In September last year I drew up the PR 2010 framework in a series of 3 blog posts looking at the coming extensions in PR that are coming and will come over the next year. You can catch up on the posts if you want to quickly: The New PR, PR, Static Wine, and Dynamic Wineskins, and PR 2010.

To help you quckly get up to seed, the above diagram illustrates a host of media that find themselves in different places with regards to their ‘spreadability’ and their ‘relevance’. Facebook, due to it’s alogorhthyms and such, is individually relevant and highly spreadable because there are fewer restrictions on it than there are TV, which is more mass market and less individually relevant, and has more restrictions. There’s more about it here.

I’m bringing this up again today as I have a bit more to add to the discussion, as I’m sure you do.

To Start, A Local Example

I was providing some consultancy through my company Aaron+Gould this last week on an event that wishes to extend it’s offline experience through Social Media. They wanted to do this to sieze the opportunity of engaging with the tens of thousands of people using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc who are their target audience, in order to get them excited about the event, involved in the community aspects of the event, and ultimately attend the event along with their friends.

When they showed me the numbers, it was funny to my Social mind to see such Broadcast thinking. Number of press releases for last years event – about 200 or so. Instances of other media (whether status updates, tweets, and blogs) – about 50 or so.

Of course most businesses are thinking like this because press releases are the way it’s always been done, but stil as much as I wanted to help them understand that a press release does little for the general public, they wanted me to understand how is one of their core ways of distribution information.

There must be room for both public relations and personal relationship. Whilst press releases and other traditional PR activity is mostly handy for communication with media partners, the press, and peers, if consumers are going to be engaged directly, then with Social Media we have a way to communicate through a dynamic channel in a far more meaningful and effective way, as per the model above.

(Let me just point out quickly that SEO is an agenda for most PR agencies today – so there is a diffusion of technology happening – although it is all still around the broadcast side of the Social / Broadcast Matrix, not so much the social side.)

4 New Faces of PR

I want to see local examples like this to start embracing their actual target markets with personal, individual interaction as well as the overall reach stuff, and I think it can be done. I see a scale to help us:

Public Relations. What we already have – a high level overview that sees a range of connections, media, press and channels. It is pretty must broadcast up here – pushing the message out to those who will push it out to others.

Public Relationships. Like events which broadcast social, this level is the mass delivery of relationships rather than relations. We are creating strategic relationships with key demographics by using Social Media (among other things) to broadcast our social content. This isn’t a press release, which the public will not engage with – this is supplying social content that the public will engage with: videos, blogs, Facebook advertising, showcasing opinion leaders. All of this as content must build upon the idea of Social Authority (consider again Facebook’s universal like button.)

Personal Relations. As we drill down, we now begin to connect into communities and smaller clusters by targeting information for them. Schools, workplaces, local demographics, social groupings.

Personal Relationship. Through community and Social Media management, we get down into the smallest block of maintaing personal relationship with individuals. This has to be social. There must be listening, responding and initiating. At this grass roots level, listening is an invaluable way to gauge how the public are perceiving you from the members of the public themselves, rather than the distant reach metrics that our level of Public Relations used to go by.

I’m really only providing a few thoughts here. If you really want depth on this subject, Brian Solis has a very thorough blog on the subject, followed by John Cass who is another excellent writer on the subject. On UK soil, Claire Thompson writes regularly as a PR consultant on how she is seeing the shift into Social.

The Main Point

Mix your PR strategy to be wide as well as deep – but width here means engaging the general public. Don’t just perform ‘public relations’ also work your way down into ‘personal relationship.’ The new social mindset of consumers means the general public will respond favourable to this.

Your Leading Questions

  • Can you provide an example where you were engaged with personal relationship by a brand / event / campaign? Let’s dissect it.

Archived Comments

  • Chris Hall

    Scott, this is right up my street as it talks to the very people I often aim my business solutions at – The PR companies.

    It’s an industry I spent many years working in and I still have a lot of contacts throughout it. My experiences with them tell me that they are very comfortable (obviously) with Public Relations and are becoming more adept at Personal Relations. It is both the Public and Personal Relationships that they seem to struggle with adopting.

    Conversations with them lead me to believe that they feel to exposed and open in these relationships. Fear and the unknown are their issues. I’ve spent months working with a few companies and only now are they beginning to understand that developing these relationships is crucial.

    Traditional PR was, and is, mainly one-way communication. The jump to the open relationships will take time but with the right support and advice they will be able to engage and collaborate in the right communities and with the right individuals.

    BTW I engaged in many personal relationships at Likeminds.

  • Andrew


    You say that “width here means engaging the general public”. But I don’t see why I would want to engage the GENERAL public with most campaigns. I want to engage interested people, potential customers or referrers, or opinion leaders of potential customers or referrers.

    I don’t know any PR companies that just do press releases. The best ones have deep relationships with people who influence lots of relevant people (ie editors at the right publications).

    So this process, is really about dismantling the process of going via media properties, and instead going straight to potential customers directly. Which bizarrely is exactly what I was writing about on the train last night –

    “When the price of purchase falls near enough the price of rental, rental no longer makes economic sense, despite its advantages. This is what has happened with audience attention. Media companies used to rent out their audience’s attention for advertising revenue, but now brands are realising that in many ways, and in most markets, they can indirectly buy that audience’s attention by creating their own relevant, quality content.”

    The shift in PR is the same. When it makes more sense to go direct to an audience (via a social network etc), the middle-men lose value.

  • banksy6

    I, like Chris, engaged in and made fantastic relationships at both Likeminds events :)

    I think it’s important to remember there is a place for all these disciplines in this day and age. You touched on SEO in your post which as you know is one of the services we provide and that I’m passionate about. The traditional press release with good quality content, looked at from an SEO perspective and disseminated via online PR methods still has huge value for companies. We’re looking at how we can make those press releases more social and engaging (even writing in a more conversational style can help with that). At Optix, I’m very keen to make sure that rather than pushing one service above another, we focus on what works for that particular client and then approach it in a holistic way. I think its definitely possible to use ‘social’ to leverage traffic to traditional PR or even just to call on it to back up and add credibility. If one of my customers had an article in a big newspaper online, I’d definitely be using social to push that message out and even better, to start a conversation about it.

    Good post again Scott :)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Chris

    Fear is a big problem here, and people tend to fear what they don’t understand. So we know what has to happen here.

    The post isn’t so much directed to PR agencies actually as people like my client who is running a big event and then imagines that traditional PR is the only way to do it, and wonders why the locals don’t get as involved as they’d like. My answer is that ‘personal relationship’ through SM, etc, enables this.

    This of course is still what you’re facing. The documents you showed me that you us to educate your clients are fantastic on this – I’m hoping we can discuss some of those ideas on your blog sometime :-)

  • / Scott Gould

    Ok, so ‘general’ is the wrong word. LOCAL perhaps.

    My thought is that my client can be thinking, ‘how can we go right to the man on the street for this event’.

    Sure – PR companies do more than press releases, etc. It’s people like my client (not the PR Agencies or marketing agencies) who I’m writing to. I encounter so, so many people who just run to press release for their activities and stop there.

    I agree, as you say, “So this process, is really about dismantling the process of going via media properties, and instead going straight to potential customers directly.”

    Do like your post on the issue.


  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Al

    Yes, I’m saying there should be both (or all), hence the levels here. You understand as well that you can’t just ‘socially broadcast’, that is, put press releases out on Twitter or a Blog and expect that to be social.

    What are some of the key tactics and lessons you’ve learned with this, to do PR better at Optix?


  • graemefraser

    Good stuff Scott. 2 things stick out here:

    1. Like Chris pointed out, it requires a change in mindset. A barrier for many is the perceived loss of control by the communicator. Not unlike ‘Bigotgate’, the communicator is scared of its audience and its reaction. When actually, if your do your work up front, around the personal relationship, you most probably have more control.
    2. Something that’s been kicking around my head for the last couple of weeks is that its the audience that creates a communication plan, they will tell you how they want it, you only have to ask.

    There is no veneer now. Honesty and helpfulness (or lack of) will show through, and to be honest and helpful, you need to grow bigger ears. The more you listen the more your audience will be defined. The audience will select itself.

    I can’t tell you of a time when I felt a true personal relationship at an event or via a brand

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Graeme

    Thanks for the thought out comment.

    I think you’re very right when you say “there is no veneer now”. More and more, those who authentically want to be useful are being proved as such, as those who aren’t are also being proved as such.

    Also there is a lot of wisdom in what you’ve said about listening to define the audience. That is very powerful.

    Why do you think it is you haven’t had a personal relationship with an event or brand? What was missing? What events / brands have come close?

    Cheers, Scott

  • banksy6

    Defo agreed that you can’t just broadcast and expect to be considered ‘social’ – we try and leverage from some of the networks to things like blogs/youtube/facebook where discussions can be had. I’d certainly consider that social – we also use outposts like Twitter/Facebook to spark up conversations with our clients and contacts, putting a friendly face to the Optix brand :)

  • / Scott Gould

    Sure – that’s one level. I think there is actually a far deeper discussion here that, unfortunately by bragging, my Social / Broadcast Matrix can facilitate.

    If there are four modes between Social and Broadcast, then we systematically work through the model to understand WHY and HOW there must be different engagement, rather than just looking to the tools. There must be a fundamental psychological and economic understanding that underpins all of this, IMO.