Post 56:08 Can PR 2.0 and Web 2.0 co-exist?

I’ve just seen a deck of slides that represents Web 1.0 as companies controlling the message to the community and Web 2.0 is all about the community controlling the message.

So here’s my question: can PR and Web 2.0 co-exist?

My belief is that PR is all about helping companies control their message, the better to protect their reputation.

Journalists are pretty good at picking up when that message is BS and saying so. (Most of the time, anyway. There are distressingly high volumes of crap journalism that swallows and regurgitates corporate crap)

I wonder if communities won’t be even more hostile at attempts to have their collective outputs shaped.

In fact, I can imagine that some PR people could even prefer current media structures, because they offer easier, more-defined groups of influencers to target.

Either way, getting to a 2.0 state could be hard. Either communities get “infiltrated” by corporate messaging (which means the community message is contaminated and compromised) or PRs try to retard 2.0-style openness for their own protection.

This is very off the top of the head stuff here, obviously. But at this stage it is making scary sense to me!

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5 thoughts on “Post 56:08 Can PR 2.0 and Web 2.0 co-exist?

  1. Simon, I actually think they can.
    Take Dell for example — because I know it well and also because you complimented their SN approach last week. It’s been the communication teams there who’ve lead Web 2.0 adoption over the last two years. Along the way they’ve earned praise (and criticism too) from people like Jeff Jarvis and others for Web 2.0 done well.
    I said something about this at a Web 2.0 conference back in March (and the PR Squared blog looked at the question in June: http://www.pr-squared.com/2008/06/swot_analysis_for_pr_industry.html#comments).
    PR, for all its faults, has always been a two-way communication process. Personally I think that makes good PR people, and I’m generalising of course, potentially good social networkers as well.
    Cheers, Paul

  2. I beg to differ :-).

    I think ‘PR 2.0’ is not the same as PR as you know it. I don’t think it’s about trying to ‘retard’ 2.0 style openness. It is (in some instances) and will be (going forward) about facilitating, enabling, and promoting these communities.

    Corporate blogs, online communities of shared interests, etc.

    Having said that, if corporations try and shape opinion in already established online, open communities, you’re right, the community will undoubtedly resist. There have been a number of examples of companies going online and infiltrating communities under the guise of ‘just another user’ promoting their product/cause. It’s quite obvious when it happens.

    What do you think?

  3. Paul, I read the post you linked to and I think there are two things to say about it.
    One is that it assumes PR gets it right when it interacts with consumers. My experience of personally being social media PR-ed is the opposite. (I was sent a typo-ridden email offering me a free sample of a product, on the proviso I blog about it). The other assumption is that social networks will gratefully accept PR interaction. I’m not so sure of that one. I do agree, however, that when the message is delivered well, it is a refreshing change. But the change of voice Dell has implemented is a tiny part of its corporate comms and is, in any case, an official pronouncement. If there was a whirlpool equivalent for PC vendors, would the result be different? I reckon it would be.
    Vuki, I await with interest more detail of your vision. Australia’s corporate blogs are, IMHO, trivial in number and dreadful in content. Trevor Cook summed it up well when he said in his unleashed piece that a blog is often used to crank out propaganda the media would identify and filter. Infiltration is out. But just as PR became subtler at setting media agendas, I expect subtler intrusions into social networks.

  4. Simon, I agree with you on the first point — there’s good and bad in PR (like any profession) and a blog about PR is always going to take a more rosey view.
    But I think it’s a mistake to write-off PR in a Web 2.0 world on the basis of one, two or even ten bad examples.
    Locally, I think you’ve only got to look at people like Trevor Cook and Lee Hopkins to see that PR and Web 2.0 can co-exist. Granted they’re early adopters and the email you were sent demonstrates that some people have a lot to learn (but that was true before Web2.0 and will be true after).
    And I don’t want only use examples from Dell but, for what it’s worth, I think you’d be suprised by the degree to which the communications team (and Dell overall) is now involved in Web 2.0. It’s far from a small proportion. Take a look at this post from chief blogger Lionel Menchaca to get an idea of the scope: http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2008/03/23/the-future-of-dell-in-social-media.aspx
    Here’s another from Adweek: http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/digital/e3i1751753614c1db77c2636ba47eff99cb?pn=2
    But I completely agree with your point to Vuki about corporate blogs in Australia (with the exception of Telstra, which is better left for another time I think).

  5. Hi Simon, I agree with your sentiments…I think the challenge for corporates is “how do you open up without employees making too many mistakes along the way?”

    One company I’m aware of is doing a great deal internally with social media, and encouraging employees to participate in blogs, Facebook etc. while at work…publishing social computing guidelines to help people learn along the way…but taking a softly, softly approach to “PR 2.0”.

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