Bill Wagner: Peter Shankman Stole My Car
Guest Post by Bill Wagner, Vocus EVP and Chief Operating Officer
OK, Peter Shankman didn’t actually steal my car—but he did take the keys. I wasn’t overly concerned. After all, what does a city boy like Peter know about driving? I figured he’d stall the car a few times and he’d hand me back the keys. Instead, Peter put the top down, accelerated to 80mph on the Beltway and began weaving in and out of traffic as I held on. Crikey!
Anyone who knows Peter knows that you can never be sure what to expect when he’s around, and that’s (usually) a good thing. I always learn something when I spend time with him and today was no exception.
Over some great charbroiled chicken near our new office in Beltsville, MD, Peter and I were discussing the evolution of public relations, marketing and social media. We discussed how the distinctions between the disciplines are disappearing as the way that “news” is shared changes.
Peter then went on a rant about the role sewing circles played in sharing news, spreading rumors and recommending products. In the pre-mass media “village”, these and other social circles created the fabric (sorry) that held the community together and provided word-of-mouth advertising to local businesses. According to Peter, all this was substantially lost with the evolution of our society in the second half of the last century—blame it on television, two income families, increasingly transient nature of the suburbs—whatever.
By now, I had finished my chicken and was thoroughly engaged in where Peter was going: Social media, riding on top of the Internet, is allowing us to act as a village on a global scale. Once again, people in social networks are discussing news and recommending products or companies they like. It is with these conversations that companies have to engage, building credibility through the media, sharing relevant news and increasing the visibility of their products and services in the context of the conversation.
I like the analogy of recreating the sewing circle and thought it had one other lesson for us: If you attended the circle, you could participate in the conversation and had an opportunity to shape what people thought of you. If you skipped that week and didn’t participate in the conversation, you could be sure they were still talking about you, but perhaps not saying things that were as flattering. The lesson for marketers everywhere, find the sewing circles for your industry and start participating—they are talking about you right now.
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