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Chris Bechtel Describes The Fundamental Shifts In PR Because Of Social Media

Chris Bechtel Chris Bechtel, V.P. Sales, Marketing and Product Development of ipressroom was a contributor to the Global PR blogging week, and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions below. We also had a really good telephone conversation about the event, which I describe after the answers to my initial questions to Chris.

John:  What did you learn from the Global PR Blog Week?

Chris: I learned that despite the size of the global PR industry there were relatively few active communicators using digital tools, blogs, podcasts, video, (and social media was not even on the radar) to reach their audiences.  Further, there were few practitioners who were actively participating in talking about the fundamental changes in media relations and how those practices were evolving now that PR could actually control their content and easily publish it to the web. 

John: What did you learn about blogging (if you learned anything about blogging) from the blog week?

Chris: I learned that quality blog content must be well researched (with quality attributions and citations) and strongly informative, insightful, or entertaining or all 3.  

John: Did the conference give you any new insights into PR, if so, what were they?

Chris: It confirmed my belief that PR pros needed to start creating more online content of all types and start talking about the paradigm shift to PR 2.0. 

John: What were the lasting effects of the Global PR Blog Week?

Chris: For me the lasting effects of Global PR Blog Week are the connections and respect for the numerous prolific bloggers and thinkers in the global PR community.

John: How did the Global PR Blog week influence you and the industry?

Chris: I hope it influenced the industry to learn how to create better content and use the available web channels appropriately to reach their trarget audience.  Since then, there has been a tsunami of additional PR 2.0 thought-leadership.  Still, the PR indsutry has a way to go to actually adopt these new practices.  Old school media relations, the traditional press release, measurement by clips, limited corporate and executive blogging still rule the day.  So, I am influenced to see greater content creation, output and control - ease of publishing web content in all formats and distributing content to all channels. 

John: Reviewing the post(s) you wrote for the Global PR Blog week what has changed? What has not changed, since you wrote your post?

Chris: The same fundamentals of online newsroom content and best practices are applicable since my post with the exception of the explosion of social media and how that has affected content sharing and distribution.  That is really the key, the ability for a PR pro to tag and distribute content TO all of the relevant and appropriate online channels AND bring them back to you.

John: Give an update on what you've been doing in the last five years, and what you are doing now?

Chris: At the time of the post, iPressroom's media platform CMS for PR was in beta and now 5 years later, iPressroom has hundreds of pr and marketing pro using the platform to easily publish their content online for the media and the public to tag, share, discuss, write up and link to.  I also use a lot of social media in my work today and enjoy helping PR pros use the web to build relationships with more people.

Recap of telephone conversation between Chris and myself:

Chris was surprised after the conference that the industry was still such a niche, when during the conference he thought he got to meet some great people who he thought everyone in the industry should listened too. Chris also thought that the Alumni of the conference probably influenced many of the current people who have a strong active voice to start blogging and creating content.

Chatting with Chris, I described how I am a marketer, but I ended up in the PR blogging community because those were the people who were talking about what I wanted to discuss.

I asked Chris why PR bloggers took such an early lead in the industry. Chris said, “I’m a marketer too, the conference may have been better characterized as a marketing and public relations conference, we were talking about the practice of public relations and communications online, it was the topic. With marketing, there was an easy transition from display advertising to the web, direct mail, or point of sale to web marketing. While marketing and advertising went through less fundamental shifts because of the web, public relations went through more shifts, the PR Global blogging conference was talking about those shifts, we were talking about social media, even though we were not using that term in 2004, we were talking about social media in a different way in 2004, we were talking about conversations then.

You used to reach people through the media, they were the filter, now with the web, and you can reach people directly without using mainstream media. Essentially PR people or company employees become the media.”

I thought that it is interesting that companies sometimes think of social media, or blogger relations in terms of reaching their audience through a filter, except this time its bloggers or other power users of social media within a community, when a company could connect directly with their audience either by creating content or having their own dialogue within the community.

We both thought that the reason for this is that companies might sometimes prefer spending money on media instead of people resources to conduct engagement, and that the reason for that dynamic is culture, lack of policies, procedures and infrastructure. Essentially, though we’ve come far since 2004, we still have a ways to go, and there is still a lot of room for discussion in the industry about how to use social media for discussion.

Thanks Chris for the interview and especially the telephone conversation, I think our conversation really helped me think through why I gravitated to the PR blogging community and enjoyed the conference so much!