Last week I attended one of the best training courses I have been on in quite some time - Digital PR Strategy and Planning with Stuart Bruce on behalf of the CIPR.
I knew it would be good because it was Stuart, a top communicator globally, whose blog and Twitter I have followed in earnest for some time. So it was well worth the money to pay for his travel and time as well as a half day out of my time.
Why was it so good? Well I’ll cover a few of my key learnings in a moment but basically, you can’t beat what I call a “Practrainer” (can I Copyright that?) - someone who is still an industry practitioner while also training on the subject matter. Not only does it mean Stuart’s advice and tips are as up-to-date as anyone’s can be, but it also means the training is littered with real-life examples which make the learning so much easier to implement into your own practice once you get back to the day job.
I attended because so much of what I’m doing now in my work is Digital - from Social Media Strategy and Content to Digital PR as more of our mainstream press (and therefore our media relations) heads that way.
What Did I Learn?
Already a fan of PRstack and the other projects Stuart and co have gifted to the PR world, I did know a few of the cool tools he showed us to make our online planning, content and evaluation work better - including Buzzsumo and Followerwonk. However I didn’t know mention.net was a better version of Google Alerts that we all currently use so I was straight home to sort that out! He also introduced us to the spooky world of Echosec, an app that can show you who is talking about what, on what channels, in any given area (because most people don’t turn off the GPS location info while they post/tweet). I will also be playing about with Flipboard for magazine publishing in the coming weeks!
However I found the strategy elements more useful to me as I was keen to hear how the top companies are engaging online and amalgamating their offline and digital work streams. I got so much information on this my pen literally wouldn’t go fast enough for my note-taking!
Of course the message was that we don’t need separate digital strategies, but rather we must integrate the existing business goals and objectives into a digital plan. This is about thinking more broadly about how to apply digital and social elements to what you already do, rather than starting with tactics and no plan (i.e. “We need a Facebook page!”)
The learning around retail social media was particularly useful to me as I am mostly working with online and physical retailers currently. Stuart said that one of the worst reasons to be on social was to sell things, as we as consumers aren’t on there to buy things primarily. People go there for customer service and this is why Marketing shouldn’t lead the troops online. PR Communicators need to be at the helm for engaging content and service expertise across all channels. In this way you create an environment where sales activity is more likely to happen.
Stuart gave great examples of companies who have led the way in seeing themselves as brand publishers, such as Cisco and Nissan, and I have been researching this myself around the recent success of ASOS.com’s magazine and content offering online.
There were more great tips on repurposing content, from mobile video footage (I need to buy an iPhone tripod!) to SlideShare, pitching editorial content to online editors, such as expert Q&As and always focussing on what your target audience wants to see, where they go to find it and who else is publishing and sharing stuff about it.
Stuart then reiterated the importance of social media governance including guidelines across staffing levels and measurement (Barcelona Principles anyone?) and highlighted DEFRA’s reports as a great example of both measurement tactics and presentation style to engage an audience.
But I don’t want to spoil it all because, honestly, Stuart’s delivery style littered with examples, humour and straight-talking advice is probably best learned from in person.
I loved Stuart’s passion for the industry, especially the way he will advise on the right thing not the thing that will make him more money (ethics is a big issue for the industry right now with the CIPR hosting Ethics Month this coming September). I agree with his feelings on social media ideally being conducted in-house - “would you send a friend to a party on your behalf?” - which is why I always advise companies that I am there to upskill and then leave them to it, not to stay forever for an easy retainer fee.
And I also agree with him that PR folk are often better placed to deliver digital communications work because PR is a bigger body of knowledge and if digital natives don’t “get PR” then it is much easier for us to “get digital” because we already possess the content skills and media contacts.
Yes I’m gloating.
If you’re not in, you’re missing out!