When I was asked to do a social media breakfast briefing for the CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire group (of which I am a member of the committee) again this year, I wanted to come up with a topic which helped fellow PR and comms professionals understand our unique role in the digital age.
The session I did last year was on how we can help clients and colleagues embrace social media by developing policies and guidelines but this year I wanted to look at how things had moved on in terms of online personal branding of individual experts and how empowering training, coaching, content and guidelines can be used to help them embrace social media for themselves.

This is all part of my belief that PR/comms tends to be seen as a ‘doing’ rather than a ‘facilitating’ function within organisations unlike Finance or HR, which restricts us in being able to have influence at board level. Social media, however, gives us the opportunity to work directly with senior management to get buy in and involvement from right at the top, coaching them in communications skills so that they integrated througout the organisation. It is also part of my belief in what Brian Solis said in his social web ‘bible’ Engage: “social media is about sociology and psychology, not technology.” It is a relationship/influence tool, rather than a sales/advertising tool and therefore sits very much within the domain of communications as opposed to our friends in marketing.

And it is a focus on outcomes over outputs which led me to think about influence and on to ‘expert power’. Businessdictionary.com defines ‘expert power’ as: “the ability to influence other parties based on knowledge and expertise”. We as PR and comms people have always been responsible for helping our clients and colleagues doing just that: We now just have to adapt ourselves to the digital age and look at how we can help them blog, tweet and connect their way to influence as experts within their specialist field.
There are both challenges and opportunities but we must overcome and embrace them all if our clients and colleagues are going to be recognised as leaders in their sectors.

Take a look through my presentation slides (which use Blacks Solicitors and Armstrong Watson as case studies of companies who really understand what #expertpower means in the digital age) and let me know what you think!