Gini Dietrich

Social Media Breeds PR Laziness

By: Gini Dietrich | April 9, 2012 | 

Last week, because I was recovering from my sleepless trip to Norway, I wasn’t able to attend the PR Digital Impact Conference with my Inside PR cohorts, Joe Thornley and Martin Waxman.

They were able to secure quite a few interviews with some of the conference’s speakers, which we’ll be playing in the coming weeks. But I also missed seeing some friends, such as Doug Haslam, Eric Schwartzman, and Steve Radick.

Luckily Steve wrote a great blog post yesterday about his experience at the conference and about how PR pros take the easy way out. And I think it’s a great topic of conversation today.

He says about the conference’s presentations:

Like many PR events, the conference had a mix of really great presentations, but I also noticed the continuation of a disturbing trend throughout our profession – laziness. Laziness disguised as “social media best practices” and cool new tools.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think people are actively trying to be lazy. I don’t think most people even realize that they’re trying to take the easy way out. I think they view it as becoming more efficient or effective. And while many of these tools and practices may help someone increase their reach or save them some time, they are also making social media a hell of a lot less social.

Unfortunately, he’s right.

We’re approaching social the same way we’ve always done things. We’re collecting fans and followers and circles like they mean something to business growth. We’re inventing auto direct messages that are overtly sales-y. We’re claiming there is no ROI on awareness…you either have it or you don’t and PR is one way to help you achieve it.

This is baloney.

Geoff Livingston and I were chatting last week about our book tour (launching in Chicago on May 14 – save the date!) and the types of things to include in the presentation.

We both agreed that measurement should be included (it takes up a very long chapter in the book), but that, when we talk about it with our individual communities, people’s eyes glaze over.

I know, I know. You went into PR because you’re not good with numbers.

This is no longer an excuse, just like using social media to collect people like old stamps is inexcusable.

Integrating social into your PR and marketing programs is no longer an option…and neither is not measuring your efforts to real business results. But, the longer you wait, the more difficult it’s going to be. And no amount of automation will make it easier on you.

It’s time to learn how to do this, no matter what your level of expertise. It’s the only way to keep social, well, social and keep your job from becoming extinct.

If your senior leadership team isn’t already asking for it, your time is short. Get in front of it and show them what you can do.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • I’ve been taking some time to step back and take a look at the big picture over time of how businesses, and consumers, adopt and use social media. It’s interesting to see the trends and cycles, and how fast of a learning curve we’ve developed. 
    A platform arrives, people jump on it, and then we try to automate it. This happens in cycles, and I’m hoping that things are settling and we are now at the stage of understanding that automation isn’t the only answer. I feel like the tools of automation are becoming a bit more complex, and people are starting to be smarter about how they use them (or don’t use them). 
    It’s almost as if we have to go through those different stages before we really “get it” and start to understand how it all works. And I think that’s the first step in getting to a point where we can really measure things. 

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller You’re right. We tried to do this even with the big, green Cision books when everything went online. I mean, look how many PR pros STILL mass distribute news releases….even though everyone knows that doesn’t work. It kind of makes me nuts.

      • Seth Godin’s book should have been titled “All Marketers are Lazy” instead of “All Marketers are Liars.” I’ve noted this same trend for quite some time. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to seek shortcuts.
        More than ever I’m convinced that the value of any marketing effort is inversely related to the effort put into it.
        Marketing is a zero sum game.
        Any attention spent over here is attention not spent over there. Therefore, if a specific tactic is cheap and scalable it will eventually be adopted by other marketers and become part and parcel of the daily activities of that marketer or brand. Overuse will be weeded out or counteracted (think comment link spam that Google killed years ago or e-mail spam filters).
        Why we continue to search for an “easier way” to do things is beyond me. It’s the hard work of customization and relationship building that pays the greatest dividends. It’s true in both marketing and in sales.

        • ginidietrich

           @Sean McGinnis It’s human nature though, right? It’s just like anything else – we look for quick fixes to losing weight and getting shape when the only thing that works is eating right and exercise. Yet fad diets make a gazillion dollars a year.

  • sradick

    Thanks Gini – this is definitely an issue that’s been bothering me for a while, what I heard at the Conference was just the latest example. For me, the biggest problem is too much measurement. It’s this constant desire to boil every single Tweet, message, and conversation to a number. ROI shouldn’t be something that’s measured in a vacuum – it needs to be done at a higher level. Not every Tweet has to reach a billion people. People need to stop applying mass media measurement practices (which were never all that good anyway) to a human-to-human communications tool. Look at these tools more like you’d look at the telephone conversations, emails, and in-person communications that you have and you’ll be on a much better path.  

    • ginidietrich

       @sradick Totally agree, Steve. The whole idea that I have a million Facebook fans, but no engagement is ridiculous. It bothers me a great deal.

  • sradick

    Oh, and let me know if you and geoffliving have time for a drink while you’re in Chicago! 

  • rustyspeidel

    One of the GOOD things about being a digital guy for as long as I have is that I can see things repeating themselves, over and over. People confuse TOOLS with IDEAS. Social media platforms are tools. They enable you to ACT ON and potentially MEASURE the efficacy of your IDEAS, but they are not substitutes for them. Never have been, never will be. 
    That said, measurement in this space is pain in the ass. None of the actual TOOLS have any analytics attached, it’s all piecemeal or third-party. Some companies are doing a pretty good job of creating solutions, but a pretty crappy job of making them accessible and usable, or explaining how to take advantage of them. Hmmm…

    • ginidietrich

       @rustyspeidel I actually LOVE measurement in this space. I think it’s easier now than it has ever been because we can see direct correlation between our efforts and results. But PR pros are STILL measuring media impressions and advertising equivalencies. That makes me nuts.

  • Here’s an example:
    Potential Employer: Are you proficient in HootSuite:
    Me: No, I believe that pre-scehduling tweets is very dangerous and should be avoided.
    Potential Employer:  So you are not proficient in this social media tool?
    (Needless to say, I am not expecting to get this job.  But it’s hardly the first one I missed out on for reasons like this.)

    • ginidietrich

       @wabbitoid That really makes me sad. I don’t use Hootsuite. Does that mean I’m not proficient in social media?

      •  @ginidietrich Gini, I am sure you could never even get a job at the $20-$25 an hour level that I’m looking at.  Gigs like that seem to require a lot of being able to recite conventional wisdom, whether it be right or wrong, and the use of jargon, which I simply cannot do no matter how hard I try.  
        So it’s unlikely I’ll ever get a “real job” in this field since I don’t have the “agency experience” or degree to land anything above the range I’m looking.  Experience producing genuine results for small clients and working the streets with plenty of shoeleather does not seem to count.
        And yes, “conventional wisdom” is quite wrong much of the time.  I’ll leave it to the great Jeremy Bentham:  “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

        •  @wabbitoid That’s discouraging, although I’d encourage you to stay jargon-free. My Write Right persona hates jargon…
          I do use Hootsuite but not to schedule tweets (Unless I know I’m not going to be free to use social media whatsoever on a particular day. I do schedule a few things on those days.). I mainly use the tool to help filter the noise that sometimes occurs in the main Twitter feed. 🙂
          By the way, great quote. I may have to steal it and post it on Tumblr.

        • ginidietrich

           @Erin F.  @wabbitoid NO ONE should be using conventional wisdom or jargon today. That just makes me shake my head.

        •  @ginidietrich  @Erin F. Erin, I can’t use jargon, it’s just not in my nature.  I’m a teacher, an explainer, not a pretender.  Besides, as a Taoist I can’t get into the whole “we understand it because we named it” routine so popular in Western thought.
          Gini, I’m with you that changing times require us all to go against conventional wisdom.  For example, a potential gig had SEO methods that were clearly at least a year out of date – so I asked about using social media to influence google, if they knew of, and so on.  Needless to say that was another job I didn’t get.  
          The way to get work is to keep my mouth shut and show no signs of creativity, I think.  I have to practice it before I land another interview.

        •  @wabbitoid It sounds as if we are in the same boat. I feel your pain, I really do.

        •  @ginidietrich  @wabbitoid I think it comes back to what you said in your post – it’s easy. I understand why you and I don’t like the concept because we’re competitive perfectionists, but I don’t think everybody agrees with us – yet.

        •  @wabbitoid Ugh. I just don’t understand why companies would work like that. They have to be looking forward, assessing, and changing. The best way to do that is to hire a person who understands where they are, has ideas for the future, and helps them to take the steps necessary to acting upon those ideas. That sounds like you. I would hope that a company recognizes that. I would hate to see you or anyone working in an environment that stifles creativity or independent thinking. The idea of working in an environment like that makes me wince.  @ginidietrich 

  • edwardmbury1

    Would like to add The Barcelona Principles of Measurement, adopted in June of 2010, to this discussion.  Does anyone on this thread follow these guidelines?  How many are aware of these guidelines?

    • ginidietrich

       @edwardmbury1 I’d be interested to know, as well. If I were to guess, I’d say less than half our readers een know about the Principles.

    •  @edwardmbury1 This is very good, and not all that different from what I do in the first place (for example:  “Measuring Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Media Results”) but it helps my credibility to have it in one place that I can refer to.  Thanks!

  • I find your adage of people collecting terribly funny. I liken it to the mid-90’s sport card bubble. We spent years and years collecting these cards while pretending they were worth something. Wow, this Bo Jackson Classic rookie card is worth $300! And this Magic Johnson rookie card is valued at $225! But Alas, they’re not worth anything unless you converted them.. And which 12 year old boy wants to sell stuff they spent so long collecting? Very few, until they became absolutely worthless and then everyone wanted to sell. Look, I don’t even have a business… Just a pseudobrand but I still measure my social media results. What’s SMMB’s excuse? Oh wait, there isn’t one… At least not a valid one

    • ginidietrich

       @SociallyGenius So you didn’t sell your baseball cards? It’s like anything else, right? We all collect things saying they’re worth so much, but then never convert. It kind of makes me crazy we collect people, too.

  • ryancox

    I’m going to re-read this later again. Very good thoughts in here, I’m just too hungry to voice them. I really like this…

    • ginidietrich

       @ryancox Hungry, as in you haven’t had lunch yet?

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  • I think we should tell our leaders that they should automate their interactions with their leads and clients. It’s the same thing, right?

    • ginidietrich

       @JayDolan Totally the same thing. And really good advice, to boot! 🙂

  • Michael Gaspar

    Interesting article to say the least. I really see two arguments being presented in this article: 
    1. Is social media breeding PR laziness? I am not a PR expert, but I will venture to say that social media doesn’t breed laziness inasmuch “lazy” professionals (in all industries) breed the sentiment that social media is not useful, or lacks value. If social media is in fact breeding laziness within PR, that is definitely discouraging and would like to hear more about the topic.  Some may argue that social media is a lazy professional’s way to throw content at a wall to see what sticks. However, I still see that as a lazy approach to social media rather than social media breeding laziness – which brings me to a possible second argument.2. Are (PR) professionals getting lazy in the implementation of their “social media best practices?”  In my mind, this is more so the case.  Again, not being a PR expert, I cannot speak to how the industry is using social media to adhere to their professional goals.  However, what I can speak to is the fact that getting “lazy” with your social media practices (ie. no measurement, bland content, and push rather than pull materials) is a dangerous practice to get in to.  Not only does a professional run the risk of diminishing their social value in the space, but they set a bad example and false expectations that may beget more bad habits, and may even breed more “laziness.” 
    Any social media professional (or any professional using social media) that works to implement best practices will tell you that doing so is incredibly hard work.  So I guess the question, stands, are we getting lazy in social media, or is social media breeding laziness? Great discussion. MG 

    • ginidietrich

       @Michael Gaspar I think it’s probably both. Human beings are inherently lazy so we are always looking for the easiest way to do things. Want to lose weight? Go on a fad diet. Want skinny legs? Get liposuction. In the PR industry, you see the ultimate in laziness when PR pros mass distribute a news release without any effort or any results. Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been done. And now we’re applying those same things to social media with auto DMs and – exactly what you said – pushing messages on people. The thing that makes me laugh is, as consumers we all HATE that kind of stuff. Yet we get to work and somehow think it’s OK.

  •  @ginidietrich  while i an’t comment on the conference, I can speak to the laziness, because well it is rampant in the conference space. Cut, paste, rinse repeat. 
    I think the real reason for it is that the presenters are not sure of the audience and would rather be remedial and ordinary rather than possibly leave the audience asking questions. You can probably also attribute this to fear as it is easier to follow the flock than present an original idea. 

    • ginidietrich

       @jeffespo Oh don’t get me started on conferences. I totally agree with you. Though I think it’s more it’s easier to present something you already know than something new. I get made fun of all the time because, I figure, if people are paying to see me speak, they want to see something no one else has seen yet. Yes, there are some things I recycle, if they make sense. But I totally recreate presentations and my peers make fun of me. I’m so paranoid about being seen as “the same ‘ol BS” that it’s my way of fighting that. I have no clue if it works, but it makes me feel better about it.

      •  @ginidietrich I will not accuse you of that and will call you out on it if I should ever see it done. Not to your face, but with a passive aggressive Tweet or something cool like that. Public speaking is hard so recycling could be the new Linus security blanket for some. The rinse repeat shit has made me lose respect for some folks who have reused the same damn presentations over and over again.  

    • sradick

       @jeffespo  My post actually didn’t have as much to do with the presenters as it did some of the questions and comments I was hearing from the attendees. People continually apply the same old tactics and metrics to social media as they did to mass media, and they think there’s some easy tool/best practice/methodology to reach the most people.  It’s almost like PR people are scared of actually building and nurturing actual relationships – like it’s too time-consuming and difficult. 

      •  @sradick why does that not surprise me. And I do owe you a comment on your post got halfway through then had to run to a meeting yesterday. Spray and pray gets #s but not results and hey as @ginidietrich stated above people didn’t go into PR because they knew #’s #lazytown101

  • StorchMurphy

    Interesting read @ginidietrich.  At 39, I’ve spent the last 17 years developing a pretty good career on the more traditional side of public and strategic communications.  For the last 10 years I’ve been heavily involved in the medical device sector and as a rule they are very conservative in the social media space.
    While I do use many social mediums for my personal life, I’ve made a commitment to really focus on developing my online professional brand this year.  As a result, I’m voraciously surfing and reading scads of resources trying to come up to speed. 
    What I’m finding is that many posts state the same concepts a variety of ways.  Based on what I’ve seen there are a handful of very successful, early adopter bloggers out there creating the new content.  From there, we have droves of followers retweeting and commenting on these handful of posts.  Inevitably, you get redundancy as everyone races to quote the KOLs.
    Everyone needs to appear current, but not everyone has the time, experience or chops to trailblaze the social media space.

    • ginidietrich

       @StorchMurphy Totally agree. It’s difficult to keep up and, if there is something new, the same early adopters jump on board to be the first in. I will say, however, those people typically use the tools in the way they’re supposed to be used. It’s not until the tools hit mass audience that they’re used inefficiently. But you’re right…it’s hard to find voices who aren’t saying the same old thing. Perhaps that’s a way for you to differentiate yourself as you build your professional brand??

      • StorchMurphy

         @ginidietrich LOL! Let’s hope so Gini!  I certainly will try. At the very least, I’ll look forward to commenting more on your insightful articles 🙂

        • ginidietrich

           @StorchMurphy I noticed you’ve been hanging around. I really like the debate you had going on last week’s Augusta blog post.

        • StorchMurphy

           @ginidietrich Yes, thanks Gini. Thank you for welcoming me personally several times!  It really helps with familiarity and that “social” feeling. 🙂
          I definitely like the topics you present and hope to participate in future discussions.  Albeit, in about a month or so it will be under a different name after my rebranding. Dropping the Storch. I’m the Murphy, but this go round, I’m not using either! 😉

    • sradick

       @StorchMurphy  I’m not sure you want to just “appear” current – you want to actually “be” current, right?  It’s not about trying to become a trailblazer – it’s about just trying to use social in a way that helps you meet your goals.  Find your unique niche that you bring instead of trying to be one of the social media A-listers and you’ll realize much greater success.

      • StorchMurphy

         @sradick True enough! Like anything in life, you must have the substance to back up the sizzle otherwise you’ll be a flash in the pan.  There’s a cooking metaphor in there somewhere! 🙂

    • Claire LaBeaux

       I always go back to my clients and their audience(s); which tools are they using, or adopting soon?  Those are the ones I focus on first.  Targeting is so important, whether it’s with social or traditional media.  I try to keep new tools (social media, analytical, databases, etc) on my radar screen, then prioritize my time for research > understanding > use depending on client and personal biz dev needs.

  • Leon

    G’Day Gini, 
    As you know, I’m not in PR. But as a HR bloke, I learnt something very valuable years and years ago. 
    If you can’t measure it, don’t teach it.
    Nuff sed. Good Fun.
    Best Wishes

    • ginidietrich

       @Leon This is why I love you. Well, one of the many reasons. 
      Did your pants burst this weekend?

      • Leon

         @ginidietrich I am a delicately bred, sensitive Australian Christian gentleman. So, as to bursting pants; you show me yours and I’ll show you mine!
         Now I know why Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein11 included “Why Do I Love You” in “Showboat.”
        Flatter and flirt: you know the way to a gentleman’s  ego. 
        Aint it grand what you can get away with at a distance of 10,000 ks?
        Best Wishes

    •  @Leon but I thought marketing and advertising was about impressions. And we all know impressions are invaluable. So invaluable they can not be measured. In fact don’t even think about bringing up measuring them.
      Like when @ginidietrich gets a client’s name in a media publication. Just that two words in the 5,000 word article are invaluable. You can not put a price on that. And every reader read that article and came away with only one thing…her client was mentioned. And when they say what the paid circulation is you can bet Gini assumes every one of that circulation read the article. You can’t  put a value on that.

      • Leon

         @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich Now listen here Howie. I’m the curmudgeon on this site.. If you keep on with this smartass stuff I’ll send the ghost of David Ogilvy to haunt you. And you’ll develop a new perspective on  pants  bursting. If neccessary, I’ll arrange for Marcus to tell everyone what a nice idiot you are. That’ll be the end of you.

  • Re: social media measurement…I’ll just leave this here:
    Also, hi Gini 🙂

    • ginidietrich

       @adamsinger Dude! You can’t drop by and not say how the new gig is!

  • NancyCawleyJean

    I know I need to get better at measurement, and I’m hoping this book will help! Thanks, Gini!

    • ginidietrich

       @NancyCawleyJean It’s only one chapter of the book, but it goes pretty in-depth into some of the success we’ve had with clients. I could probably write an entire book about measurement, based on our experience, but baby steps.

  • PR and Marketing now are converging when it comes to listening and data mining. Both need to know what is being said positive and negative. And communication across all disciplines is imperative. R&D shouldn’t be an island. QA shouldn’t be. Even shipping. For big companies with many competitors you can see and hear exactly what your competition is doing right and wrong and act. You can see what you are doing right and wrong and act. market opportunities. customer needs. etc.
    But in the end it really is about how many fans and followers you have.

  • You really didn’t miss much, I heard there wasn’t any free food or drink. 
    I concur that social should be a part of your business efforts but you better be able to have some measurement more than it’s ‘cool’ or ‘fun’, huh? That only makes good business sense, right? 
    I don’t want to stink……er, uh be extinct…………just sayin’………….

    • sradick

       @bdorman264 I don’t think anyone is saying not to measure, but to measure the right things in the right way. Unfortunately, most don’t measure the right things, and even less understand how the metrics that they do track align with the actual business. Fans, followers, and subscribers are just numbers – a means to an end, not the goal itself.  

      •  @sradick I concur, you definitely need to know what you are trying to achieve and have some form of measurement to determine if the ‘success’ you are having is real or not. 
        Of course if it’s business related it’s very easy to determine if you have ‘more’ money or you are X % more profitable. Sometimes social measurement isn’t as easy to directly equate to bottom line dollars, but you certainly can measure how your business is performing. 

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  • CraigKessler

    I don’t think it’s a case of laziness but a case of a lack of education in a changing industry.  There are no standards set by credible third-party administrations so it’s extremely difficult to fully develop measurement techniques.  The best you could do is establish metrics that work and adapt with the changing landscape and hopefully can relate back to sales.  Truth is, a lot don’t necessarily look at social to drive sales in the short run so it makes it more difficult.

  • Agree 100%. However, measuring engagement of third-party free platforms through their tools can pose challenges. For example, I’ve found the export data insights feature on Facebook doesn’t function on all my pages. Certainly there are specialized free and paid tools that can be used for sm measurement but it’s unfortunate when you can’t measure engagement through the root of the actual tool.

  • edwardmbury1

    For those who want to enhance their knowledge of measurement, PRSA is holding a half-day seminar on the subject.  But it requires a visit to New York.


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