Archive for the ‘PR Theories’ Category

PR word cloud

I was very excited to find out the final voting result for PRSA’s “Redefining PR” campaign. Actually my first reaction was “I won!” since I selected the one that received the most votes.

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I did put in a bit thought when I was reading the three finalists. I chose this one based on my own understanding of PR.

First, I believe public relations is a communication process. No matter how much this field has changed, we are still trying to communicate with publics about an organization. On my very first class as a PR student at Michigan State University, my instructor gave us a simpler definition of PR: “Communicating accurate image of an organization to the public.”That was a definition I strongly agree with, and the one from PRSA included the meanings it had.

Second, I am a firm believer that effective public relations will create mutual benefits for both parties (organizations and publics/stakeholders). Good PR should not be manipulative. Instead, it will make people “want to do business with you”. I learned that from another professor at MSU. Starbuck’s campaign “Every Love” for Valentine’s Day this year was a great example. Starbucks produced three excellent and moving videos about sharing love via its products. It is not just boasting about how good the coffee is, but educating people how much difference you can make with a simple cup of coffee.I was amazed by the great amount of emotional comments and stories shared on Facebook and Twitter by Starbuck’s fans. In the era of new media, great PR achieves communication between companies and consumers, and between consumers and consumers. This is how PR builds “mutually beneficial” relationships.

I had a hard time to explain what PR is to my families and friends when I decided to become a PR professional 3 years ago. I am still trying to improve my interpretation whenever I have a chance to tell them about my passion for this profession. I think what’s even more important in this PRSA campaign of redefining PR is that it gave all of us, the PR pros, a moment to think and a chance to reflect. No matter what definition in the future we use, we will be grateful for this process because it encourages us to get better at what we do, and make a contribution to the growth and evolution of this amazing industry.

Image Credit:

The potential advantage of being a lone nut is that you could end up as a heroic leader.

Leader = A lone nut? This proposition intrigued me greatly when I was watching a speech on TedxDetroit conference.


I watched the video for twice and I laughed twice, but after “ROFL” (Rolling on Floor Laughing), I started to ponder this insightful topic.

In the first place, I cannot agree more with the speaker. The first follower showed a valuable leadership among crowds to pursue innovation. It is the first follower that “transforms a lone nut into a leader”. This reminds me of the well-known “Diffusion of Innovations” by Everett Rogers. According to Roger, adopters of a new idea can be categorized into five groups (shown as the graph below):

Diffusion of ideasImage Source: Wikipedia File

“Innovators” here mean the first batch of followers on new ideas. They are “willing to take risks… very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail” (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282). They are the minority of 2.5%, but they are the decisive 2.5%. They introduce something that seems ridiculous but may be actually fantastic. From this perspective, the first follower should not only be credited for their courage, but also for how they accept the idea and try to show it to the world. They must own some leadership more than guts, because the subsequent followers will emulate them instead of the original “inventor”.

Examples of a follower becoming a leader are ubiquitous in the era of Web 2.0. Plenty of bloggers gain more attention by having other blogs’ links on their page. Another example comes from my personal experience in social media. Some people on (The Chinese “Facebook”) earn their credits by “sharing” valuable links. They have no original posts. The only thing they do in social networks is to publish “share” – valuable posts about health, beauty, cooking, politics, etc. Eventually, these people become a credible source, because what they share is always informative and useful.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help wonder: what if you are born as a “lone nut” (I mean, innovative leader)? Then it’s the other way of adoption of the idea. When you have a great idea, don’t be afraid to be the “lone nut”, and more importantly, you must find your “first follower”. Considering the two-step flow theory in public relations, I think it is best that this first follower is an opinion leader. But if it’s not, at least you should find somebody who is enthusiastic about your ideas. Nurture your followers, and make your idea easy to follow.

In social media marketing, I believe we should put effort in both ways in order to spread our ideas: that is being a follower and nurturing your early followers.

Nurturing your followers obviously facilitate the diffusion of ideas. First, you are building connections and relationships with your followers, making them feel engaged and passionate about spreading your thoughts. Besides, you can make sure the message is spread accurately.

Being a follower, on the other hand, is more beneficial for long-run. By standing out and supporting other innovative ideas, marketers earn reputation among innovators. If the reputation accumulates and turn into thought leadership, the marketer will benefit a lot from it.

Either way, Web2.0 is subtly changing the meaning of leadership. The question is choosing to be the right “leader” in certain circumstances. As for me now, I will try to be a “hunter”, following the footprint of great ideas.