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?