Can PR professionals become social media influencers?

About ten years ago I was told by a client that PR professionals should not be bloggers. “What would journalists do then?” he asked looking at me in complete distrust. 

I had been following the fast growing blogosphere with curiosity for almost five years. The amount of really amazing bloggers was rising. These unknown, private persons were sharing their thoughts and views and started to gain popularity.

They were quickly becoming real influencers to vast audiences across borders. And PR was paying more and more attention to them, their networks and ability to create measurable impact. `

I told my client that blogging could be an opportunity for PR professionals to talk about trends in PR, educate clients about PR strategy, tactics and every day operations and share success stories. I was being modest. I was not thinking of stepping on the toes of journalists. But his question got me thinking differently. Could we blog about our clients’ issues, news and views? Could we be influencers for our clients? And how credible can we be? Who would like to read and hear what we have to say?

So my multifaceted journey in the fast moving social media landscape started in mixed feelings. I had absolutely no idea what I or my PR business was doing or how it would end. But I felt an urge to discover what was happening in the digital space.

There is no way of tracking the early days of my digital footprint. Many of the services are long gone, so is my silly content. That’s digital mercy. Naturally my first digital steps were wobbly. Sometimes they still are. And I am proud of it. The digital landscape is in constant change so developing new skills is essential.

Very quickly I was signing up for new social media tools and services on a weekly basis. I started building networks based on the same interests, hobbies and family relations. The learning curve was fierce. Intensive reading, listening, watching and sharing ideas with inspiring people who truly started to make my day. Every day.

Soon I was professionally forced to start making sense of it all. The enormous personal digital fun was rapidly evolving into professional issues with professional networks, interests and goals. The business opportunities were already there, I just needed to develop more digital skills to tackle them.

That’s when we as an agency created our own social media strategy. We outlined that we should all start building our personal and professional footprint and social media networks. New social media skills can only be learned in real dialogue among publicly shared content. And influence is a byproduct of smart actions and trust in networks. At times we need to be able to tell the story and influence in just 140 characters or in 6 sec videos. That is intense black belt styled dialogue which needs a lot of practice hours.

Any PR pro, young or old, should not overlook the systematic change that is transforming the communications power game into something new. Every person can become media; everyone has the opportunity to become a serious influencer. And sometimes it happens almost overnight. Why would we just sit and watch the new game and think our roles would stay the same? Why not play it too and discover new roles?

So who are the influencers of tomorrow? We are.

My firm belief is that PR agencies will soon start hiring – in masses – digital influencers: bloggers, vloggers, tweeters and networkers. These digital tribe leaders have charisma and multifaceted social media skills to create sharable content and measurable results in social media platforms. But they cannot be led by offline pros. Social media strategy builders know the digital turf through personal and professional experience and play the same game.

But what about credibility and trust? All truly successful influencers online and offline understand their positions are earned and based on trust. That cannot, and therefore will not, be compromised.

Trust and influence. Who doesn’t want to work in a PR agency where these are the basis of working? Time to hire new talent and build a better tomorrow.

Christina Forsgard is founder of PR consultancy Netprofile. She has published a best-selling business book on social media in Finland and was nominated among the TOP100 ICT influencer and visionaries in Finland in 2009.

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