Disclosure: DreamForce is a SHIFT client.
The big idea at this year’s DreamForce event is that behind everything is a customer. Behind every mobile device is a customer. Behind every online transaction is a customer. Behind every physical object that is connected to the Internet is a customer. While much of the event has focused on the technologies that Salesforce.com is implementing to help companies interact with their customers in more efficient, more personal ways, it is important to keep in mind that these lessons apply to marketing and public relations in general.
As public relations professionals, we often forget about the public. We focus on reporters, journalists, bloggers, the people that we regard as influential. We focus less on the end-user, the end reader, the person who is going to make a recommendation that is just as powerful, but perhaps not to as broad an audience. We try to be too clever, creating content and stories for the media rather than the media’s audience.
That’s one of the reasons why I love the message of this year’s DreamForce, that behind everything we do is a customer. In the case of our work in public relations, behind everything we do is our customer’s customer. When it comes to things like content creation, if we focus on the things that will make the everyday person happier, more informed, more educated, more entertainment, then perhaps we will have to worry less about how effectively we are pitching influencers because everyone will be more likely to share the content that we are creating.
The reality, if we want to be successful as public relations professionals, is that we must embrace a world in which there are not just a thousand or even tens of thousands of media professionals, but millions upon millions of them. As our CEO Todd Defren often says, the woman in front of you at the local coffee shop may have a greater audience than the editor you’re trying to pitch.
The Internet of Things is creating more and more ways for us to interact with our customers and their customers. Every media channel is fragmenting, in some cases beyond recognition of what is familiar. If we want to be successful as PR professionals, we must understand the technologies that are available to us and to our clients. Look at the incredible ways that the Smithsonian Institute is reaching out to its customers with new kinds of media, allowing visitors to replicate priceless museum pieces of art with 3D printers.
That’s what is so incredible about this year’s DreamForce – not that it is a incredible networking event (though it is), not that hundreds of thousands of people are here (though they are). It is a chance to look at all the different ways we will be able to communicate today and in the months and years to come. If we are smart, we will get on board and start testing these new methods as soon as we can, because the one thing we cannot afford in PR is to be worse at communicating than the people we are trying to reach.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
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