Friday, February 27, 2009

Creating a Groundswell

In helping me prepare for a presentation that I'm doing tomorrow, a wonderful librarian friend found the book "Groundswell" by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff and laid it at my door. (Thank you Kaeli!)

The book talks about how technology has changed our world and will continue to change our world. I must admit, I'm still in the first couple of chapters, but I do get the idea--people in business, especially public relations people--are going to have to change their way of thinking to take advantage of the Groundswell.

The Groundswell is the ability for people online to bypass "the man" and as a community get what they want. The whole idea is that like minds congregate and in creating a groundswell, collaborate. Watch out business! The community takes over!

Actually, this has already occurred. Public relations people are just now catching up. Newspapers are still working to get there despite their innate ability to create community. Go figure. I think it's that virtual community that they're having trouble getting.

Back to the book: In their blog Li and Bernoff give a list of 10 tips from the book, and the last one talks about community.

Okay, okay, I hear you--so what's the point? The point is, this is back to basics, just with a focus on technology. We can leverage our communities, even if those communities are online, to create change. Actually, it's probably easier to leverage communities to create change online. Word spreads faster and more people can congregate and collaborate. These are points that I need to make sure to get into my presentation: back to basics.

No matter how far we've come, it's still about what we find in common that binds us together. And it's that commonality that allows us to create Groundswell moments, stopping action by government and big business.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm Creating Community. I'm Using a Tool.

In her post to the PRSA blog ComPRehension, Corinne Weisgerberger discusses those two statements in relation to social media. Weisgerberger has been teaching a Social Media class and made the discovery that students had a hard time connecting social media with the concept of anything other than creating community.

This is an interesting observation, and one that I've noticed not just among students, but among everyone--creating artificial barriers. I use Facebook to connect to community. I use MySpace to connect to community. I use LinkedIn to connect to community, and so on and so one. But I also use these social media TOOLS. And sometimes I don't use them in the way that most public relations people would use them.

In preparing for a presentation at the end of this week, I have made a discovery: We all need to change our way of thinking.

Book after book after book that I have read focuses on this concept--the innate desire from people to connect with other people. The creation of community or rather the desire to create community is something that we all have, which is why Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al have become so popular. You're able to create a virtual community. You're able to reach out and make that connection that we all long for.

How does this affect public relations? Well we have seemed to be stuck in the mode of this tool is for that purpose, and this tool is for that purpose, not bearing in mind that tools can be multipurposed. This requires a change in thinking--a lifting of the barriers.

If you think about social media as a tool that allows you to create community, the possibilities are endless on how that may occur. If you think about social media as one or the other, a tool or a place to create community, you've placed an artificial limit on the tool and the community.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not feelin' the love

Okay, I've got to admit it: I'm not feelin' the love. Maybe it's because I'm sick today, but I don't seem to be feelin' the love from my peeps. Where are my followers? Where is my community?

I guess this is a wonderful lesson in creating community, and something that I hope many of my students will at least read, even if they don't follow. Just because you start a blog doesn't mean people will follow you. Uncanny how that works!! I guess that's why we PR Peeps, which is a community all its own now, just put things together and expect them to work, and we're quite dumbfounded when things don't work. I've called this the "If you build it they will come" marketing and public relations mentality.

Haven't you been in an organization that practiced this kind of community-building activities: Throw it all against the wall and let's see what sticks? This ain't spaghetti folks! A little more strategy might make everyone's life a little easier.

So what does this mean for my little community here in the blogosphere? Well, I'm working on a campaign to increase the little community to a larger community. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Using social media to build community

This week, I'm doing a presentation about the use of wikis in public relations. My topic, in particular, is using wikis for media relations and marketing. While that's a wonderful idea, wikis help build community. A Business Week article really drives this point home. The examples that they provide really give you an indication of how great wikis are at creating and sustaining community, especially when you consider Hollywood has gotten into the act by creating wikis for some of its most popular shows.

The reason that wikis are so good at creating community and blogs are not as good at it is that wikis lack controls. The average person, for the most part, can post, edit, delete and create whatever he or she pleases. This is the essence of letting go of the message, something that many communicators have a problem doing.

Hopefully, I can convince some PR-types that letting go is a good thing, because to effectively create community in an online forum, you have to allow others to create and become a part of the creation. Something that even Business Week would recommend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's the community stupid!

Today, I've stumbled upon, and not using the social media tool of the same name, two articles about social media. One from Business Week that talks about the myths of social media.

Everyone seems to think that social media will cure their marketing or public relations ills. "Just join Twitter." "Get a page on Facebook, no MySpace, no both." "Start a blog." "Don't forget to put it on YouTube."

All of the advice in the world won't help according to another article from Bill Sledzik on his blog ToughSledding.

His contrarian view is that social media will not change the face of public relations because public relations isn't about the tools--it's about the relationships. In other words: It's the community stupid!

As communicators we often forget that what we are trying to do is create community through our communications. This is even more important in social media settings, known as groups or COMMUNITYs. Getting people involved is one thing, but keeping them involved is something totally different, and it isn't as easy as it looks!

So finally, I feel better! Whew. I was beginning to think that I had to implement all of these new social media tools in a campaign and make them work. Bill Sledzik reminded me that it's about the community, which means I can use whatever tools work for me to achieve that goal. Even if those tools are social media.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The power of personal contact

In the past few days, I've been reminded of the power of personal contact--it can win friends, influence enemies, get you jobs....

In my perusal of the blogosphere and the internet, I was once again reminded of the power of personal contact this afternoon, and simple things such as saying thank you.

It's often these little niceties that we learned as children that will mean the difference between sustaining community after we've created it and making people feel as if they've been taken for granted. Don't let anyone in your community feel that way! Say thank you! And thank you for reading.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where do I fit?

In creating community or in joining a community, that's the question that most people ask--where do I fit? If they don't feel as if they fit, then they won't join. Sometimes it's a matter of physical fit. Just last week, our student chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators met in a room that was pretty small. A few students came by, looked in and left. They didn't want to come in because they felt as if they wouldn't physically fit into the room.

Sometimes, it's a matter of critical mass, to use a term that is mostly associated with ethnic and racial minority fit in the larger culture. People who are ethnic or racial minorities must feel as if they fit to stay in a predominantly white cultural setting. To achieve this fit, a sense of critical mass is needed. I say a sense of critical mass rather than actual critical mass, because it is truly that perception that makes the difference.

In my dissertation, "Latino Success Stories in Higher Education: A Qualitative Study of Graduates at a Health Science Center," located at:
I discovered that critical mass is as much about perception as it is about reality. The former students who were successful created this sense of critical mass for themselves.

For other communities or for people who cross community boundaries, keeping a foot in several different communities, the question becomes more problematic. Where do I fit may depend on where I am not necessarily who I am. If you are a female of Hispanic and African-American descent and you identify as bisexual, what group is your community? What word do you choose first when describing yourself?

Just where you fit is a matter of comfort, and at any given moment, that can change. That's why creating and sustaining community can be so challenging.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creating Community

So, just how hard is it to create community? That is definitely a question worth exploring, especially if you are into public relations or social media. Creating community is what we're all about.

What if someone set up a social marketing or social media format and nobody came? That's not uncommon. "If you build it they will come..." only works in the movies. Fortunately, creating community is something that can be addressed. One way to address it is by inviting people to join. Sounds simple, but that's why you see those invitations on all social marketing or social networking sites that invite you to participation.

Invitations aren't always readily available from every community. Some community's use a lack of an invitation to keep people out. Some invitations can be recipes for inclusion and exclusion as well.

The second thing that must be present to make people feel at home in a community is a sense of well-being or security. You have to not only receive an invitation, but feel good after you get there. That's why it's important to thank people for coming to a meeting and express your interest in their ideas--introduce yourself and follow-up with another invitation.

While these little steps may seem elementary, we often forget what it's like to be outside of the community. Especially when we're in the in crowd, so to speak.