“The public relations lens is starting to erode,” said Peter Lang, Social Media Strategist and CEO of Peter Lang International, “as we need to start looking at things from an overall business standpoint.”
Peter Lang describes himself as a “technology enthusiast.” Bringing international expertise on technology, Lang and his team at Peter Lang International assist in developing personal branding techniques and social media strategy.
I had the privilege of talking with Lang this past week. Over the phone, we discussed the fact that the public relations industry itself has not changed, but the number of those who involve themselves in the field has greatly increased. Lang also offered advice on how to truly benefit from the use of social media in the professional world.
Before we begin, I want to walk you through something that Lang had me do myself to realize how fairly recent social media jargon is. Do this: on a new tab in your browser, go to Google Trends. Once there, simply type in the words “social media” in the search bar and click the “search trends” button. Google Trends shows you how often a particular term is entered, in relation to the total amount of search for that word across various regions of the world.
As you’ll notice, social media is a fairly recent trend. With this rising trend, however, we find that public relations itself hasn’t changed. Rather, more people are participating through the use of blogs, online videos and a multitude of Internet content. Lang noted that “the volume of participation has increased so much that it’s becoming valuable and relevant. It’s nearly close to the entire nation’s population.”
Technological development influences our progression and our participation.
The more “user-friendly” something becomes, the more people will begin to use it. It sounds like a brainless philosophy, but it is growing more evident in the world of public relations.
Take the traditional news release, for example. In years past, according to Lang, the news release was something that was directed from the public relations agent to the media specifically. Now, news releases are available on the Internet and are being written directly to the consumer. They are no longer being sent from one company to another. They are now being written by one company and sent to the world.
There are now places such as Business Wire and PR Web where readers can sift through a multitude of online news releases. “Our means of distribution has drastically changed, with the evolution of social media,” Lang commented.
News releases can now be written and aimed directly at the public, no longer solely at the media conglomerate. We can now write material and distribute it to our audience and have them see what we want.
“For the first time, we can generate brands and we control the public perception of that brand,” according to Lang.
Relevancy is the key to keep you alive in the industry.
Nobody will take you seriously if you don’t stay relevant. Lang compared this idea to the ocean: “The most successful sharks in the ocean can follow their prey and keep up with it.”
It’s not an easy job. Staying relevant is difficult when the social media software itself changes about every nine months. Not many people have the learning capacity and because of that, “they do a lot of things flawed and they fail,” according to Lang.
Overall, Lang advised that if you have a curiosity for something, you will succeed. If you remain curious about your industry and curious about social media, you will find success. You have to be open to change and be willing to adapt.
“The public relations lens is starting to erode. You have to learn just beyond the PR lens,” Lang said. “Once you understand this and you’re not afraid to interact with your environment–you’ll go far.”