The Art of Participation Public Relations

DSC_0052 Last night I had the opportunity to spend time with some members of Women In Technology. We talked about participation public relations. Nothing like a roundtable of 15 powerful women CEOS to get a great conversation going.

My intent was to talk about the modern Public Relations environment. Specifically, how social media has forced contemporary media to become 1) much more accountable to its readership and 2) extremely trend oriented.

Well after we got through a great conversation on blogs and their impacts, we started to discuss participation PR. The WIT CEOs were quick to pick up on the following facts of the new PR world:

  • Message control is gone
  • Media outlets cater to the communities, not the companies, and want great info to serve those communities
  • Ethics and transparency are musts. Companies will be held accountable if they are caught wandering from the path…

The way we react to social media’s impact is by moving away from message control, and getting back to creating value for the community served by the newspaper (or TV station or…). This is participation PR.

Give them the information you have as a subject matter expert… The information that the community values, wants and needs. Not necessarily the information the company wants to promote. Generally speaking, reporters respond to this kind of pitch. This is no different than the general precepts used to create an editorial mission for a blog or social media campaign.

DSC_0055Yet this thinking has become lost in the past twenty to thirty years. And the basis for this participation public relations thinking? The dictionary definition of PR is (via

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.

2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

Perhaps public relations is an art. So many practitioners don’t get it (see Brian Solis article). But in my mind social media is just another form of old-fashioned public relations: creating goodwill by being a contributing, participating member of the community (see Kami Huyse article).

At the end of our two hours, I think all of us got there. I enjoyed my conversation with the women CEOs at WIT, and hope we can pick up the thread again soon. Thank you to Helios HR CEO Kathy Albarado for asking me to participate.

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Photos by Susan Rook Photography, a former CNN anchor working the camera.