Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Social Media is Replacing Traditional PR: Notes from PRSA Health Academy Conference

Written by: Dmitriy Kruglyak
source: TrustedMD

Is social media supplanting traditional PR? That was my impression from the annual conference of PRSA's health section.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 20th Annual PRSA Health Academy conference in Washington DC.

The conference delivered on its title "Leveraging Social Media in Health Care Public Relations" offering a great overview of how social media can, is and will be used by healthcare communicators. Having presented at the same conference in 2007 and 2008 I have been blown away by the progress made in adopting social media by one of the most risk averse industries in existence.

What are my key observations from the conference?

Social media is taking over traditional PR! To think about it the jobs of PR professionals and social media marketers are not that dissimilar. You craft your message. You get it out there targeting the influencers and the public. You monitor the reaction and keep following up. Whether the format is a press release, a blog post, a YouTube video or a Twitter message, the drill is the same. Whether you are targeting traditional journalists, bloggers covering your niche or general public frequenting social networks, the techniques of persuasion are very similar.

If things seem to be the same, what is really the change?

The change is that a great number of healthcare PR professionals are no longer afraid of new tools and are starting to embrace them. Two years ago at the same conference I have been getting a lot of questions on what social media is and whether it might be of any importance. A year ago most questions were about best ways to dip your toes in the water. This year, I have not been getting many questions and instead saw lots of opinions, angles and case studies. Believe it or not, now everyone is an expert. Congratulations, social media has arrived in healthcare PR!

Now, why would I say that social media is "replacing" traditional PR?

If we define "traditional" PR as getting your story to appear in traditional media (print, TV, radio) and consider the depth of crisis the traditional media is going through (is your local paper still in business?), it is pretty clear PR business simply cannot go on as it once was. While traditional publications still command impressive share of eyeballs and are key to getting the widest audience possible, they are not the fastest or easiest way to get your story out. They themselves are undergoing transformation with digital channels taking over. If you want to stick to non-digital, non-social PR soon there would not be any place to go.

What are the long term consequences of PR going "digital-only"?

To be sure, there are many implications and opinions. Sure, we have ease of publishing, democratization of media, openness and all these things we keep hearing about. But in my view these are not the biggest or most important changes. Going digital means anything and everything can be tracked and measured. Having accurate metrics leads to ability to analyze what is working and what is not - down to clicks and pennies. Availability of such analysis will lead to serious implications of how marketing dollars, not just advertising but also PR, will be spent. Understanding and applying digital performance metrics will be the formula for success. Ignoring measurable facts and going by opinions ("the gut") will be career limiting.

Digital performance metrics were the focus of my presentation. If you want to explore how to use them in your business, give me a buzz.

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