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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?

33 comments
allenmireles
allenmireles

@SpectorPR Belated thanks for the RT. I sometimes fall waaaay down on the thankyous.

allenmireles
allenmireles

@jenniferwindrum Thank you , Jenny. xoxo

JenKaneCo
JenKaneCo

Thanks for your shout out for the panel. As Kary mentioned, I actually am a cyborg (I have degenerative disc disease so my spine is slowly being replaced by metal parts), which is why I started thinking about the topic.

 

While I'm not thrilled that I need to rely on technology to live my life, it's a transition I was not able to avoid. And that's true for my work life too. Digital communications simply moves too fast for a human to keep up with it all. So, it makes sense to use technology as the spine for that system too. I think all industries are wising up to this reality. The trick now is to balance using tools with the "best of" business practices of old, so we don't all seem like robots.

 

It's something I think about a lot, since conceivably one day I could be more robot parts and less Jen parts. Kinda creepy, but still a brave new world to think about. Thanks for sparking some dialogue about it.

BrandConnection
BrandConnection

@mjcarter @thatgeekcasey @Mo_Americanoid Thanks for the RT!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

Hello, my love! You already know I love this blog post. I mean, I was just promoted to senior programmer. So, yes, I do consider myself a social cyborg. But I also think it's more than that. I think we have a huge opportunity in front of us. Like you said, we can act as change agents, but we can also begin to work with the other disciplines in order to do what's best for the growth of the organization. I would love it if all PR pros led the charge, but I know this is about people, not about a profession. So I advocate our peers lead the charge...let's act as change agents, let's begin to integrate, let's find ways to add value to the financials of the organization, and let's create a seat at the table.

kamichat
kamichat

Allen, I am a cyborg indeed. Love that image. We do need to continue to adapt!

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allenmireles
allenmireles

@sazbean thank you Sarah! Appreciate the RT. how're things up your way?

allenmireles
allenmireles

@neicolec Girl, I KNOW you are! ;) Thanks for the retweet, Neicole. :)

KaryD
KaryD

Very thoughtful post! A few years ago, I was much more a purist, I'll admit. But to your point - we need to adapt to the tools at our disposal and use them AS APPROPRIATE. It's crucial to remember that PR via social media is not about the tool. These are communications channels and should be treated as such, per your business strategy. Having said that, though, in order for this to truly be scalable for the long term, some essence of "cyborgness" is inevitable. 

 

hiuhime
hiuhime

I latched on to the idea of integrating automation while maintaining a persona of omnipresence and responsiveness. I don't come from a straight marketing background rather, I studied network theory and media in graduate school and then got thrown head first into the world of digital brand strategy. Based on my experience, I agree with you on 2 points. The first is that PR people need to become fully integrated and at the same time quick to adapt to the ever-changing social landscape. The second is that the amount we will continue to morph into social cyborgs feels...exponential. I'm only gauging this assumption off of the growth of the internet itself, but it feels right (and also scary). If automation can squelch our overwhelmed, scary, the internet is just too big feelings AND cultivate meaningful connections with audiences, then I'm all in.

RickRice
RickRice

I completely agree with you Allen but I'd also ask is this really new? Good PR people have always had to adapt to changing communications technology. I've been at this so long that I have paper cut scars from stuffing news releases into envelopes and, for important things, having to call the wire services and read them the release. 

 

These new tools are definitely making it like you're drinking from a fire hose but this isn't going to be the last set of tools I figure I'm going to have to learn how to use. 

 

I don't know how competent I am with all the new tools but I'm there and learning all the time and I just think I'm a pretty good old PR guy.

 

Nice post and congratulations on the new gig.

KenMueller
KenMueller

This ties in well with Gini's post from this morning, and a bit of the conversation we had in the comments, and now I'm really thinking about this a lot. What we really are looking for are people who are extremely well rounded with an integrated set of competencies, and that can only happen with the proper individual mindset, and how we approach this new world.

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gstene
gstene

@ginidietrich gini? No! Media, advert/ comm. biz. Aren't . Pain not awfull enough yet... It will become worse!

sazbean
sazbean

@allenmireles still crazy busy… how are you?

neicolec
neicolec

@allenmireles No problem. Sorry I haven't done more. I've been so absent! How are you and yours?

allenmireles
allenmireles

 @KaryD I started out as a purist too. You change..after enough time trying to work for clients (or employers) and provide an unending stream of fabulous content (and everything else that relates).

 

I am so appreciative to you for the intro to the term, "social cyborg", which I think is fabulous. I hope your [anel makes it at SXSW. :)

allenmireles
allenmireles

 @hiuhime I hear you re: scary. There's much about this magical digital world that can feel threatening at times. I would tend to agree that the we will continue to morph into social cyborg-like creatures at an exponential rate. I count myself on the side of the social cyborg in that, not unlike the definition from the story in Training magazine, I use both technology and my social networks to learn and to problem solve. And then I also embrace automation in managing much of my social presence, although I closely monitor the conversations. 

 

Thanks for your input.

allenmireles
allenmireles

 @RickRice Thank you, my friend. Perhaps, this is not so new in that, as you say, good PR people have always adapted to changing technologies. What I think is new is the pace of the changing technologies, the ease with which we are able to leverage our social connections and how this is impacting not only how we work but how we think and how we communicate. 

 

You are, in fact a lot more competent than just any old PR guy--we both know this about you, don't we? ;)

allenmireles
allenmireles

 @KenMueller I think it is a mindset too. There are those who embrace this with enthusiasm and as a way of life (and it is not just the young people who have grown up as digital natives) and then there are those who become competent and comfortable using the tools and networks because they make sense. Slightly different mindset and both work.

allenmireles
allenmireles

@neicolec We're good. Some of us just celebrated 8 months-- an important milestone. We are very grateful! You guys?

KaryD
KaryD

 @allenmireles I have to give the "social cyborg" credit to @jenkaneco - in real life, she's made up of a lot of metal, and she's a bit more of a sci fi nerd than I am. Thanks for the shout-out. I too, would love for our panel to make it. :-) 

RickRice
RickRice

 @allenmireles The pace of change right now is faster. It has gotten that way with each new wave and I'm sure that trend will continue when the next wave comes to get us. Keeps life interesting. :)

RickRice
RickRice

@jasonkonopinski It is one of those days they let me play with you 'cool' kids... :)

neicolec
neicolec

@allenmireles That is a wonderful milestone. Can't believe it's been that long. We are good. School for my 4 started yesterday. Yikes!

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