Using Social Media – Come Out from Behind the Curtain

PR consultants use social mediaMost PR consultants have been trained from early in our careers to work behind the scenes. We’ve typically served clients or company executives as the spokespeople, and it’s deeply ingrained that the spotlight should shine on them alone.

 Today, it’s time to come out from behind the curtain. Chalk this up as yet another way that social media has changed our world.

PR pros have never been accused of being shrinking violets, so it would probably come as a surprise to outsiders that for many of us, speaking out via social media feels just plain weird at first. Some PR consultants experience an attack of stage fright. We’re still trying to adjust to giving up control of the message, and now we need to do that while publicly on display?

 The key to feeling comfortable is to give a little thought to what your online voice will be, and then just do what comes naturally and be yourself. Be aware that there are some people (one might call them purists) who say that you should be your whole self, all the time. To them, this is what they mean by transparent. But I’m in the camp that believes you can be transparent and authentic without “letting it all hang out.”

For example, a few things you may want to consider include:

  • Will you curse or be otherwise salty/bawdy? Think about generational differences in perceptions of this, as well.
  • How much (if anything) will you say about your family?
  • Is your outlook/personality generally snarky, positive, curmudgeonly, peppy or “just the facts”? Without thinking about it, you can find yourself sounding unlike who you are in “real life.” Giving this a little thought at the onset will help prevent that from happening.
  • How much will you reveal about your location at any given time? This is a safety issue, and each person’s comfort level differs.

 While there are few rules in social media, there are some that are hard and fast:

  • Never misrepresent yourself. Honesty is the only policy.
  • Give before you get. We’ll be talking about this more in future posts, but social media is about sharing. Using it to sell/pitch only, and before you have established yourself, is the fastest way to be labeled a spammer.
  • Don’t talk negatively about your clients, their location, or anything that might offend them (this seems like a duh, but you might be surprised!)

 Whatever your background and level of experience you have a unique point of view – join the conversations in social media and share it with the world!

 Have you ever had any qualms about participating in social media? Did you do anything to help overcome the “stage fright”?

  • Kellye – “curtain fright” was EXACTLY why I didn’t do a lot of SM stuff before going independent. You’re absolutely right – we’re trained that we’re not the story, our client/employer is (which is absolutely true). What I hope PR professionals (and employers) are realizing is that an employee who is comfortable with the medium can only be an asset; after all, what they’re essentially selling to clients is their ability to navigate potentially choppy waters for them, isn’t it?

    I think being yourself is key. You’ve also got to be sensible – don’t post stuff online that you would feel embarrassed about. But if you apply the same rules to your own SM participation as you would advise your clients to do – I think you’ll be in good shape.

    Nice post!
    .-= Shonali Burke, ABC´s last blog ..Demystifying Digital Communications =-.

  • Thank you for writing this! Many colleagues that still haven’t taking the SM plunge can really benefit from this.

    While I don’t remember being nervous about speaking my mind (that isn’t often an issue ;), I do remember trying to figure what exactly to say/do that would be of use to others.

    I first started RT things I found interesting, then adding an intro comment. I would also find links of interest and share (with a brief description). Conversations often naturally grow from them.

    Now, I’ll jump in to a conversation at any point if it interests me, but I felt a little shy doing that in the beginning.

    As you point out, share legitimately. You’ll only get out of it what you put it to it – only tenfold.
    .-= Jennifer Wilbur´s last blog ..rockstarjen: RT @napster AT&T Napster Mobile subscribers: Get the Napster Mobile Quick Launch application for your Blackberry http://bit.ly/qsx66 =-.

  • Kellye Crane

    @Shonali- Very true that many PR pros are focusing on how to advise clients on social media — the same applies for your own presence (and we all need to participate before we can adequately tell others how to).

    @Jen- I felt shy at first, too. It’s amazing how fast that falls away once you get going. The key is just to do it!

  • Liz

    I’m not in PR but after years & years of participating on online discussion boards & forums, I have no problem speaking my mind. My problem is meeting people later in person because my offline personality is more reserved & shy. It’s just easier to speak up & make friends on a social network than introduce yourself to strangers at a cocktail party!

    Once the ice is broken, I’m fine. It’s just that initial introduction which is a challenge.

  • Kellye Crane

    @Liz- What a great point! In many ways it’s much easier to be bold and make new friends online. Further, I find that when I go to offline events now, in-person networking is so much easier because I invariably know people from my social media involvement. No more awkwardness or feeling left out — so, it works both ways. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow Liz – that’s a point I never thought of. I think I have the opposite problem. I am naturally outgoing meet people easily. Online, I struggle with getting my point across sometimes (Twitter chats are very difficult for me). I consider myself a decent writer, but it seems I can communicate more fluidly in person, talking.

    And there’s humor. Much easier to convey with facial expressions. 🙂
    .-= Jennifer Wilbur´s last blog ..rockstarjen: RT @KellyeCrane: How do you overcome social media shyness? Great comments so far! http://bit.ly/KisZ7 =-.

  • @Kellye – I couldn’t agree more. I don’t see how PR pros can advise their clients how to incorporate social media into their strategic comms plans (let alone advise clients how to get over their fear of participating in social media) if they themselves are not participating.

    This is something I’ve talked a lot about in my newsletter, as well as with my clients. Often what I hear back from people is that they aren’t sure what to say. I thought @Jennifer’s response about starting with RT’s and adding a comment is great piece of advice for folks who are still “behind the curtain.” The other simple thing is to just tweet links to blog posts or articles you find interesting.

    In my experience, it was a little intimidating to get started, but once I got my feet wet, it became second nature.

  • Liz

    @Jennifer I bet you’re also good on the phone! I’m terrible on the phone. I like being able to edit my comments…spontaneity, that’s hard!

  • Great post Kelly! Social Media provides a microphone and by engaging, you are stepping onto the stage. I agree that it is possible to “be transparent and authentic without ‘letting it all hang out’” but struggle with the reality of what I am comfortable putting out there. My professional reputation is of paramount importance to me. If that is my focus, why should I talk about anything other than professional topics? Cautiously, I am gaining a greater level of comfort sharing some of the personal things that contribute to my unique point of view. I have found that sharing a bit about my greatest nonwork passion– my spirited 3 yr old son and angelic 6 month old daughter, has connected on a new level with many of those in my “social network.” I am still just peaking out from behind the curtain though. But the ensemble on stage, the orchestra and the audience are fascinating to me. I can’t wait to get to know them better,

  • Kellye Crane

    @Angelique- You’re right – getting your feet wet is the fastest way to get over your hesitation.

    @Valerie- As you’ve found, offering up some of yourself online helps form closer relationships, even true friendships. Not only does this make the day more fun, but it can be great for your career as well. Thanks for sharing your personal experience!