Public Relations Tactics

Chris Brogan on the human digital channel

December 1, 2011

PR people care about search, Chris Brogan, president of Human Business Works, told attendees during the Oct. 17 General Session at the PRSA 2011 International Conference.

Rather than thinking about how to get more people to our websites, or figuring out if we need to have a micro-site or a mobile site, we need to think about the “human digital channel” and interactions. “If you think about all those other things as the shop, then we’re working on how to make a better digital shopkeeper,” Brogan said.

In his presentation titled, “How PR Professionals Can Amplify the Human Digital Channel for Their Clients,” Brogan stressed three things that he says he will “hinge his thoughts for 2012 on: cultivating visibility, earning leverage and realizing that business is about belonging.”

He went on to define his idea of the human digital channel as not a website or SEO, but based on the idea of human interactions, returning to the shopkeeper parallel.

“Stories are the coin of the realm,” Brogan said. Rather than learning the mechanics of putting out a release and gaining column inches, we should work on grabbing a story that brings your audience in emotionally. “We’re trying to find that point-of-view character that communicates people into the story and gets people emotional and involved,” he said.

Telling stories changes per medium, he added. “If we are involved in video, then brevity is the key,” Brogan said. “Less than two minutes is what people will give you on the Web.”

Amplify your stories

He also stressed that people should make the customer the hero when pitching a product. “In the story part of things, making the customer the hero is where we get it wrong,” he said. “I get so many pitches for how amazing a product is. But products are so rarely amazing. When they make me cool, they’re amazing. Frequency matters. Be on wavelength.”

Brogan drove home how important it is for PR professionals to “amplify your stories.” He also noted tips, including: record more video and cultivate more video stories, seek referrals and testimonials and build better contact databases.

Other key points that Brogan imparted:

  • Earn leverage.
  • Remember that you are in sales. “You might be selling the story,” he said. “You might be selling the internal conversation. But you are in sales.”
  • Remember that you are in customer ser-vice. “Service is the new black,” Brogan said.

Brogan asked the audience to note this list of things to remember to do in their jobs:

  • Shine your light on other people.
  • Connect with more causes.
  • Improve your blogger relations. “Blogs are not secondary to newspapers anymore,” he said. “I have more circulation on my blog than a lot of local newspapers.”
  • Reconsider metrics.
  • Rethink velocity.
  • Use listening tools like Radian6 and Critical Mention to track.

Business is about belonging, Brogan said. “Humankind’s greatest need is the need to feel wanted,” he said. “Humans want to feel wanted. It’s about belonging. Engage with them.”

He said that there’s a reason there is “you” in YouTube. “Why do we share what we do?” Brogan asked. “We want to share stories from our life. We want to share the things that are interesting.”

It’s important to keep the community alive and to remember that any type of media that you create and post online is more fun when it’s not about you. “Taking a picture of you with our product is not fun,” he said. “Also, check-ins are not PR. I don’t use Foursquare and I’m not a big fan of self-stalking. It’s not interesting anymore to be the mayor of a restaurant. It’s interesting to share useful information.

“Communications and conversations are also the new black,” he continued. “Conversations rule. No, really. Social media successes are happening because people are taking the time to talk back. Reply to people.”

Brogan also suggested that there should be media training for everyone. “Media training is no longer a C-level sport. We all have camera phones. We all have video. We are all on the media all the time.”

Make simple one-page policies, he said. “If the United States Air Force can fit their social media policy on one page and you cannot, then you are doing it wrong.”

And, last, “make sure that you get the masses into the game with some backup,” he said. It’s important to encourage your whole organization to tweet and be active in the social media realm, he said, citing successful companies like Zappos and Dell who do this.

In closing, Brogan said that PRSA should change its name to “the passionate relationship-minded storyteller association. I mean that with all my heart. Bad PR sucks. Bad PR hurts like a root canal. Bad PR is like a bad first date. Please make it better. Think about ways to amplify the human digital channel.” — Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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