It seems to me that in new media we have more of a blurring of the lines and that communications, whether of the promotional or informative kind happens along a continuum.
Have you been on the receiving end of a press release or a pitch? Then you'll know how promotional some of those messages can get. The best ones are those that follow up because you didn't respond the first time.
Balance is not simple, and it's situational. That's probably one of the reasons why platforms like Twitter are capturing attention. There are so many use cases of success you can look at. Except for when you dig a little deeper and see how fragmented they are. Marketers want to sell, communities want to tell. Can the two meet in the middle? What is the role of PR in all this?
Jason Falls tackled the balance of promoting and sharing recently at Social Media Explorer:
An independent consultant can be somewhat self-promotional and it is expected and understood since it’s his or her livelihood. There might be less tolerance for the CEO of a company to throw around the same types of drivers in conversations.
In his post he provides tips on asking, telling, and answering. It's a fact that before you can ask and answer, you need to build a community big enough to have a conversations, so you might be doing a lot of telling and sharing what you know. Does talking to yourself feel uncomfortable? It does to me. Brands may be used to it, but I believe that we're moving past that phase and into a more interesting one.
I'm thinking that the premise might be what throws us off. The whole social aspect of media where users are in control, which changes by degrees of acceptance depending on the medium. As an example, many accept to add and be added on streams easily for Twitter, but may have other criteria for Facebook friending and LinkedIn connections.
The lines between personal and professional have been forced to blend for several years and we might be seeing a backlash of that in people pushing back on promotions within networks and circles they perceive to be their personal space.
Many organizations will have a very controlled approach to all of this, preferring to deal with mature PR grounds like mainstream media even as new media. Message consistency may be one of the reasons why. The other is the fact that what is accepted one day, may be rejected the next in a new community and there is a need to handle with care.
Can PR in the form of thought leadership help?
By promoting not the company, but the key issues, values and the work that support providing a product or service and empowering the people it serves with real value. Umair Haque writes about economic value - which is at stake for business and communities alike in different ways.
Haque writes about thin and thick value. Is the difference what will bridge the distance between business and communities?
I prefer to look at it in terms of outcomes. In that case, it's worth participating to find that community that benefits from the outcome brought by having a conversation with a particular business. Even permission is conditional and value depends on context. I've been thinking about the question more than formulating answers.
The meaning of the transitive verb promote is also to contribute to the growth or prosperity of (Merriam-Webster). Is it a matter of changing the focus from the entity or person doing the promoting to the person who is or may be in the room?
What are your thoughts? What have you seen working - or perhaps worked with you - and why? PR2.0 is not simply the same old PR through new tools, is it? Will diplomacy, the ability to negotiate a conversation with a community be more in demand?
[example of promoting by sharing with design]