Two must-read books for PR/Web people:
You wouldn’t think that an activist’s handbook for organizing labor unions and social justice movements would have much resonance in Web 2.0 but it does–more than any contemporary book I’ve read in a while. Alinsky was all about utilizing communities and how an outsider can never truly work efficiently with one. The point then is very similar to what they’re calling PR 2.0, which is to no longer be an outside. The key, he says, is to become familiar and accepted by the community you’re working with.
This is where most PR people and organizers fail. They look at communities as collections of inferior people who they can manipulate into consuming their product. That’s not going to fly any more, the Diggs or Myspaces are too powerful. Why would DailyKos take the scraps some newspaper throws at him when he has a daily audience comparable in size? Why would a blogger respond to some canned email I send him–when he has plenty of real users who give genuine tips to him all day long?
No competent general would ever fight on land he has not familiarized himself with. Alinsky asserts that in organizing, the group’s “traditions are the terrain.” To do your job properly, you MUST acclimate to group and not the other way around. The traditional press release then is dead. The personalized email filled with anecdotes, proof of readership and a meaningful connection is the new way.
Brian Solis of PR 2.0 has written about this extensively. But his basic point is very similar to Alinsky’s. You cannot afford to be an outsider unless your only goal is cheap and temporary stimulus. Why bother? Why not just buy advertising? I would assert that in the future, when you apply for jobs in PR and management, the most important part of your resume will not be your job experience but what communities you’re a part of. What audience can you bring to the client? How quickly can you learn and be accepted into a new environment? So when you dick around on the internet, keep that in mind–the forums you post on or Myspace groups you belong to, those don’t have to be just distractions, they can be priceless assets for a career.