The Expanding Role of PR – The Technologist

PR technologistThis is a post I originally wrote as chief content officer for Spin Sucks.

Also! I’ll be speaking on this topic at the PRSA Western District Conference in Arizona in April. Will you be there? 

By now, the conversation around technology and social media should just be a given. But it’s not. Most of us love technology and what it can do to expand knowledge, relationships, and productivity.

Just a few weeks ago, we FaceTimed my father into his mother’s funeral because he was unable to attend due to doctor’s orders. This was beyond amazing. He was able to participate in the greeting line, watch the ceremony, and follow in the procession. Did I mention it was beyond amazing?

But we know technology has changed everything.

As PR/marketing professionals, it is our responsibility to stay ahead of technology. For that matter, it is the responsibility of any professional regardless of industry.

Deirdre Breakenridge dedicates a chapter of her book “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional” to this topic. The PR pro as a technology tester is one of the eight new practices we need to perform to transform our position at the decision-making table and to remain relevant in today’s marketplace.

Being a technologist is key, and it means more than just being able to use Facebook and understanding the word “retweet.” It means you understand how to use a content management system. You know the principles of search engine optimization. You know what inbound links mean to your site traffic. You know how to do keyword research. And you know how to look at analytics and understand what they mean.

The PR Technologist

There are six categories in which technology understanding should exist.

1. Social media monitoring and measurement tools;
2. Analytics and measurement;
3. Social media influence tools;
4. Collaborative social media platforms;
5. Content management systems; and
6. Social media news release platforms and distribution.

We can’t know it all, and some of you have large teams with experts in these areas. But it’s important to have a level of curiosity and a need to self-inform.

In her book, Breakenridge lists four ways to stay ahead of technology and I’ve added a fifth. Here are five ways to stay ahead of technology:

Use it for yourself, personally. Filter the Shiny Object Syndrome for your clients or your employers by testing out the technology for yourself. Use your critical-thinking skills to determine how this could be applied from a business perspective. Be able to answer the question when your boss or client asks about it.

Follow blogs and influencers. Subscribe to and read blogs, such as TechCrunch and Mashable. Follow influencers and other respected names in the social media space (Deirdre’s blog is one of them).

Test new technology. When Google+ first came out, we set up our pages and started playing with it before we told our clients to hop on it. We use GoToMeeting for webinars and client meetings,Skype for conference calls, and Yammer for internal collaboration. We test the tools so we can give educated recommendations to our clients.

Don’t take short cuts. We talk about this all the time, and couldn’t agree more with Deirdre. There is no quick and easy way with any of the tools and technology. It’s designed to make our lives easier and more productive, but never to replace the fundamentals of hard work and real relationship building.

Understand the language. For example, we need to know what PHP, Javascript, and HTML5 are. We should know what Penguin means, and latent semantic indexing. We need to know enough to be dangerous so we can have the conversation with our IT team. It is impossible to execute marketing campaigns today without a basic understanding of the capabilities of technology.

Remember the days when IT used to hate marketing and marketing thought IT was full of guys that said, “That can’t be done”? Those days should be over now. We need to know more.

About Lisa Gerber

Lisa is a digital marketing strategist, owner and founder of Big Leap Creative where we work with great brands who have visions of being the best. Learn more about working with Big Leap here.