The headline of Julia Hood's Feb. 16 column in PRWeek, "Don't get Pinterest yet? It's OK
," caused me to twinge slightly. 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 that it's perfectly fine for PR pros not to "get" a social platform that's 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 news, so that we can deliver the best solutions to our companies and clients." I certainly agree.
While I appreciate her point of view that it's sometimes best to see how new technologies and communications 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, companies often turn to PR professionals and agencies for guidance on how to effectively use emerging social networks and technologies. Do we really want to say 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 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."
Keith Trivitt is the associate director of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America. A version of this post first appeared on PRbreakfastclub.com.