There was a lot of learning going on at the PR News Digital Summit held yesterday (Oct 22) in New York (check out some of the gleanings on twitter at #prnsummit). It’s a great sign when it’s nearly 5 p.m. and 90% of attendees are still in the room (could be the champagne reception that shortly followed, but I like to think it’s more about the quality of the content and communicators’ quest to find the holy grail of digital PR. Some say the grail is “Community.” It goes like this: Build an online community and make sure it offers your stakeholders a safe place to communicate, connect and improve a slice or two of their life through like-minded people and possibly your products and services. PR and marketing departments spend countless hours and dollars building community online. So I was caught off-guard by a statement at the PR News Summit by Matthias Preschern, Vice President of Demand, Americas, IBM. He implored attendees to NOT build communities. It’s not necessary, he says, since there are so many pre-existing communities online — user groups, forums, networking sites and the like, that we, as communicators, can tap into. These existing communities are ripe with enthusiasts, your own customers and constituents who, if you listen, could lead to your next great launch, a rethinking of an issue, or improve an existing service. Spend more time listening in those communities and interacting, rather than in meetings discussing the next bell and whistle for the nascent community you’ve just created that isn’t getting quite the same traction. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel. It was a refreshing piece of advice from someone who works for a company founded back in 1896.
— Diane Schwartz