Note by Note, Music is Communicating. Plus 10 Interesting Things of 1990

How music molds our moods and helps provide a common ground to communicate.

There has been no better way to spend the last 15-plus years than understanding, creating and delivering communication and stakeholder strategies. Even in my spare time I will read, watch and listen how folks exchange greetings, information and advice. Yes, there are similarities in how we all communicate and yes, each dependant on various factors as language, geography and culture. All said and done, what’s a person to do when faced with multiple communication barriers? Hand gestures are good. A few grunts can help, but you may find yourself becoming perilously close to insulting your host or community partner. Equally, communicators are faced with very little time to deduce cultural and geographical nuances.

Let’s look into the research behind music and its ability to communicate followed by my own realization how important this lesson is to all communicators.


Altering our Behaviour

Face it. We all love music.

Either cranked and blaring, or soothingly pastoral, our insatiable measure for melody has helped us along the road of life. We have all experienced moments where music has helped form moods beneficial to lifting us out of depression and offering that extra bit of ‘power’ when cleaning the garage. When our own esteem is not enough to change our disposition, we put in the ear buds and let music work.

But hold on, if music is not complex enough, it seems to have the ability to bait more deeper thinking and reflection.

What can be more relaxing than unwinding to Sarah Vaughan’s Misty?

Yes, her flawless cadence and vocal range reduces our stresses, but if we listen carefully to her lyrics, something deeper is at work. Misty actually tells a story of loneliness and love (soon) to be lost – common themes in jazz music. A few minutes later you find yourself relaxed, but a little gloomy.

Is music that powerful to transcend you from relaxation to melancholy?

You bet it does! Music directly communicates particular behaviours clearly and succinctly.

What is it about music that helps to us communicate without ambiguity?

According to Ujfalussy J. of the Institute of Musicology, Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, his study details a more contextual understanding. He says, ‘It has never been doubted that music is a kind of communication, the mediator of human relationships, but it has been a question what music wants to express.’ 

Makes sense and solid rationale for ‘Misty’ sounding sumptuous upon initial listening but teary eye’d by the end. Has the song communicated what it ‘wants to express’ to me? Ujfalussy goes on to state, ‘simultaneous combinations are suitable for erecting the audible, dynamic models of human relations and types of behaviour.’ If I’m hearing him correctly, this means combining music and lyrics are suitable towards building a sound common to particular types of human relationships and behaviours. Each musical piece, whether with lyrics or not, is directly relatable to many moods and behaviours.

This research is telling us, music and the emotions it brings with it, effectively represents a common vehicle for communication.

Julian Cespedes Guevara at the University of Sheffield, sews this up in saying, ‘…a person has a musical emotion when the changes induced by the music in her core,affect (i.e. her arousal and affective levels) are implicitly “categorized” by the information she has at hand about the about emotions (e.g. the emotional vocabulary of her culture).”

So what Mr. Guevara is saying, its hard-wired into all of us through our individual cultures.

Back to communications management and stakeholder relations, today, many clients are based within diverse communities and strive to bring a ‘common ground’ in order to communicate what is important to them.

Richard D. Lewis in When Cultures Collide, although not directly referencing musical cultures, says, ‘…the behaviours of the members of any cultural group is dependant, almost entirely, on the history of the people in that society…’

Music is indeed a singular platform for exchange between cultures unified by an inherent need to communicate.

Looking back over my life, I was taught this many years ago while tramping across the globe.


Happy #throwbackthursday and the day I clearly understood the power of music and communication.

Napier NZ_FotorDateline: February 1990, Fox Glacier, New Zealand 

Before a career in communications, I travelled the world to find amongst other things –  good and enriching conversation. Don’t get me wrong, food was the main catalyst for leaving, but I always loved people. Travel offered me the agency to explore and comprehend how people in many countries act and react with each other.

It’s 1990, you are young, say pushing mid-thirties; after all being in your mid-thirties equates to mid-twenties – right?

It’s Friday morning and you reference your trusty Lonely Planet ‘yellow bible’ for the first stop on the Indonesian leg. Blankly you stare at the pages with little interest as you are exhausted from day after day of laborious backpacking ritual. Lock your goods, eat your provisions (as sure as heck it will be gone within the hour) and stash your money! Minus a few bucks for snacks and beer. Yup, just one ale tonight as your five month journey has barely cusped the two month mark and money is precious.

By now you are very familiar with all the different languages being spoken at the backpackers but yearn for a conversation with more than one.

An 80 year-old Italian gentleman sits me down at breakfast to inform me, in broken English, ‘You walk five miles a day. You live as long as me!’ Sounds like good advice but others at the table had a hard time with his English and left him half-sentence.

As Germans hung out with Germans, and French hung out with French, I felt a little peeved at them for not trying harder to communicate. His story although fragmented was interesting and lead me to trek the Fox Glacier the next day.

Upon arrival back it was the afternoon and through a sigh I whispered, ‘What will pull me up on this lazy Friday afternoon?’

Then out of the blue there lies a red sun burst no-name 6-string. Duck taped body, worn fret board, mother-of-pearl inlays missing and old – really old – strings. But what the heck, you need a distraction on a long day and you pick it up.

Tuning is relative but if you play loud enough who cares. I had just picked up The Smiths’ Meat is Murder cassette tape and really liked the song, ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.’ Can’t be that hard to strum on this relic?

 

Thank god for tabs of which my good friend Chris Robinson taught me to use and a couple of G chords later – presto! We’re rocking.

Then a very interesting thing happened. People started to gather around to listen, hum and sing.

This out of tune guitar mixed with a little chord and lyrical improvisation, had produced genuine language parity. A common ground to communicate.

Germans, French, British, Spaniards and Americans joined together and struck down all language barriers with one contemporary song. Some spoke English but all knew the rhymes and rhythms of rock and roll and this popular British band.

Music had eclipsed all languages and offered one unified voice.

Today when working with communities, more times than I can remember, a song will break an initial language barrier and provide a commonality of interest and enjoyment. This doesn’t mean you have to break out in song, but it’s understanding how we use common elements, as music, to bridge language gaps and provide a clear and resonating voice.


The Top 15 Other Happenings in 1990 (2014 realities)

  1. Dow Jones hits record 2,800 Dow Jones average hits a record 2,821.53 (TSX hits >115,500)
  2. Panama’s leader Gen Manuel Noriega surrenders to US authorities (served time and now back in Panama)
  3. China lifts martial law  – imposed after Tiananmen Square massacre (social disobedience still punishable by law)
  4. South Africa says its reconsidering ban on African Natl Congress (ANC continues as a relevant political party)
  5. “Bradys” return to TV for 6 episodes on CBS TV (Really? Cindy is 51!)
  6. Nelson Mandela released after 27 years imprisonment in South Africa (Mandela left us last year)
  7. Angela Bowie reveals that ex husband David slept with Mick Jagger (David is a recluse and Mick is still struttin’)
  8. “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer peaks at #8 (He lives at Oprah’s)
  9. Boris Yeltsin quits Soviet Communist Party (Sadly, in his death, he is a You Tube star)
  10. US, England, France, USSR, East & West Germanys sign agreements allowing 2 Germanys to merge (Roger Waters is still making dough)
  11. “Godfather III” premieres (They keep pulling Al Pacino back!)
  12. Right to Die case permits Nancy Cruzan to have her feeding tube removed, she dies 12 days later (The right to die is not law – yet)
  13. TV movie “Return To Green Acres” airs (is Arnold Siffle starring?)
  14. “In Living Color” premieres on FOX-TV (Is Handycap Man PC?)
  15. Bob Goodenow succeeds Alan Eagleson as NHL players association exec director (Gary Bettman is a mighty mighty man!)

John K. Bromley

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Does Mean Politicking Work?

Photo Courtesy of Marc Aubin

Photo Courtesy of Marc Aubin

How Toronto’s Mayor Ford uses the strategy of personal ignominy for political gain.

The definition of ignominy is a situation or event that causes you great shame or embarrassment. Within a personal context, ignominy can represent deep personal humiliation and disgrace. For most of us, surviving an event of this nature can leave us shaken, distraught and socially adrift. We desperately try to understand what just happened, and how do we get back on track.

Public ignominy, or embarrassment as it is more commonly known, is certainly nothing new to politicians and let’s not forget they are human after all. Equally, as good and just people, we would not wish such personal condition on anyone – even our ‘good’ Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.

For any normal politician, being accused of illicit drug use, displays of alcoholic discourse, personal threats, sexist innuendo, etc.; public consternation can be immediate and absolute.

Queue the crisis management team and get those apologies crafted.

Then again, Mayor Ford is not a normal politician.

Toronto’s crowned prince of ‘questionable’ behaviour has reworked public humiliation into a deft and seemingly hostile political advantage. Incident after incident of sordid display were spun into political flax ready and willing to clothe his so-called enemies. Especially the media.

This went on for months and months until the day finally came – rehab.

Yes, Mayor Ford received the professional help all of us wanted for him, but has it changed anything? Has his callous political vestment been cast off for a modest toga?

Don’t be ripping up the gift receipt quite yet.

News clips show a return of a far more humble individual where contrition is delivered when needed, but ever so briefly. Being nice continues to be left only to his constituents and ‘friends.’ Mr. Ford’s selection of public intercourse continues to be biased as he shuns certain populist groups unaligned to his platform and ‘good old boy’ image. Although considerably muted than before, he allows his brother Doug, to fill his verbal vacuum with the usual spit and venom. And yet to everyone’s surprise his popularity continues to show moderate growth.

How can this happen? Where is the ethical standard in politicking? Why is mean politicking working?

Siri Agrell of Pilot PMR recently wrote in Huffington Post’s ‘Have You Tried the Rob Ford Guide to Crisis Communications Yet?’ ‘Most politicians respect the quaint notion that they shouldn’t slander each other, or members of the general public. But the Fords use slander to their political advantage.’

She coins this as ‘strategic slander.’ Makes sense; for all those dubious politicians fuelling their political gain with vitriol and hostility.

Heinz-Jürgen Voss at Conjuncture Magazine pens this in a more direct manner by saying, ‘For some years now, I have recognized that conservative and radical right-wing writers are completely loosing their inhibitions and attacking differently minded people verbally in an extraordinarily violent manner.’

Mr. Voss continues to write, ‘… some willing commentators who then debate physical attacks as a strategy, to actual physical violence is just a short step – it is just a question of time.’

Is mean politicking a conservative tactic? And can it lead to actual violence?

Many would argue conservatives generally espouse the use of a ‘verbal strategy’ to conjure gallop points. These strategies are most certainly implemented in a ruthless and cruel manner, but does it sway political allegiance?

A reader of the Tennessean writes, ‘…and it is particularly apparent in the tea party ads — that politics is not about compromise, but being mean and vindictive.’

So where do we stand with Rob Ford and his culture of ‘strategic slander’ and verbal bullying? Is it accepted now within the realm of debate and politics to use such ungenerous and contemptible public (strategies) behaviours?

More questions than answers as this brand of politicking gains prominence. The only absolute being a polarized perspective from academics and journalists alike.

Back at Conjuncture, Mr. Voss summarizes his thoughts by saying,

 ‘…we should work on concepts to develop open and positive conflict culture.’

As public affairs practitioners, this would be our job to develop a methodology and resulting plan for our advocates and affiliations to use. This way we make sure the ethics and acceptable guidelines are in place.

Or, we stand back and plug our ears as Ms. Agrell describes, ‘… it has unleashed a new style of communications that turns up the volume on the biggest, most braindead megaphone around.’

Global TV Segment: http://globalnews.ca/video/1532954/does-bad-publicity-hurt-rob-ford

John K. Bromley

Can Social HR Help Today’s Workforce?

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Management labour over what – if any – social media can do for them when engaging employees.

Disengagement breeds absenteeism. A fact most managers are aware of and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2012 Statistics Canada pegs the average Canadian worker was away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Fiscal translation: 9.3 days lost representing 2.4% of gross annual payroll, or $16.6 billion for Canadian employers.

Lakshmi Ramarajan from the Toronto Rotman School of Management identified,

‘lack of respect, ideas not being valued, lack of control and the absence of any feedback, the top contributors to burnout and disengagement.’

So how de we get employees back to work?

What about observing their behaviour? I’m not talking about charting coffee breaks and lunchtimes, but really taking the time to see into our staff. Many managers including myself, firmly believe by understanding employee behaviour we are directly enabling better engagement, respect and loyalty. Clearly, if we are to be successful managers, we need to know what makes our staff tick. We owe it to them, our company and to ourselves. So how do we do this without months, if not years, of polling, surveys and interviews?

Enter social media.

This new and constantly changing medium is a natural fit for internal communications to bolster contribution, feedback, value and the ever-important engagement. And of course the most important of all – human behaviours and the rhythms they create. Social media is built on the mining, extracting and fostering of various behaviours and their coveted traits. Why would we not leverage these tools inside our workplace?

Take the behemoth of social interaction, Facebook. CNN’s Doug Gross laid it out succinctly in his article, ‘5 Ways Facebook Changed us, for better, for worse.’ Facebook promotes and fosters good things as sharing, and bad things, as ‘over-sharing.’ If that is even possible in today’s accelerated world of online exchange. Facebook has the inherent ability to adjust and modify behaviour. A leading study at the University of Michigan details how our ‘seemingly’ harmless news feeds have the ability to promote both goodness and wickedness. In one second social media can envision instantaneous moon swings just by looking at images from our Facebook pages.

Are Mood Swings a Good Thing When Deciphering Behaviours?

I believe it is. If we recognize these ’emotional pendulums’ can act as enablers towards understanding how our staff communicate – why not? This is especially warranted where a good portion of workplaces today contain a generous mix of Gen X, Y and millennial employees.

Forbes Magazine’s Jeannie Meister reports in 2014, The Year Social HR Matters how digital immigrants have now caught up to digital natives. A statement aligned to Microsoft data where they polled 9,000 workers in 32 countries and found millennial employees will make up 50% of the 2020 workplace and distinctly see the business value of using technology on the job.

O.K. so this needs to happen. But how?

Everyone Loves to Play Games!

Barbara Swenson at All Business Experts takes it to a whole new level in extolling the virtue of ‘gamification.’ Organizations as LiveHelpNow will gamify your workplace to attain employee engagement quite literally by playing video games. This methodology is supported with further research done by officevibe where 70% of Forbes Global 2000 uses gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenues.

Seems like a no-brainer. What better way of harnessing these behaviour traits than by having our staff actively involved in social media. Whether it is simply bringing their own device to game on breaks, or logging into Facebook, you have a captive audience ready and willing to feed your corporate needs.

Not So Fast. What About Security and Reputation?

Guaranteed the perpetual vanguards of corporate safety and character – IT and legal, are aghast when they hear your new designs for internal communications and staff engagement. After all, they are being paid to look out for malevolent, salacious and damaging events as social engineering, viruses, reputation, liability, privacy and proprietary ownership. Those are pretty heavy words in any context for most companies. Issues needing very discernible and strategic attention.

Dan Pontefract of Huff Post Business reports on the 2014 Proskauer survey:

  • Only 17% of organizations have provisions that protect them against misuse of social media by ex-employees
  • 36% of employers actively block access to such sites, compared to 29% in 2012
  • 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, a fall of 10%

More use for sure but conversely a more rigid and restrictive communication culture.

Queue the social media policies.

So what gives? How much rope do we give our employees when it comes to their keen desire to engage with their personal friends, communities, groups, brands, etc., while at work? At the same time, how can we not use social media to infuse a culture of active employee engagement.

Not any easy solution, but if we don’t embrace social media in the workplace, we may loose everything, including our best and brightest employees.

John K. Bromley

Hold On. Where are the Facts Ma’am?

How can we trust media when they get the facts wrong and don’t use subject matter experts?

Dragnet’s Jack Webb said it best, ‘All We Want Are The Facts.’ A simple question based on extracting the truth while at the same time building trust. Yes, the 50’s was a completely different time. Attaining the truth was a regular non-occurrence due to a cold war instilling a culture of neurosis and paranoia in both entertainment and news broadcasting. Surely fifty odds years later we have broken down those barriers and are getting our news from a trustworthy source. Right?

It sure doesn’t look that way.

The recent CNN reporting of a ‘Top Secret Ebola Serum Given to U.S. Patients’ piece represents an unfortunate example of how ‘scoop’ trumps ethics in news broadcasting. You will notice the lead uses a term – ‘top secret.’ Top secret eh… Are they saying that only U.S. patients are able to use this serum? A CIA and M6 backed regime are transporting it now as we watch?

Here we go again…

In media planning we all strive to move away from the use of sensational jargon when writing our headlines. In this case not essentially an ethical misstep, but certainly an issue management faux pas. Using an exclusive and emotional term as ‘top secret’ in a highly apprehensive story as the Ebola crisis in Africa, was seen by many, most prolifically medical experts, as irresponsible, sensational and not looking at the facts.

Reuters’ health expert Andrew M. Seaman, quickly dispatched a tweet with the headline: Experimental Not Equal to Secret in an attempt to inject professional credibility and reduce panic to CNN’s story.

The question arises for media experts to ask,

‘Is the practice of using sensational language ethical and acceptable in news reporting?’

In this example, does the medical community view broadcast ethics through a finer lens than mainstream media? Is that important?

You bet it is. It should be common practice to follow the medical example when writing highly sensitive and emotive stories. You would be hard pressed to find a doctor readily using phrasing as ‘top secret’ in their report as it delivers a message of secrecy, exclusivity and privilege. Doctors are the stanchest advocates for equal access to cures and remedies and actively support a universal application to treating maladies, illnesses et al. Certainly not something akin to top secret.

At the end of the day, it’s all about selling advertising time on the broadcast. We get this, but at what cost to the public?

Does this mean mainstream news broadcasting will continue to circumvent media relations’ best practices as using real facts and subject matter experts to attain ratings?

In media relations, we are often tasked to check our facts not once, but twice, and to always have an expert ready to back them up. No expert to corroborate the facts. No interview. This rings true in all stories that are based in subject matters needing the facts checked and validated by industry experts. After all, as communications professionals it is our credibility on the line, right?

Let’s look at the other major U.S. news network, Fox; recognized for its conservative editorial and lip service to the far right. Fox has been caught recently not fact checking or to that matter, bringing in experts to corroborate their editorial scripting. In punditfact.com Fox News is cited many times for their on-air talent making unfounded and sometime ridiculous statements. Ludicrous yes, but sad in the fact that a whole whack of folks watching them think what the talent is saying is gospel.

Has all this unethical news reporting hurt the trust scores at the major networks?

CNN’s credibility in light of recent gaffs still rings in with a remarkable 60% honest and reliable and thereby trusted compared to Fox at 60% false or partially false. Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer has mainstream media broadcast sitting at 65% trusted. Conversely, most western nations range at a lower rate of trust compared to last year.

So there you have it. Just the facts. As blogged about in ‘Who Says News is Dead’ broadcast news is far from going the way of the dodo but at a level much lower than before.

Joe Friday knew that truth has the ability to show itself when the facts are clearly presented. Let’s hope the producers of major news gathering affiliates will somehow have the foresight to catch Joe Friday one late night and hear those essential words in his most famous speech: ‘A quirk in the Law.’

John K. Bromley

 

Face it. Back-to-School Means Just That!

Where are the devices?

Where are the devices?

Let’s see … left over pasta from Friday – check…. Course book and assignments – check…. Notebook – check…. Beer money – definitely check! Hold it. Stop there! BLOG WARNING TO YOUNG READERS … If you are under 30 you may want to stop reading this post now. God forbid you don’t want to be known reading any sort of boring reflection from someone more than a day over 50! Equally, this blog cannot be responsible for any erroneous ‘shares’ to your scores of ‘friends,’ ‘followers,’ and believers, thereby proclaiming your allegiance to all things grey – and we’re not talking ‘50 Shades of Grey’ either. May you have a wonderful life and all the best. For the rest of us, you may remember creating this type of checklist many, many moons ago as we prepared for class (actually checklists are an everyday part of most over 50 lives as the old grey cells need a trigger or two for memory recall). Now what was I saying … Oh yes. Returning to school for the over 40 and 50 set becomes more and more popular as many Canadians look to leading productive and focused lifestyles by instituting an academic upgrade. Whether you want to strengthen your memory, bolster your resume, or keep up with the latest and greatest in your profession, returning to school is an intelligent choice and it seems to be growing. According to the voice of 50 up in Canada, Zoomer Media:

  • In 2012, 1.4 million Canadian over 50 reported attending classes. (PMB, Fall 2012). This represented 22% of all Canadian students
  • 296,000 were attending college, representing 28% of all college students
  • 331,000 were attending university, represented 19% of all university students

We can clearly see growth in this market but the question still remains, ‘What about online as opposed to face-to-face (F2F)? Is this still viable with the over 50 crowd?’ Yes seems to be the answer but only if they can stay at home as opposed to venturing to their local varsities. In 2011, California State University, East Bay, delivered a study to validate their online efforts entitled: Students’ Perceptions of Online or Face-to-Face Learning and Social Media in Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism. Their findings showed:

… of the 25% seniors taking the course, 78% took the study online and 18% F2F.

This percentage would skew within course content but paints a not too ‘active’ picture of boomers (b. 1945 – 1964) and now as of this year, Gen X (b. 1964 -).

78% eh?

Rubbish! This blog says this does not represent many over 50 students we know! Well …. Maybe just one … To put this into perspective, here are five good reasons why you need to experience F2F education as opposed to staying in the basement and turning on the record player to Dark Side of the Moon for the 7,342th time while waiting for your webinar. REFERENCE BOOMER MUSIC HERE:   How do I know? Because I have had the fortunate circumstance of attaining this knowledge first hand by attending the spring term at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education’s certificate in Digital Strategy and Communications Management. FIVE DEAD TO RIGHT REASONS TO CHOOSE F2F LEARNING

  1. It gets you out of the house. This may sound a little negative to some that are in an office all day and want nothing more than to go home and enjoy a nice single malt. Exactly what I thought until about the third week in, as I gradually started to appreciate having one weeknight dedicated to going downtown and mixing with other humans. Often our nights are consumed with household chores and family responsibilities. The best tonic to this becoming over-whelming is night school.
  2. You get to meet new and fascinating people. Remember, post-secondary school is the same then as it is now. You are with ‘like’ minded people. We’re not talking Facebook ‘likes,’ we’re talking having the same interests. Well maybe not in clothes … But certainly in subject matter. You won’t get this at work unless your department is actually your entire workplace. Or of course you work for Hootsuite, Google or any other of those hipster joints.
  3. You get to go back in time. I’m not talking H.G. Wells time machine travel, but by immersing yourself into campus life some 20 odd years later, you will be pleasantly surprised how it all comes back. Saturating your senses with all things academic; with a rather big difference this time ‘round. You are there just once a week and have beer money.
  4. Engagement. Picard said it best when finishing off some nasty aliens, “Engage.” Come on, how much engagement can you have by taking a course online? You’re lucky if the technology actually even works for the lectures yet alone participating in one. Going back to school F2F will re-energize your debating and discussions skills a heck of a lot better than arguing about why your office in the basement wasn’t vacuumed last week. Added bonus, the young ones may teach you a thing or two.
  5. It keeps you young at heart. We are referred to as boomers, mid-boomer, late-boomers and now this year, first of the Gen X’ers. We may be balding, building the midriff and regularly go to bed at 10, but we actually do have an inner-self. This spirit lives on as a 21 year-old – without the physical part of course. By mixing with folks 10, 15 and 20 years younger, this ‘young soul’ inside is given a much deserved outing filled with friendship, respect and modernism. Yes, modernism. You must embrace everything new when you go back to school which allows you to enjoy the best thing of all – intellectual adventure.

So there you have it. For the ones still listening to Floyd, have a good one! The rest, welcome to an old friend called school (not high school of course as we all hated that part of our lives). You will reopen a door with no stress or expectations other than what you have already set. Put away the Skype and pack a snack ‘cause you’re going to embrace this new part of your life with all the enthusiasm of a 20 year old. REFERENCE NEW EXCITING BAND HERE:
john k. bromley

Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

Developing and executing strategic media relations, more than often sits at the core of key competencies as public affairs, communications and Public Relations (PR) professionals. We are hired to bring optimal results when using media to leverage particular needs to advantage either profit or not-for-profit ventures.

In the past, most media strategies would encompass a combination of communications tactics designed to speak directly to your targeted audience. Ever since H.S. Adams asked in 1902 the obligatory question, ‘What is publicity?’ many are still asking. Twenty one years after Adams, Edward Bernays continued this line of thinking in his book, ‘Crystallizing Public Relations,’ were he qualified the essence of public relations as, ‘…the freedom to persuade or suggest.’

Today, persuasion continues to drive communications by using particular tactics to gain influence. This is true whether to advance policy or sell shoes. This assertion is a constant but how we build and cultivate this influence is changing everyday – especially in digital and social media.

Social media, as part of a strong digital strategy, has provided communicators an abundance of targeted audiences, all indelibly linked by their preferred communities and affiliations. Richard D. Lewis’ ‘When Cultures Collide,’ mentions this ‘gift of community’ to also include small groups of influencers or advocates ready and willing to take your message forward and forward, and forward. You get the idea.

As media experts, we must be implicit with our intent that all media relations planning will include a social media component. By hard-wiring a digital strategy – including social media – into your media event goals and objectives, you will tap into this relatively new landscape offering many rewards.

No longer is it enough to merely contact print, broadcast or online news media to pitch your events. We owe it to our clients to bring innovation to our results by utilizing the many benefits of social media.

In my experience as a media relations expert, here is a short list to help you get the toes firmly within your digital footprint when developing your media strategy.


Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

  1. Content: Good news content will often persuade but not necessarily market. News media is very different than simply marketing products to particular customers. Your original pitch to journalists must include the array of online content being provided as part of your planned digital media outreach. Make sure your story is compelling and dynamic by using content to support, not sell, your editorial needs.
  2. Credibility: Recommendations from credible sources is fundamental to your news story gaining ‘legs’ online. A credible reporter quoting a knowledgeable and respected spokesperson offers distribution of trust in your story to both online communities and followers. This will provide you ‘social proof’ your efforts are getting noticed online. Don’t forget, at the same time you are developing community.
  3. Reciprocity: There is no greater realm for human interaction than social media. Interacting and socializing is a primal need for all of us. Part of this need is to share what is good with others. A news story can be shared as a positive gesture by giving back this information to your community so they have the ability, as you did, to support and recommend to others.
  4. Teach: In traditional media we spend long days grooming our media partners to understand our business. This priority should not change with your social media approach. Educating not just your media partner but also your influencers is critical to maintaining a robust social media contact list. Take the time to work with them online and they will be invaluable to you for future endeavours.
  5. Storytelling: You have heard this time and time again how important your ability to tell a fascinating and relevant story is to gaining influence and advocacy in your media approach. If you don’t take the time to develop a narrative, they will bail and you will never see them again – in about 3 seconds online.
  6. Transparency: Whether your media outreach is a photo op, presser, editorial board or launch event, it is all about building trust BEFORE you pitch. Working your social media channels by cultivating relationships will help frame your trust with each of your community managers, followers or advocates. They will extol this forward in 14 characters or less.
  7. Community: Building community that celebrates aligned goals is imperative in any communication or public affairs outreach. This is especially true in large urban cities containing a multitude of different cultures. Each of which will expect a clear understanding of its people and their individual heritage. Online is no different. Categorizing different communities and their cultures will help you establish respect and consideration to advance your media goals. Although these diverse communities are coming online at a slower rate, they will be plentiful shortly and it’s best get a jump on this now.
  8. Access: In the American Press Institute’s research, 42% of online adults use multiple social media networking devices. Out of this, 73% use these devices to get their news and over half will create their own ‘personal news cycle’ by configuring news alerts. It is imperative as professionals we abide this new behaviour with our planning and execution.

I know I said eight reasons, but really one of the more obvious factors around why all media outreach should include an active social media component.

 53% of registered journalists in the U.S. have 500+ followers on Twitter and 55% of their workday is consumed within social media.

Heck, it’s now half their job!

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