Wednesday, July 30, 2008

P2PR : The real online public relations

Had a brief chat with an interesting chap in online PR yesterday. He reckons the industry needs some good PR of its own - and that could be aided by the right language.
How do you distinguish between people doing traditional PR using digital means (ie sucking up to bloggers rather than print or digital journalists) and those who get the disruptive fundamentals of the power of network and understand how messages spread now.

I have a thought: Instead of sitting in the Online PR silo, perhaps the new kids need to distinguish themselves with the descriptor P2PR.
I can't be the first to put those letters and numbers in that order, surely?

Whatever the case...

What does P2PR stand for? What would the group you are reaching out to like it to mean?
Peer-to-Peer Relations(hips),
Person-to-Person Relations(hips),
Publisher-to-Publisher Relations(hips). (We are all publishers now!)

The Online bit is way less important than the P2P bit of PR anyway. It's all about the people and what they do to each other.
Marketing (of whatever form) is not a process of doing things to people. It is what they do to each other.

So, for me, P2PR is the right approach for the networked world.

We are the connections. We are also how the connections are made.

Don't bother trying to register the url. It's already rather tediously taken... but I have squatted on the blogspot address!


  1. David,

    Like the thinking and flexibility of its use! Within 24 hours of our chat you seem to have hopefully set the ball rolling in a redefinition in our industry.

    I think we need to move this even further in the day-to-day language we use to communicate our expanding list of services so organizations can see that we should be amplifying all departmental output from agency planners, to marketing departments not just dealing with PR folk and PR budgets.

    Would love to hear others views on this!

  2. Good call Jamie. Will point this at a few peeps in the PR for their thoughts.

  3. Interesting presentation, and really very true. I have different groups of people who I share different content with - and I rarely, if ever, just pass it on. The people (plural) I send it to gives it context (usually by email or within Facebook, and if it's more general then twitter), as well the notes and comments I make around it.

    Facebook is great in this sense - it's very easy to share ring content (e.g videos - which can be played within the message), to include comments with the video, single-click friends or groups of friends to send to and start a threaded conversation.

    It's more about how the publisher can become Part of the conversation - not a party themselves, but simply part of the fabric of the conversation. Publisher-Within-Peer-to-Peer...

  4. Matthew Brazil7/30/2008 12:24 pm

    I like the presentation, it shows that we are moving from control based PR/Marketing activity to a collaboration based model, with multiple people adding value to the conversation, a collective, documented brainstorm via multiple social media platforms.

    PR/Marketing and business in general not only need to monitor the trajectory (what direction the conversation is taking) but also the velocity (at what speed is it spreading) and continually add extra elements of value to the conversation/collective brainstorm to keep it alive.

    Collaborative brainstorm pr/marketing/advertising

  5. Really good post, David, and I completely agree. PR companies are going to have to start embracing being a technological facilitator as much as they have traditionally been relationship driven.

    To me, it ends up coming down to adopting models of technical development and experimentation mixed with the people resources already in place to spread the messages. A blend of programmers, interaction designers, and existing talent -- giving people the tools to engage with the brands and spread the message on their own terms.

    Cushman, you've done it again. Now I'm going to be thinking about this all day!

  6. Interesting post, but at the risk of sounding like a politician, I'm not sure you're asking the right question...

    I'm not sure we need to define what digital PR/online PR/P2PR is - more, we need to re-define what PR is, in this new networked world.

    From my perspective PR as a marketing communications discipline should be better placed than the "traditional" agencies to take advantage of the rapid (but still relatively new) growth of peer to peer commmunications and social networks.

    Good PRs have always been listening as well as talking. Saying to clients - yes, but if you do/say that, then this is how this group of people will react - is our bread and butter.

    And we've always been in the business of trying to get third parties (typically journalists and stakeholders) to pass on our/our clients' messages to their own networks (typically newspaper readers, community leaders).

    The new connected world doesn't mean we need to change PR's approach - or name. But it does mean we can and should listen to and learn more from the people we're trying to reach and tweak how we communicate with them appropriately - especially now we don't have to always go through the third parties as we've done previously.

    But, having said all that, what it means is that there will be more scope for specialism in the PR industry (industry?!) than ever before. And with more specialism, comes new job titles. (When was the first online community manager JD written for example?)

    It may be that P2PR becomes a recognised specialism. But I hope that even if it does, "traditional" PRs don't assume that P2PR is someone else's job and that they don't have to understand it or do it. Instead, I think that everyone who currently works in PR should be ready, willing and able to think in those terms as well, and advise clients/bosses appropriately...

    (apologies this started with a succinct thought, honest...)

  7. Nice post, though I think there's a lot of people calling 'it' lots of different things at the moment. There's an undeniable global change going on right now and we're all jostling to give it a name and apply things to it.

    The most important thing I believe is to acknowledge the fact that underlying it all is the fact that we are all human beings and that brands need to start being more human. In fact, what are brands anyway? Usually synthetic things created in artificial conditions that are beginning to show their age in the world of today.

    Human beings rule. And always will do. Unless something with bigger teeth comes along.

  8. Jonathan - agreed. Being a 'brand' is now really about becoming a 'social object' - but PR/Marketing is struggling to keep up with this change.

  9. i am not in the industry, am merely a target, a demographic, an intended market, a mark, a page view, a victim ...

    pr, like advertising, is ALL about manipulation and lying ...

    so i ask, prove me wrong

  10. David ... I think we talked about this a few months back. Personally, I can't stand terms like Social Object. It's just meaningless new speak. The problem with online PR, and even PR 2.0 in the way that most people are actually doing it, is simple. The places where people connect are being seen as media like print, radio, TV, etc. They then treat the so-called 'influencers' or A-listers like journalists, so they've simply mapped an offline top-down reach-based model onto the Internet and seem to think they are doing something bottom-up, or are at least that’s how they pitch it to clients.

    I think the direct to consumer (d2c), or the P2P PR approach you mention, sees people as social media rather than the places they visit and use to connect. This is important because influence is an outcome not a set of characteristics like being connected or popular in terms of having lots of inbound links. So the role of the influenced or the opinion spreaders within word of mouth is as important, or arguably more important, than the role of the opinion leaders and formers.

    As you know, we’ve been trialling our Yooster customer participation platform and methodology for over 2 years now in Australia, and have been seeing some fantastic quantifiable results as well as vast amounts of qualitative feedback. We are already under way with out first trial in the UK and are looking for another couple of trial partners. Do you know any publishers who might be interested ;-)

  11. twitter: Meryl3337/30/2008 1:46 pm

    Slide show is short, sweet & tells a big story. You made it to *the other side* of complexity.

  12. I am also of the opinion that 'online pr' in it's present state has just been the mapping of traditional methods: finding influencers and bribing them except online.

    Whilst journalists are generally happy to give you some inches for a free 'product X' or diner at The Ivy, online communities and their influencial members have become so because of an integrity. They won't throw this hard earnt respect away for an iPod. You have to give them some 'value' that the feel they can share with the rest of the community.

    For me this is what David aptly named as 'p2pr' (to be discussed) should be pushing. We should be taking a CREATIVE approach to creating value / social currency whether for specialist or populist communites.

    A great example of this was done by POKE a digital agency not an 'online pr' company but that clearly get it. Orange Internet Balloon Race

    Value: What do webmasters / bloggers want TRAFFIC what do the general public want FUN & a little bit of COMPETITION.

  13. All, blown away by both the quality and quantity of contributions here. Some utterly fabulous stuff and I'd like to stand out of the way and let it flow if you don't mind?
    In the meantime: Some take-aways/comments/questions from me so far:
    1.Josh, "Publisher-Within-Peer-to-Peer". Not sure of the distinction here... If we're all publishers now (which is my position)?
    2. Would like to re-emphasize Jamie's question - about better ways of describing the services of P2PR (and thanks for the examples).
    3. Matthew - re monitoring: Any thoughts on where/how to do this?
    4. Michael - the tech facilitator element is key. Who creates win. Who mediates suffers.
    5. Chris - really good point about PR peeps and their skillsets.
    6. Middledigit: You're damned right. It's all about the people, people (to quote steve rubel at
    7. Gregory: It's only lies if you're friends are prepared to lie to you. (at least in my vision of PR, as in P2PR) Let's hope not?
    8. Justin. With you. I think we're sharing the language of microinteractions?
    9. Meryl. Simply: thank you!

  14. Am I reading your post the way it is intended? People doing traditional PR using digital are "sucking up"? But somehow, online PR people ("those who get it") don't suck up, they facilitate and participate in conversations?

    The "Traditional PR people" that I know and associate with stop dragging their knuckles on the ground more than a few years ago and have been operating in the new social order with little trouble (it ain't brain surgery).

    Just once I would like to see some scientific statistical data to back up all the generalizations made about traditional PR, as well as to support all of the hyperbole about online PR.

    It's all necessary, it's all good. Can't we all just get along?

  15. I think the presentation is a great summary and starting point. But I think the challenge is rethink PR within what Michael Wesch describes as the "collapse of context".

    I have a feeling that P2PR may well be the result. But how to get there? Hmmm.

  16. "The old-school don't control the new networks - we do. You no longer have the option of ringing a friend. You have to ask the audience."

  17. James,

    Old-school never controlled anything. And you likewise control nothing. You should think before you write. Control is an illusion. At the very best - old or new school - you have an understanding of how communications works and an ability to participate in the process.

    I've been in the industry for 28 years and have never "rung up a friend" in the media. I think you have watched too many "B" movies.

  18. Oh dear, sounds like I touched a nerve Sweeny 3.0.

  19. James,

    The name is Jim Sweeney, not "Oh Dear". And sorry to report that you have not touched a nerve. You have simply demonstrated my point. I am attempting to communicate with you - you know, have a conversation of ideas - and you are more interested in adolescent retorts.

    Still, if you are interested in discussing this topic of traditional versus online marketing, I think it is a great topic. If not, please spare me the emotional comments.

  20. Adriana Lukas7/31/2008 9:57 am

    To me the issue of marketing and PR and their survival is a non-issue. I care more about the people inside and outside the company. I am after their ability to communicate in a way that we communicate amongst ourselves, as David's presentation so artfully describes.

    My metaphor for going 'inside' the company comes from seeing it as a house, whose roof has been taken off by the web. PR, marketing, advertising etc is the facade, designed to create the best possible impression, attract people to it and lead them to the parlour room for a civilised cup of tea. (reality is that often there is nothing civilised about interactions with companies!).

    The internet, with magic, direct communication and P2P of all sorts, give people the ability to peer (no pun intented) straight into the house, with its interior exposed. This shift has been described, rousingly, by Cluetrain...

    So, what is the point of the company putting more money into building the facade, already bypassed by an increasing number of people. And what is the point of the facade builders to look for better and clever ways of building the facade. Perhaps it's time for some interior design and the 'facade' people are not necessarily qualified. I'd argue that they are less qualified than most employees and customers who are the ones that made blogging and social web the phenomenon it is.

    Having skirted the edges of the 'media' industry for the last 5 years as a social web 'insultant', I still can't see why PR or marketing or advertising is going to survive in the long term. Or why it needs to.

    I put my efforts in getting people inside the company aware of what they can do themselves and how to communicate their knowledge and expertise with those who care about such things. The rest will follow.

  21. David - Great conversation catalyst! As I see it, PR firms have evolved in to two roles: Media Relations and Community Relations. The problem is that these are frequently conflicting roles. This is further clouded by getting the story out v. getting the message out. There will be a need for both, but PR firms have to pick a side. Not their client, not their media contacts, but the side of the People. As you point out, The People really are the key - thus the term I mentioned of "community relations". Good stuff!

  22. P2PR...
    I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    Don't you realize that by giving it such a *clearly* contrived name, you are instantly placing the entire concept in danger of being scorned and derided by any who actually *understands* the concept?

    In other words, if you see someone claim to be P2PR, anyone with any understanding of the same will instantly send those "new kids" packing.

    Sorry. Just calling it the way I see it.

  23. Hi anonymous, I take your point. Here's the but...
    'Public Relations' had to be chosen as a name to define a whole range of activities at some point. We don't think of that phrase as 'clearly contrived' now. I'm sure we did once.

    Online Public Relations doesn't really capture the change that occurs when you move how messages spread through relationships from broadcast to networked (P2P) models. In my view, at least.

    P2PR is a stab at the shorthand for all those skills and methods required of the networked world, perhaps just us PR is shorthand for those required in the broadcast one.

    But this is just the start of a conversation? Feel free to share it.

    For the record, would prefer peeps who post to attach their name, or a link to who they are etc - helps us all understand where you are coming from.

  24. Apologies for staying anonymous. I'd rather let my thoughts (crude though they sometimes are) speak for themselves. You understanding where I'm coming from just encourages you to apply a certain set of filters or preconceived notions to what I'm saying.

    IMHO, using the term "public relations" as your template is not really where you want to go. "PR" is not generally looked upon as a postive pair of letters (cf. Scoble's blog post about "PR-less" launches).

    Adding another pair of letters doesn't really your cause no good.

    Anyway, the real point I want to make here is that there is and should be no fundamental difference between online (or P2P) PR and any other forms of traditional PR.

    PR is (or should be) just undergoing a shift in the fundamental tenets of what it means to develop relations with the public, regardless of the medium.

    In other words, what you describe as "online" or "P2P" PR -- is simply PR.

    And any attempt to brand some subspecies of PR with some other term will be seen for what it is: an attempt to do PR (using all of the negative connotations of the term).

    Or, slightly more subtly, but no less derisible, it is meta-PR: an attempt to prove a point about "P2P" PR by using the tools and concepts (e.g., the tool of using the phrase "this is the start of a conversation" as a way to difuse or deflect contrary reactions or positions) you have tried to define in the term "P2PR" to try and make the term itself popular. That was a bit of a twisty and digressive sentence, but I imagine you get my point.

    But, in the attempt, you will rapidly learn one of the tenets of the new world: the crowd may not be wise, but it finds and roots out what it perceives to be b*s* fast.

    Anyway, you seem excited about all this stuff, and far be it for me to dampen your enthusiasm. Good luck with the rest of the conversation.

  25. Good post DC. You're obviously closer to the Seth Godin perspective, rather than those 'big ships' turning slowly towards online.

    The main take-away for me is "it's all about the value and relationship with the individual" which ironically isn't a new idea, it's been the central thrust of marketing since day dot. The connected world will improve the reputation of marketing and PR, as the good will out.

  26. Thanks for the nice article.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?