Arment Dietrich

Is PR Ready for the Social Cyborg?

By: Arment Dietrich | September 5, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Allen Mireles

Recently I was introduced to the term “social cyborg” and fell head-over-heels in love.

I was familiar with the concept of a cyborg, a fictional character who has superhuman abilities due to mechanical implants, but this term was new to me.

As I read more, I became intrigued and found myself wondering: Is PR ready for the social cyborg?

The PR industry, like so many others, has been revolutionized by the fast pace of technological changes. We’re under pressure to master digital skills;  To become proficient in using the web to find information, build relationships, communicate with others, and measure the results of our programs.

It’s an exciting time, filled with endless opportunities for learning, but it can feel overwhelming.

Yet, as Rick Rice stated, in order to be a successful PR practitioner, you must be one of the best-informed and most curious people in the room. You have to show a willingness to learn and an ability to listen. And today that means using digital tools effectively.

Enter the Social Cyborg

A social cyborg is someone who has integrated social networks and information technology into the way they think, learn, and solve problems, according to Joe Campbell and William Finegan, who wrote about this emerging learning style and its impact on corporate learning environments.

Campbell and Finegan have identified the need for a new mindset in the training industry, and for the development of learning strategies to accommodate a growing number of social cyborgs.

The term is also being used to describe a person who uses automation to become a better, stronger, faster version of themselves, according to Jennifer Kane and Kary Delaria, in their SXSW panel proposition, “Becoming a Social Cyborg.”

Kane’s and Delaria’s panel addresses the use of social media tools in social networking to provide a steady stream of information and create the perception of being omnipresent and responsive.

The social cyborg uses social media and information technology, as well as the knowledge amassed by the members of their social networks. In social networking, social cyborgs combine automation and authenticity to make the most efficient and effective use of their time online–whether for themselves or on behalf of their clients or employers.

Is PR Ready for This? Are You?

According to Deirdre Breakenridge, in her new book “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” public relations has had to evolve from strategy and planning all the way through to implementation and measurement. Her book identifies eight new subsets of the PR industry; each heavily influenced by technology and social media.

As Breakenridge states, in public relations we:

…rely on core competencies, including the ability to research and plan, apply strategies to business goals and objectives, handle issues and crises communications, uphold professional and ethical behavior, manage organizational resources, and demonstrate excellent communications skills. In an age of new media and public conversations, your requirements expand.

As part of that expansion, PR will need to embrace the style of the social cyborg. We all will. The industry will need to adopt a new mindset, one that incorporates the traditional skills and expectations of a PR professional with new media tools for research, communication, and measurement. It’s that–or get left behind.

We have the opportunity to act as change agents: To show the world how the use of automation can aid authentic communication not hurt it, how organizations can evolve in response to the conversations held online and how all of this can be done while maintaining the highest of ethical standards.

As each of us continues to master digital tools we become a little more like the social cyborg: Adopting the use of social media tools, making the most of the wisdom of our social networks, and striving to maintain authenticity in our communications.

Do you consider yourself a social cyborg?  Or, are you coming to this more slowly and finding it difficult to embrace?

What do you think?

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