🙂

    • jasonkonopinski

      @lisagerber You’re welcome! I need to compose a thoughtful comment. 🙂

  • Vocus

    @gchesman 🙂

  • Well done, Gerber!  
    I think this can be applied to most any communications pro – junior through senior level.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked on very small teams and for small agencies, but this sort of tactical and philosophical approach is part of my professional DNA. We talk a lot about the multiple hats that our clients don as small biz owners, but the same is true on the agency-side as well. 
    I know just enough PHP and JS to tweak plug-ins and do some WordPress development on my site, but I’d never think to offer those services to clients.  I can, however, speak with some authority when collaborating with a web developer on a project or as a client (Hi @sydcon_mktg ! :)) .  When I was still involved with Correctnicity, the developers (who also happened to the C-Suite) used to remind me that specialization is for insects. I’m wont to agree. 

  • cdilly

    @shonali Wow! “PR Technologist” New to me but like the ring to it. 🙂

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  • shonali

    @skypulsemedia Ha! @ginidietrich @lisagerber

  • famzycool

    Nice one Glen! RT @GlenGilmore: Five Ways to Become a PR Technologist rt @markwschaefer @ginidietrich

  • Viken_shrestha

    RT @Flipbooks 5 Ways to Become a #PR Technologist rt @ginidietrich @ShellyKramer @Timothy_Hughes

  • Remco Janssen

    One thing I miss from this list is basic knowledge of CMS and blog platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress. On many occasions I had to post content to the corporate blog of a client, hence these skills are almost obligatory. (Hope no one beat me to this one, haven’t read all the comments)

  • caroangel

    @Fortune_PR @ginidietrich I think I am definitely IN 😉

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