"A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself." — David Ogilvy
I included a slide in my visual presentation for Writing for Public Relations tonight that not all public relations professionals will appreciate. It defines a public relations specialist as "an online celebrity for a company" and attributed it to prevailing thought.
I don't really believe that is what a public relations specialist is, mind you. But the concept seems to be clouding some industry thinking.
It has been a little less than a year since Geoff Livingston launched an Anti-Fan Movement, which addressed much of the same. While he believes like I do, that every company has stars, the "personal brand" can come with a cost to an organization. And, if public relations embraces the concept full on, it may come at a cost to the profession.
If popularity is a primary measure of professional prowess, then what makes Kim Kardashian different than David Armano, who Arik Hanson used as an example against my caution that public relations firms might think twice about what Lee Odden called "brandividual."
Personally, I think anyone who has read Armano for any length of time knows that popularity played very little into Edelman Digital's decision to hire him. It's Armano's work that stands out. And he has long maintained a "we" approach to social media.
From "me" to "we" and back again.
Don't misunderstand me. Hanson raised an interesting question: is it more beneficial for a public relations firm to have a "firm" blog or "individual" blogs? Of course, it also struck me as very similar to a conversation I've been having with Karthik S, who is head of digital strategy, Edelman India (coincidently).
However, when I think back to early prevailing social media concepts as it relates to public relations over the years, part of the initial concept was to move from "me" to "we" thinking — collaboration, consensus, and teamwork with everyone, colleagues and clients included (some of it was even spooky). Brandividual seems to move too much in the opposite direction for mainstream adoption.
The answer is found in balance. The question starts with intent.
For public relations firms, the discussion to have a blog or not, whether or not that blog belongs to the firm or individuals, whether or not that blog is authored by teams or individuals, and what content to include, is really a question of communication intent.
If you can determine the intent of the communication, then you'll likely answer all those other questions. And many different firms will find many different answers. As for the rest, the work will stand on its own as long you don't make your ideas a slave to popularity.
“I'm sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.” — J.D. Salinger