Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Keeping It Real: PR's Real-Time Web Challenge

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 22, 2009

The growing influence of the real-time web, where people read more from their real-time streams on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc, than visiting a variety of sites to see what's new, brings new challenges for PR.

The challenge comes from being able to represent a client within the real-time web on a near daily basis.

For example, a company might employ a PR firm to gain media exposure. Suppose that over the course of a month the PR firm manage to get a bunch of stories about their client placed in prominent publications, say a large local newspaper, a large business magazine, a mention in a national newspaper, and a few trade publications. Plus a few blogs.

That's a pretty good result according to the metrics of most PR engagements. But is that enough?

With the growth of the real-time web, those news articles become less valuable and have much shorter shelf lives. If a news article is posted at 9 am then it is already fish-wrap by noon -- it is unlikely to be seen by the lunchtime crowd in their real-time streams. And it will be difficult to get those publications to write about a client company again very soon unless there are very good reasons.

So what is the media strategy for the real-time web? How can a PR firm maintain a client's name in the public eye on a near daily basis?

Some in the PR community have decent sized audiences on their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, they could publish to those communities. But those aren't target audiences, and they wouldn't take kindly to constant posts about clients.

PR professionals could ghost-write blogs, Tweets, and Facebook updates, but there are two problems here.

1) How do you develop a large enough real-time audience for your client? You have to build it up over time with quality content in a consistent manner.

2) How do you produce quality content consistently? You have to be genuine, and you have to "keep it real" otherwise it smells fishy and it looks like spam -- doubly unappetizing.

In the online world we know that passion communicates well. Fake passion communicates even better -- you can spot a fake a mile away.

I have some answers . . .(I'll share mine if you'll share yours :)

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