As a PR pro and someone who views social media as a communication tool that has tremendous marketing communications power that will persuade, influence and/or change public perception and image, I believe social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. So yes, I believe it is here to stay.
Earlier this week I discovered that Facebook was giving third party advertisers approval to use their members’ photos. As a public relations professional, this concerned me greatly. Why? Just like the brands, services and people we represent, PR professionals are in the public domain as well. PR pros not only work hard to develop an image, protect an image, and sometimes defend an image in that of their clients, but they also have to do the same for themselves because they too are in the public domain. It can take a lifetime to build an image and unfortunately only seconds to destroy it. And an image, either on photograph paper, or in a mind, can be worth 1,000 words. Essentially, PR pros are thier own clients.
My initial post on Facebook sparked much [microblogging] conversation. Anyone could have chimed in on my little post out of my 700+ Facebook friends. But it was strictly my PR friends who did. And I found that interesting…
Here is what I posted:
“Be very careful of ur Facebook photos, especially if ur a PR pro or media relations pro in the public domain. Its spreading all over the PR community that Facebook has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures WITHOUT permission.” I then went on to give directions in how to make photos private. I continued by saying, “If ur a PR professional definitely do this to protect yourself. U don’t want any of your photos coming up on Goggle Images on elsewhere for that matter. It’s bad enough some of us PR people have headshot photos in there. Def pass this on.”
27 posts from PR friends & colleagues were made. From left coast to east coast, many chimed in. While one or two had differing opinions, and some agreed with one another, several things came from that post such as:
- PR pros have an important job.
- PR pros are in fact in the public domain (often smattered all over the place!).
- PR pros need to be careful of what they do, how they do it, and what and how they say it (when referring to themselves).
- PR pros need to make smart choices for themselves just like they do for thier clients.
- PR pros need to monitor themselves in all public spaces just like they media monitor for clients.
- PR pros need to live their lives the way they’d normally live it, just doing what they feel is best and acting accordingly.
I write about this because in today’s world when friends, family or even co-workers are posting photos in social networking places like Facebook or many of the other networks because the photos have the potential of being “grabbed” rather quickly by someone and then can appear anywhere in the cyperworld… like Google Images where they live on in the public domain forever.
I’ve come to realize that it’s best to get someone’s approval before posting a photo or video of them. However, the likelihood of getting approval each and every time is next to none. This is why Ive closed off the majority of my photos. I used to have hundreds of them posted… but not anymore.
So my word of advice to my fellow PR pros – those who work in the public domain and are all over the place - do not get in photos where you know the photos may be posted. If someone takes a photo of you and you don’t want it posted to a social network, kindly and politely request that it not be posted. If a photo that you don’t care for does end up residing on a social network somewhere, politely request that it be removed. One should respect and honor your request and not post it or remove it if asked. No further questions asked. No hard time given. Period.
What this microblogging conversation on Facebook also reminded me of is that the job of a public relations professional is still greatly [and sadly] misunderstood by those outside our industry. I’m not sure our profession will ever fully be understand. At least not in this lifetime anyway.
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