PR Skills for the 21st Century

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Let's start at ground zero: Markets are Conversations.
You've probably heard that before -- it's the opening of the popular book http://www.
The Cluetrain Manifesto.
But what does that catchphrase really mean, and how can it affect your business? Markets exist largely because people talk.
Although we like to think of ourselves as free-thinking individuals, in fact we rely on other people to do a fair amount of scouting and evaluating for us.
What people say to each other in a market context usually matters far more than any advertising message or branding/PR strategy.
If the market conversation turns against you or dismisses you, all the brand awareness in the world won't save you.
Market conversations have always been important to any business.
But today, with the prominence of weblogs, forums, podcasts and other types of widely available conversational media, no company can afford to ignore or devalue them.
No one can control market conversations.
In fact, no one ever could - despite popular PR delusions.
However, you can capture market conversations -- measuring, analyzing, implementing and engaging in a communications strategy based on real-time, real-world data.
This is the path to true influence and healthy market relationships.
HOW TO CAPTURE YOUR CONVERSATION Capturing a market conversation goes beyond merely taking a snapshot of "buzz" via web site statistics or article hits.
It means consistently listening closely, analyzing what people say, and participating constructively in key online and other conversations within your existing or potential markets.
It means leveraging conversations to build relationships and gain insight that will sustain your business for the long haul.
Start integrating your online/offline model for sales, marketing, communications and communications to "Capture the Conversation.
" Enter the brave new world of "Bring it on, I've got nothing to hide" communications based on return on investment (ROI).
Following, joining, and even starting constructive, authentic market conversations can yield diverse long-term benefits.
For instance:
  • Customers will find you.
    When people talk about you online, much of the content of those conversations gets indexed in Google, Technorati, and other popular places where people search for information on products or services.
    The more you're discussed, the higher you'll get ranked in those search results.
  • An accurate, moving picture of your market.
    You'll gain an accurate, real-time perspective of what your market thinks of your offerings, company, and competition.
    You'll know what they honestly like and don't like, and how you measure up.
  • Keep up on trends: Almost every important market issue gets foreshadowed in online conversations.
    That's generally where the trendsetters and watchdogs gather.
    When you capture the conversation, you'll get early warnings of important customers wants, needs, problems, and questions.
  • Generate good will.
    When people can see that you genuinely care about what they think, that generates invaluable goodwill.
    Every company attracts public criticism at some point.
    If you're a known and valued contributor to the public conversation, key influencers in your market will me more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when you hit inevitable bumps.
By now you probably realize why creating a "Conversation Analyst" job inside your company is probably the most valuable addition you can make to your array of key business services.
Virtually every organization now has a pressing need to:
  • Analyze relevant online conversations
  • Interpret that data
  • Use that insight to develop strategies to address, improvise, and adapt in real time -- through creative, integrated communication strategies and by successfully engaging your customers (or their influencers) in constructive dialogue.
  • Keep up this cycle, and keep Capturing the Conversation, as a regular aspect of how you do business.
To learn the necessary skills, or to do it yourself, visit http://www.

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