Interview with Deirdre Breakenridge, communication strategist, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, Podcaster, host of Women Worldwide, LinkedIn Learning Instructor and adjunct professor.
You say that modern public relations demands an integrated, multichannel approach in order to successfully build awareness, loyalty, engagement, and advocacy. Could you explain which kind of multichannel approach do you suggest?
What we realize within all these new media, especially social media, is that consumers are in so many different places. This is at the side of all traditional media. When you can figure out when people want to receive information, what excite them and what they want to share, you know how to reach them, and you will do this in different ways, in different channels and in different formats.
With social media we have two big news in the organization of communication. The first, as you said, is that people want to decide how and when receiving information, the second is the big “problem” of reputation. How do you suggest managing this?
The customers want to say and share through their social media what they liked or disliked in their experience with any brand, and I think we are only at the first stage of this process. What the brands should do is to build a community with their customers, listen and track everything that the customers say on social and be prepared to correctly answer to them. The way to manage reputation is simply correcting any new bad review with the right information using a direct conversation with the unsatisfied customer, before the bad review itself spreads through the web or word of mouth.
In digital connection era you talk about ‘Public relations expanded’. What do you mean with that?
‘Expanding public relations’ is about getting closer to all your stakeholder, it’s about the opportunity to take your relationships to a deeper level. As in the past a customer care could solve any problem with a direct contact with the customer, nowadays it could happen the same with social media. Any company should have a customer care team that can jump into social media where customers are commenting negatively for some reason and then move the conversation from the public area to the private one, giving help and solution to solve the problem. And, if you work driving the conversation toward the private side, the customer will come back on the social to write ‘thank you’, giving a positive effect on something that started as a negative review.
We can say that ‘Public relations expanded’ is something about moving toward a more intimate relationship with the customer and about knowing the customer, because we have data to do that. We know what people do, what they prefer, what they share, so we can give them a better experience.
If a customer care must be able to create some kind of public and private conversation with customers, which kind of people would you educate to communicate with customers on social media?
These people should be trained to say the right things and to be, if they are already not, rich of empathy, able to neutralize the angry feelings of a customer. The benefit of social media is that it is so ‘human’, and customers want to talk to the people behind the wall of a facebook page.
Do you think that digital education through the web is effective as the one in person?
I love teaching in the classroom and I feel a tremendous value when people is in the classroom. At the same time I can tell that when I taught at NYU I had blended classroom, where part of the students were in the classroom with me and another part was in another classroom connected online. Even in this online classroom I could see with video everything that happened there and, at the same time, with the new digital tools we were always connected together and the classroom became much less virtual, having great and deep connections each other. For example it was created a twitter community for any classroom. I can consider this a new way of learning.
You have talked about the future of communication. What do we to have to expect?
I think that the future of communication is about data, that means understanding what people need and how satisfy them. These data must be protected and used with transparency, and consumers should be educated to the sharing of their data with a big awareness about their use.
What is your next step in communication research?
I believe in reinvention. I started with books then I become a blogger and now I’m a podcaster hosting a show called Women Worldwide on the C-Suite Radio Network. With data intelligence at our fingertips and the ability to analyze trends, we’ll continue to monitor how people consume media so we can share news and information in the ways that they prefer.