PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

A New Generation

Update: As I’m writing this, CNN projects Obama as winner of the 2008 Presidential Election.

This evening, I was inspired to write a blog post from two speakers at our PRSSA Chapter meeting. Kelly Rossman-McKinney of the Rossman Group and Daniel Bergman of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU spoke to our Chapter about the presidential election. As with many other meetings this semester, the discussion turned to social media and how each campaign used it.

I’m not here to critique each campaign. I think each side learned about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to social media. But here is what I learned from this election:

  • People don’t like to be shouted at. They like to have a discussion. With all of the mudslinging in campaign ads and messages pounded into audiences, how effective can it be to actually change public opinion? My generation is independent and rebellious, and we don’t like to be told what to do. We do like to see what our friends are up to on Facebook and Twitter and what they’re thinking. Engaging an audience is key to success.
  • People don’t like to be lied to. They like to check their facts. I think in this election more than ever, people are looking to clarify what the candidates are saying. Web sites such as Fact Check allow visitors to get a third-party confirmation, therefore giving it more credibility. More generally, there have been plenty of times when I said to “Google it” after a candidate said something in a speech. A while ago, these resources were not available to voters so the credibility of these negative ads were high- but that probably won’t work as well anymore.
  • People don’t like to have decisions made for them. They like to participate. People blog. They tweet. They write notes. They discuss. They share. And the list goes on, but moreover, they have a presence online. To be successful, it is important that you’re giving people positive things to talk about and share online.

Social media allows for all of this. While younger people are primarily the ones using these tools, my generation will eventually become the older generation. This generation knowledgeable with social media will continue to grow and grow. Is social media going to change while this growth occurs? You betcha (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Even so, the importance and impact of the Web in learning and conversing will be here to stay.

I believe this is a fundamental shift in not only presidential elections, but also in how any organization communicates to its publics. It’s not a fad. It’s here to stay. And it’s dramatically changing the world as we know it.

I think it’s a good thing. But what do you think? Are there any negative effects to this evolving world of social media?


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5 Responses

  1. Jenn Lewis says:

    I agree! I think that the only time social media can steer you in the wrong direction is if it isn’t targeted and updated on a regualr basis. People want to be a part of a conversation and that can’t happen if you don’t respond in a timely fashion. Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe (check spelling) should be applauded for targeting and keeping various networks up to date on the progression of his campaign. Good entry Nick.

  2. Becky Johns says:

    Nick, I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts as I’ve watched this election happen. I had a discussion with my parents yesterday about social media and how it has affected the turnaround of young voter apathy. The amount of young people that got out and voted this year is astounding, and I think a big part of it is due to these candidate’s (one more than the other) recognition that being online is the way to reach us 18-25ers. My parents had no clue what I was talking about, of course, but were willing to admit how much the world of communication has really changed…even in the last 4 years.

    But to answer the question at the end of your post…yes, I do think social media has its drawbacks. It requires nearly constant attention and without tech-savvy team, companies and candidates can quickly get lost in the world. The more we rely on the instant gratification social media can offer, the more we’ll miss it if it goes away. It’s a commitment, for sure.

    With that said, I LOVE social media and where it is taking the world and the communications industry. Once again, good observations in your blog!

  3. Jared Bryan says:

    Great post! I think you are right when you talk about social media being about engagement. It is more than just looking at an advertisement, but the donating your status, joining the Facebook group, and Tweeting back and forth about the issues that really makes a difference. These allow for open discussion with friends and even political parties.

    Often people are persuaded by their friends to make decisions. With social media it may not be the candidate that pulls your vote, but the fact that 90% of your friends are voting for the candidate or issue. It makes me think about the Two-Step Flow theory. The candidate persuades a friend and then they persuade me. Social media is another venue to make that happen.

    Just my thoughts. Thanks for the post.

  4. Matt Haupt says:

    I like your thoughts. I think after this election candidates are going to be using Social Media to it’s fullest extent possible in ways of getting donations and for spreading the word about their campaign.

    What I keep asking myself is how fast will the local officials catch on and start using social media to their advantage? I mean I know there is a learning curve for using Social Media the right way, but it can be very cheap and effective and perfect for candidates who don’t have a lot of money and would like to stick with guerilla marketing tactics. All I can say is that this might be a perfect opportunity for younger PR and Political Science professionals to make a name for themselves by using their experience of Social Media as a way to help older, or less experienced candidates. Soon Twitter and Facebook is going to be a way to reach young voters, but a way to reach a whole spectrum of voters.

    I just hope they don’t do what some companies have done in the past and use Social Media as a way to spread a message and not as a discussion platform like you were talking about.

  5. aribadler says:

    The rage in social media plays into your generation’s constant need for having everything, all the time, right now.

    I don’t say that to pick a fight, because every generation has its issues. I’m from Generation X, and supposedly that means I’m materialistic and think only of myself. It’s not true, but that’s the moniker I got stuck with.

    A number of professionals at the recent PRSA conference were chatting about your generation and the consensus seemed to be that “kids today” aren’t willing to pay their dues and take their lumps. They want to zoom straight to the top, make a lot money, have great titles and all the corporate perks that come with them — but aren’t willing to put their time in to earn all of those.

    I don’t think everyone is like that, just like I don’t agree with the stereotypes for Generation X.

    The Obama campaign used instant communication tactics to connect with young people and they responded. The question now is, will that generation wait for the years it will take for true change to occur, or will you want it all fixed, right now?

    And if you don’t get instant satisfaction, what happens on the political scene in 2012? It will be very interesting to watch and experience. Of course, there’s also that Chinese curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” 🙂

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