How to Use “Social Reading” for PR Success

by PR Coach on July 10, 2012

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s “social reading”

It’s a book, it’s a tablet, no, it’s online. Actually, social reading is all three.

So what is social reading and how does it affect public relations?

Clay Shirky defines it well in his excellent post How Will We Read?:

“Social reading, the way I’ve always interpreted the phrase, is reading that recognizes that you’re not just a consumer, you’re a user. You’re going to do something with this, and that something is going to involve a group of other people. Read a book. The very next thing you’re going to do, if it was at all interesting, is talk to someone about it. Book groups and discussion lists are social reading. Because so much of our media in the 20th century was delivered in real-time, with very little subsequent ability to share, save, shift, store, we separated the consumption from the reproduction and use of media. We don’t actually think of ourselves as users of media, when in fact we are.”

This really got me thinking. Always a dangerous thing!

We may not have realized it but social reading is here to stay. Just like social TV with its more-than-one-screen and sharing what we watch. Often while we’re watching TV.

I wrote recently about social TVIs PR on the same channel with Social TV? - and what it means to PR.

Think about the implications of social reading to PR. They’re illustrated by PR 2.0 and the process of putting this blog post together.

In the past, I may never have read or known about Clay Shirky. Social media have changed that and now I can find many experts and diverse opinion.

So, I read Clay Shirky’s post. I liked it enough to save it. It inspired me to “curate” it – that is, to write about it and, hopefully, add value to it. Now, I’m sharing it.  That’s social reading.

While I read his post on my tablet, my post may also be read on smartphones, other tablets, desktop computers, an X-Box or other devices including a TV.

Technology today lets me publish it without any intervention by publishers, editors, printers, distributors, retailers of the disappearing media or publishing “machines.”

That’s social! It’s what has been behind many changes to our public-relations profession. These profound changes have taken place in just five or six years or less.

What’s the impact of social reading on public relations?

Here are just a few ideas why social reading (and social TV and social media) impact PR and how we can respond:

  • Social is tactical: We need to assert ourselves and remind our organizations: Strategy comes first, Social comes next.
  • We’re all overwhelmed: Too much information. Too many sources to monitor. Not enough time to filter and distill data and bytes into intelligence. Bring on the PR curators. We’re good at analysis.
  • Publishing is both too hard and too easy: Hard because there’s a technology curve to publishing and social media. Fortunately, PR has already passed it. Publishing is also very easy. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should publish. Cue PR as editors and gatekeepers for higher quality.

Impact on PR We have a whole new set of questions to ask as PR and social PR leaders including:

  • Is our communication (or program or material) good enough? Our job is to set the quality bar high enough. We are advocates for quality information and communications.
  • is it shareable? Like a social media release, shareability will mean success.
  • Is it entertaining? Storytelling is a brand-new, hot property in public relations. Reach out. Tell stories. But tell them well.
  • Is it new or is it news? News will win every time. Especially if it’s “new.”
  • Will readers or the audience care? If not, have the guts to say so and take a better social PR approach.

In the “old days” (just a few years ago), we didn’t have to be concerned about “sociability.” We simply had to make sure we had “news” or something of interest for a single stakeholder, audience or editor.

The new challenge and the new reality is that we can use any and all the social media channels to meet our goals. But, the content must be excellent to break through the noise.

As Shirky says, the secret to social reading is to ensure your readers will “share, save, shift, store” it. Keep that in mind when you’re developing strategies and programs. If you create this social type of communication, you’re sure to have success and maybe even a viral hit on your hands.

I’m excited about applying social reading to public relations and communication programs. It’s a perfect complement to social TV and social media. If you have these social skills, you’re suddenly in demand as a communicator or PR pro. And, like Superman or Wonder Woman, your impact and results will let you leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

What’s your take on social reading? Is it part of your PR thinking and strategies? Has social public relations taken over completely from traditional PR? Your comments are welcome below.

Looking for other social PR ideas? Check our PR Library, more than 7,500 links to articles, tips and resources including our newest topics content marketing, Pinterest and Social PR. Get regular tips by subscribing and staying social with our weekly blog too.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Photo credit: Madolan Jooleeah_Stahkey via Flickr 

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