Why It’s Not ‘OK’ to Not Understand Pinterest

Pinterest Logo - why it's not ok for PR and marketing pros not to get new platforms.The headline of Julia Hood’s Feb. 16 column in PRWeek, “Don’t get Pinterest yet? It’s OK,” caused me to twinge slightly as soon as I read it. Not because I’m some social media snob who thinks that every PR pro must be an expert on every social network and emerging technology. Rather because it strikes me as odd that an editor at a publication that is supposed to champion the value and work of the PR industry would seemingly be communicating to the business community that it’s perfectly fine for PR pros not to “get” a social platform that is very much starting to impact clients.

Before I dive in, let me add some more context to Hood’s column. She writes, rather humbly, that she first learned of Pinterest from a conversation with Dade Hayes, an SVP at Rubenstein Communications after PRWeek launched its Tumblr a few weeks back. That conversation got her researching Pinterest where she learned what many PR pros already know: Pinterest is for real. It’s not going anywhere soon. And we better get to understanding it — fast — as our clients and employers will surely be keen to know its benefits to their business.

Hood goes on to say that in the digital age, PR pros feel “extraordinary pressure to stay on top of the new, so that we can deliver the best solutions to our companies and clients.” I certainly agree.

While I can appreciate her point of view that it’s sometimes best to see how new technologies and comms tactics play out (certainly true in the digital age), I’m not sure it’s best for the PR industry to tell the business community that it’s “OK” if we don’t get Pinterest yet (or other emerging social networks). After all, it is very often PR professionals and agencies that companies turn to for guidance on how to effectively use emerging social networks and technologies. Do we really want to start saying to them, “Well, it’s OK that you don’t understand it yet because neither do we.”

Ultimately, PR pros don’t need to be experts on every emerging technology and platform. Very few are.

But we do need to be aware of the technology that will impact our clients’ businesses, and we absolutely should serve as a guide for them for what lies ahead in the consumer and B-to-B comms and reputation management space. That is our job as PR pros and as counselors to their business.

So no, it is not “OK” to not “get” Pinterest yet. That ship has sailed. It is now our job to help our clients get its value if, indeed, it will serve some use to their business. What is OK, though, is to have a healthy perspective on when it is best to devote time and resources to learning about a new technology versus when it is best to hold back and fully assess the market. In that regard, Hood’s final point is spot on:

“There are benefits to seeing things play out — and seeing the mistakes that others make by jumping into waters they don’t fully understand.”

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  • Thanks, Keith. I needed someone to put this one into perspective for me, and you did. I often have the panicky feeling that I have to be proficient in each and every shiny new object that emerges…have to accept that, while that’s not necessarily impossible, it’s also not mandatory. Thank heavens for “PR Breakfast Club” (and my sixth cup of coffee!) for setting my mind at ease!

    • Exactly, Kirk, and thanks for chiming in. I’ve always worked by the belief that while I don’t need to be an expert on everything, I need to know as much as I can (or know people I can turn to who know what I don’t know). Otherwise, why would a client hire us? If we’re not going to at least take the time to understand what is new and what may benefit (or harm) our clients, then we shouldn’t expect them to hire us for our counsel. 

  • Great post, Keith! I
    completely agree that while we do not need to master each  technology, we
    do need to have a working knowledge of technologies that will help each
    specific client. With the countless articles and resources available about
    Pinterest, I hope your post will encourage PR pros to take a little time this
    week to learn more about the platform (if they haven’t already). A few weeks
    back I wrote a post with five tips for  brands considering Pinterest –
    it’s a quick overview for those interested in learning more: http://www.cookerlypr.com/2012/02/what%E2%80%99s-the-interest-in-pinterest-part-2-let%E2%80%99s-talk-business-2.html

  • ahannan

    Well said…you can’t catch a ship by sitting on the dock. Once you have done your due diligence on a social network , including the analytics , resources needed, and its value to your business objectives, its time to jump on board and take in the sights.

    • Glad you liked the post. It sort of sums up my belief about the value of social media vis-a-vis PR pros’ work: we need to educate ourselves about as much as we can but we don’t necessarily need to be experts on everything or use every platform out there. Ultimately, though, clients look to us as their guide for what is the best way for them to communicate with their stakeholders now and what will be the best way for them to do so in the future. That requires us to be up to speed on many things — new publications, new theories, etc. — but most especially in the digital age, to be competent with the basics of new technologies and social platforms. 

  • This was a great post, Keith! I found out about Pinterest a few months ago and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. Now, with articles coming out every week about how Pinterest is changing PR, jouranlism and marketing, it can’t be escaped. I completely agree about not being masters at it, but knowing enough to jump in when the time’s right for your client. When that time comes, your client is going to look you to know what to do and you have to be ready to show them, “Hey, this is what it is and this is how we can use it.” More than likely, your client is going to want to do everything, so that’s where being prepared comes into play. You have to do your homework.

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