Monday, February 8, 2010

Making Online Conversation More Valuable

Today, I came across a post through my Google Alerts, in which the business-oriented video dismissed the public relations profession as a “crap shoot.” Being a student in public relations and of the complete opposite mindset, I decided I would leave a comment on the post, respectfully arguing the value of public relations. My comment would have said something such as:

“Though I respect your insight for small business owners, I think you are misunderstanding what it is exactly that public relations professionals do. You claimed that PR works well for events related and big news promotions, but other than that, small businesses should not spend their money on PR. In the PR profession, we are about a lot more than events related promotions. We are about strategically building positive and sustainable relationships through a variety of strategies and tactics.

I’m glad I was able to share this comment here, because unfortunately, I was not able to leave a comment on the actual site where I watched the video. This brings me to an important point. I’ve jumped on the social media bandwagon. I see the value. Specifically, I think that when done right, blogs create meaningful relationships and build credibility. They establish these relationships by not only sharing a company or person’s insight and expertise, but by allowing the readers to respond. It creates a conversation. This means that it should be easy for anyone viewing the site to comment and respond.

Some Web sites though require that I create a user name and password to log in and comment. The site I visited today, along with many others I have come across, seem to make it a little more difficult to create online conversation. Yes, it would be great to raise online membership; but they are losing part of their audience by requiring this. If I had to become a member with a user name and password for every online community I follow and comment on, my walls would be covered with notes, reminding myself of the unique name and passwords for each site. I have enough memberships and e-mail addresses; the thought of creating more gives me a headache, and it turned me away from this site. Many sites allow for readers to agree, disagree, or add more insight to posts without creating an account. It’s even a great way for readers to get their own names out there, possibly by leaving their own Web site information. If someone stumbling across this post likes a reader’s comments, they can easily be directed to that person’s site.

It should be noted that I do understand why some sites do this, as a filter to prevent spam. To avoid this however, there is always the option of encryption keys for comments.

An important goal of social media is connecting with your audience on a more personal level by creating dialogue. By making this dialogue easier, both the business and the audience will greatly benefit. That’s my PR thought for the day.

Image was taken from Google images.