Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other day, I asked one of my clients how he felt about social media. He replied: “There are so many applications and programs out there, it gives me a never-ending headache. I don’t know what these things are, but everyone tells me that I should be using them.”
Understandable. The way we communicate is changing at a breakneck pace – seemingly in the “real time” of new applications. Everyday we learn about new tools, new programs, new recommended applications … and somehow we have to know what each one is, how to use it, which is best and where the value of each one lies. And as soon as we determine the nuts and bolts of a new tool and realize the value, along comes a new and improved version, and we’re back to square one.
I call this the crisis of communications. A communications overload can make people feel, well, overloaded, and often causes a complete shutdown. With so many different applications and programs to start and join conversations, send and receive news, and react and interact with firms and individuals, it sometimes seems easier to just keep quiet.
Consider the following to avoid shutting down and experiencing your own personal crisis of communications.
You’re in a quantity crisis if you want to use every social media platform available to communicate with the rest of the world. The problem is that using too many will cause your message to get diluted or completely lost. Do you have the time and resources to manage each application? Sure, you’ve joined the current discussion on Twitter, but you haven’t updated your blog since January. You’ve started a new Facebook fan page, but the “News” section of your website is out-of-date or completely bare. Choose a manageable number of avenues to communicate your message and give these your all. Streamline your process between them, like integrating Twitter updates with your LinkedIn profile, or uploading YouTube videos to share on a Facebook page.
You’re in a quality crisis if you either find yourself taking a complete absence from the communications world or you start sending mundane updates about your favorite breakfast cereal or the color of your dog’s new collar. Yes, the news is now delivered in “real” time, but the news itself must still be real. Delivering quality information that matters to your target audience is still essential, regardless of the applications or programs you are using. What you can do is adjust the message to the medium – for example, tighten it up for Twitter, and make it interactive for a Facebook page.
Have you said to yourself, “I don’t understand any of this, so I’m going to stick with what’s always worked and not change my ways”? Unfortunately, sending updates by “snail mail” isn’t the way to deliver breaking news, even if it has worked in the past. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask questions. Social networks make it easy to ask and answer inquiries – some without even needing to participate. Forums and community message boards are a great way to test the waters and get the answers you need before diving in. Know that you don’t have to be the expert in every application and new program to be a success in the Communications 2.0. Align yourself with people and professionals who understand your message, know your desired end result, and have the resources to help you. And if all else fails, you can always tweet “HELPPP!!!!”