Evolve CommunicationsPublic Relations

Posts Categorized: Public Relations

The Shifting Locus of Community

As students of the media, as well as participants in the news process, Evolve Communications has taken the time to think critically about the role media plays in society. If you look back at the origins of the newspaper and news organizations, their mission was to be the voice of already existing, highly localized communities. Even when news organizations shifted to mass media (i.e. radio, television and widely distributed print publications), there was a strong commitment to being the voice of a group of people tied together by a set of cultural commonalities.

As the profit motive grew into an imperative by media organizations, the focus shifted away from community to ratings and settled on what we would call bottom-line thinking. Before the Internet existed, news organizations’ sole focus on profits contributed to the fragmentation of audiences (ala cable TV), with critics bemoaning the quality of news and its lack of ability to foster community.

Today, of course, community has taken on an entirely different meaning. Today, communities can still be localized, but they can also span geographies as they unite people with both common interests and culture. It’s common knowledge that the place where communities are formed has moved online.

Some news organizations are doing a great job of refocusing on building community by engaging people through social media. Others still don’t get it. Case in point: the Washington Post’s memo stating that the paper’s sole use of social channels should be to spread news and not engage readers online.

Communities happen where there is conversation. We don’t know yet if community can support for-profit media, but what we do know is this: for-profit media needs to support the communities they serve. And they can do that by communicating with their audiences–wherever those audiences may be.

Why Evolve Doesn’t Have a Facebook Page

Someone recently asked us why Evolve Communications doesn’t have a Facebook page. There’s a very simple, direct answer to that:

We value confidentiality and discretion.

In an age where transparency is touted as the cornerstone of social media, confidentiality and discretion are valuable gems that are coveted for their rarity. As we state on our Clients page, we keep our clients confidential unless they agree to publicly talk about their relationship with Evolve. We’re happy to be brought on as a strategic partner, but for some of our work, we’re brought on as a member of the team. We provide white-label services, and confidentiality is an essential ingredient to the continued success of Evolve.

Relationship building–which is at the core of what Evolve does–isn’t just about engagement and exchange of information. It’s also about trust. And for us, we build trust with our clients by ensuring that their business stays their business (except, of course, when they need us to tout their accomplishments–which is an entirely different story).

Getting back to the question about a Facebook page for Evolve–we’d love to have one. In fact, we love working on them for our clients. But to ask our clients to like an Evolve Facebook page would, potentially, betray our confidentiality with our clients. That’s not to say that we won’t have a page in the future, of course.

We value our relationships with our clients more than we value self-promotion, and we simply believe that is more important to Evolve’s long-term growth.

The Two Things Clients Never Want, But Need the Most

O.k. Never might be an exaggeration. Nonetheless, it’s true that there are two things clients never want to pay for but they need the most. I’m talking about the foundation for all effective communications, and the feedback you get afterwards.

I’m talking about Research and Measurement.

Without research, there’s no way to know if what you’re communicating will matter. There’s no telling whether or not you have your message right. And there’s no way to see if you’re even talking to the right people! Most importantly, you want to be able to predict the outcome of your communications, the results.

And without measurement, there’s no way of knowing whether or not your efforts made a difference. If you’re only counting outputs (what you put out–i.e. tweets, press releases, Facebook posts, LinkedIn Answers, etc.), then you’re not even coming close to being able to tell if you’ve been effective.

And if you can’t measure effectiveness, you also can’t measure value. In other words, you can’t PROVE your hard work and efforts were worth the money. Sales is a common yard stick, but it’s a blunt instrument.

More important in the age of social media is measuring relationships. Are relationships getting stronger as a result of your activities? How will you know unless you measure them? (Check out this paper for a good primer on measuring relationships.)

Too often, clients don’t want to pay for either research or measurement. Too often, clients focus on the tactical output of a campaign, and not the outcomes.

And to these clients, I say: “STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY.” Seriously. Make room in your budget for research and measurement. You will get far more out of your initiatives if your communications are built around a foundation of research–and if you can tell whether or not they’re effective.