Social Media and Public Relations

I think the most important thing to realize about Social Media and Public Relations by Ms. Breakenridge is that it is specifically meant for people in the PR / Marketing field who are looking at their social networking job options. The book lays out eight types of jobs that deal with PR, Marketing, and social media. It gives details on each job so those heading out into the job force can think about their options. It's not meant as a primer on social media.

The book is broken out into eight sections, one for each job category, and describes what traits and skills are necessary for that type of job. For example, one category is crisis management. The chapter discusses how social media can be used to handle a crisis and techniques that work or don't work.

As you might guess, most of the information is most applicable to a fairly large company. A small one-owner website probably doesn't have to worry about developing a social media policy and having a dedicated person handle that. Still, there are tips in here that anybody can use. PR is no longer about top-down one-way communication. It's a communication between a company and its stakeholders. Change is the new constant. You have to repeat any message 6-7 times before it sinks in with listeners.

Much of my issue with this book has to do with its layout, and with some of its content. Let's start with the layout, since that should have been fixed by the publishers and it's hard to fault the author for that.

The author includes a "Social Media Strategy Wheel" graphic early in the book with no explanation at all. The wheel has multiple layers on it. The innermost core is Research. The first layer around that is Objectives, Goals, Budget, and Audience Profile. Then the next layer out, with certain components overlapping certain components of the first layer, is Tracking & Monitoring Strategy, Distribution Strategy, Content / Communications Strategy, Measurement Strategy, and Engagement Strategy. The finally is an outer layer which exactly matches this middle ring, just with the items changing purpose slightly. So the outer ring that goes with "Tracking & Monitoring Strategy" is then "Tracking & Monitoring Software". I'll try to load an image to help this make more sense, since it is so key to the book and its issues.

So you see this wheel, and are confused by it, and you're told to look it up in the Appendix. The book really should have described this key wheel right then, so it's in the reading path, vs making you flip back and forth when you're just getting started. But even worse, you go to the Appendix and they barely describe the wheel. And they start giving the few descriptions they have before they show you the wheel. So even in the Appendix you're flipping back and forth to try to figure out what they mean.

Then you get to Chapter 1 and they show you the exact same wheel again, now with a #1 (for the first type of job area) in the center - and that's it! Is the #1 supposed to be meaningful? Are they saying this wheel applies to the first job type? There's no context for the graphic. When you get on to the second chapter, on Internal Collaborators, now the exact same graphic is shown with a #2 in the Budget area as well as the center. Aha!! Maybe that means something. Maybe it means that Internal Collaborators have to worry about budgets. But why wouldn't other job areas also have budgets? There's no description, no help. For a graphic that is so central to the book, they do a poor job of making it have meaning.

And also, the ring setup seems to be arbitrary. The budget wedge is attached to measurement strategy and content / communications strategy - but is NOT connected to tracking and monitoring strategy or software. Surely software is a key area that budgets are important?

In general the use of this wheel seems confusingly laid out and poorly described.

The same issue with "here's a graphic - now go to the appendix to find the details" mis-layout also applies to the elevator speeches for each job. The elevator speeches - the 30 second summary of what each job is about - are GREAT. But they're buried at the back of the book! We could have used those summaries in the actual chapter they apply to - probably right at the start of each one - to get the summary of what that job was about. Then we could delve into the details.

So those are the layout / design issues. Now, here are the content issues.

First, I have issues with any author who quotes Wikipedia, which this author does several times. Wikipedia is a third party source. Go to the direct source! Tell us what Wikipedia is quoting instead.

The author holds up Kodak as a shining example of success, when they are used in most of my courses as an example of a business unable to cope with change.

She says, "most executives are aware of the excitement and potential of Google+ brand pages" - huh? Most tech writers I follow are wondering if Google+ is even relevant any more a social network. I'm not sure that excitement and potential are words I'd be using with them.

She indicates one has to pay for WordPress templates. Not true at all. Most people I know code their own, and it's quite easy to do. I've done it for all the sites I run.

She states, "you can never overcommunicate". Again, not true. Every communications class I've taken has warned about crossing that line to where people tune you out as being noise. You absolutely CAN overcommunicate. You need to maintain that fine balance of sending out enough message to be heard, and not so much that you get blocked.

The book could easily become a five star book with some proper polishing and editing. I don't feel it is at that stage yet. Yes, some information in here is helpful, such as the repeat-messaging statement. But other messages could be quite harmful if followed, such as bombarding a message out. This book is supposed to instruct people new to social networking on their options. It needs to make sure that everything it states is clear, easy to understand, and accurate.

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