If Social Engagement Is Just for PR, You’re Doing It Wrong


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Like everyone and his brother, I’m currently plowing through Walter Isaacson’s terrific biography of Steve Jobs. Too many blogs have been written about Jobs already, but most of those have focused on the “value of vision,” and a sort of genius-CEO worship. Interesting, but in the end, not all that instructive.

Jobs was a (regularly unpleasant) powerhouse of imagination and tyrannical motivation, but what he really got that made him stand out was something different and rather shocking for a man of his prickliness: a deep understanding of and feel for community.

When Jobs was running Pixar (having been, to my mind, quite understandably tossed from Apple) he became characteristically obsessed with the new building he wanted for his movie studio. And the design he shaped is a terrific architectural metaphor for why Jobs’ Apple succeeded where so many other companies have fallen short.

The traditional studio campus (like many businesses) is highly segmented, reflecting departmental boundaries, and probably long-standing grudges. Jobs’ Pixar building, on the other hand, was obsessively designed around a central atrium, forcing employees to walk through common space even to get to the bathroom. It sounds insane, but the results were terrific — the atrium created interaction, facilitated company cohesion, and let great ideas leap right over territorial lines. The building was designed to be the setting of brilliant ideas, routing daily habits through a space for social interaction. It was built with an architecture of interactive user experience.

For a lot of companies, “engagement” is something of an add-on, a “hey, have the intern set up a Twitter account while he’s at it.” But even the most professionally managed and interactive social sphere is really missing something if the care for how people tick is only skin deep.

For Jobs, it seemed to have skipped his skin, and gone for the fascia instead — he was, after all, a narcissistic control freak, legendary for his explosive temper and “reality distortion field,” and far more sensitive to the group than to the individual in front of him. But while his competitors sold personal (or impersonal) devices, Jobs built a company on and sold the same experience that makes social media itself so popular: interconnectedness.

It wasn’t a PR strategy; it was the subject for PR. Interconnectedness was the product, the culture, the driving vision of the company. The communications genii didn’t create Apple’s image; they expressed it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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