Beware of “Experts” and “Gurus”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the rising importance of digital media in the last few weeks.

What used to be something I took an interest in during my spare time is now a central part of my job, day-in and day-out. In truth, new media is not particularly “new,” but it has evolved quickly in recent years. Fortunately, I’m comfortable with technology and have been able to learn new technologies and be an early adopter, as appropriate, for my clients/employers.

I’m very proud to say that I took my first (and only) HTML class in 1994, developed my first client website in 1998 and started this blog in 2004. I even met my son’s father on a listserv in 1997 — long before online dating was trendy! Digital and social technologies became a part of both my personal and work life when the domain was reserved for self-proclaimed geeks. Today, digital technologies are more than mainstream, they are a way of life. There are endless platforms available for promoting brands and engaging audience. As a result, virtually everyone in the PR, communications, marketing and advertising industry seems to be in catch-up mode, clamoring to prove their expertise in the space.

Earlier this month at the PR News Digital PR Summit, I had the good fortune of presenting on a panel about Creating a Digital Dream Team (scroll through PR News TV at PR News Online for an interview by me on the subject). During Q&A, I was asked what kind of expertise I look for when I am hiring someone for a digital media role. My answer was direct and, to my entertainment, widely Tweeted: “I’d be skeptical of people who bill themselves as ‘gurus’ or ‘experts’ in #SM. We’re all making it up as we go.”

Ultimately, expertise in the digital space is not about knowing the trendy new platforms nor even about successfully executing one or two campaigns. When I evaluate whether people can be successful in the digital space, I want to know they will begin with a clear strategy (what are we trying to accomplish?) and are willing to invest the time to develop meaningful relationships with the audiences they are trying to engage. I want to know that they will fully integrate digital and social strategies into their overall plans, not see digital or social platforms as separate programs. The ability to understand the value of integration is what matters most to me.

Diving deeper into the subject of integration, I recently published “Integrating Social Media into PR Plans: What You Need to Know” in the PRSA Strategist.

digital media new media public relations social media web 2.0

Exploring The World of Social Media

This week I had the honor of presenting at a Ragan Communications conference hosted by the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Over the course of the two day conference, I had a great time hearing from my peers in the health care industry. I learned a lot and look forward to getting back to work to continue to build out our social media capabilities at Kaiser Permanente.
Many thanks to everyone who helped to pull this presentation together (you know who you are) and especially to Ted Eytan ( who crammed time into his very busy schedule to present with me.
View more presentations from htpotter.
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Eliminating the Perception of a Digital Divide Among Seniors

I’ve recently attended a few social media conferences where speakers wrote off online engagement of seniors. Their assumptions about seniors, I believe, was based on out-dated stereotypes. Stereotypes that assume that just because you may have hit or surpassed the “magic age” of 65 that you have no digital connections.

It’s time for us each of us to give up those old stereotypes.

Just today, I received a retirement notice from a former boss who notified her network that she was giving up her landline in favor of her cell phone and Skype.

Kaiser Permanente also released survey data today that showed that Medicare beneficiaries are embracing the Internet to manage their health. From Jan Oldenburg: “The biggest surprise from the survey was discovering that the typical Kaiser Permanente Medicare beneficiary who is registered to use My Health Manager is very comfortable with computers, using the Internet daily and reviewing their medical record online a few times each month.”

If those results are convincing enough for you, perhaps I should introduce you to my 75+ year old parents. Between the two of them, they own three laptops (each has a Mac at home and they travel with a small PC to email their family), an iPhone and a Kindle.

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What’s in a Name?

So I joined the land grab for official identities on Facebook tonight. It was somewhat satisfying to claim htpotter on yet another platform. Over the years, I think I’ve claimed that moniker on every virtual platform possible — multiple emails, URL, on both Blogger and WordPress, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter and now Facebook.

It’s nice to know that since the mid-90s, my online identity has been consistent and that I “own” the name going forward.

social media web 2.0

Back to Blogging

So after nearly five long years, I am coming back to this blog. I abandoned it recognizing I didn’t have the time to devote to keep feeding content – which may still be the case.

Needless to say, since I last posted, the world of social media has exploded and become mainstream. For much of the time, I sat on the sidelines watching the evolution of emerging online communities. Then recently, I have begun to re-engage in the conversation via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

These new platforms for communicating have created quite a buzz in the public relations and marketing industry. Whole conferences are devoted to the subject. There are entire crops of consultants and agencies that are scrambling to position themselves as the experts in this field – ready to tell our organizations how we can mount campaigns that take advantage of these “new” mediums.

The good news is that our industry has finally embraced new media as being more than a fad. However, the transition to this new world is not easy and there are no easy answers on how to approach it. Despite being an “early adopter” of Web 2.0 platforms in my personal life, as a communicator new media can be infuriating. The fact is social media requires a complete shift in how you view promotion and how you tell your story.

In the world of PR and marketing, controlling the message has always been our primary goal. But how can you “control the message” when thousands of everyday people are publishing exactly what they think about your company/organization? The answer is you can’t. (BTW, as a control freak, that was really hard for me to accept!)

All you can do is listen, participate and hope to eventually build enough credibility to eventually break through the noise. Our PR team at Kaiser Permanente has just begun to play in this realm. We are participating in the conversation as individuals, sharing our passion for the work we do and as a result we are communicating directly with communities that share our interests.

new media public relations social media web 2.0