Saturday, October 20, 2007

Summary: Session 2, Research

Session 2 focused on research and its implications for public relations and social media in practice. You can find the podcast for this session here and there are links to all the podcasts in the sidebar.

The first speaker, Dr. Kaye Sweetser, spoke about her research about the impact of social media on political campaigns - she discussed politicians using social media but failing to truly engage in a dialogue with the community. She also discussed the issue of deception by candidates who post as if it's the candidate speaking when really it's a campaign staffer saying, "you cannot build a relationship on lies." Dr. Sweetser said one of the most important rules in regards to politicians using social networks is to be genuine!

In Dr. Walter Carl's presentation he spoke bout the 4 phases of communication that companies engage in with their publics: oblivious, monitoring, listening and responding and finally joining in. In the oblivious phase companies are not even aware that that their publics are speaking about them online, these companies are completely out of the conversation- he referenced Kryptonite Bike Lock , who failed to notice significant online complaints about their locks. In the second phase, monitoring, companies watch the Internet but they fail to engage the speakers. Most companies today are still in this monitoring phase, reacting but failing to be proactive. When companies are listening and responding, they began to reach to the public. Dr. Carl used the 'Listening Ladder' recognizing, acknowledging, and endorsing the speakers' points. Finally companies make the choice to join-in with the conversation. Dell has worked through all four phases of communication. So how do companies get this zenith of engagement? Train individuals to listen, don't try to control conversations and establish a cross-training task force to reorganize your company and reach out to people.

Dr. Sprague focused on the legal aspects of social media. He suggests we're still in a gray area of law regarding social media, laws and precedents are just being established. He says public relations speech is considered commercial speech, which is granted limited constitutional protection. One of the big things to be concerned about is deception in commercial speech which can become big in blogs and social networking sites; companies sometimes present themselves in a false light. Dr. Sprague pointed out that if you are involved with the product, your role in the conversation drastically changes. When a conversation begins, clearly define you who you are. Another point was provider liability for commenters' posts - they're liable if they're performing a function other than copying and pasting.

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