Friday, 16 September 2011

Welcome to our new PR community

Community.  Tara Hunt talks about the importance of community for building whuffie, or social capital.  Seth Godin says that tribes matter, Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover dedicate a chapter of their new book Wikibrands to a discussion about community development, describing communities as “vibrant pools of individuals who aggregate around interests, aspirations and hobbies”.

As PR practitioners, it is our job to identify these communities, interact with them, and, hopefully, build whuffie within them.  It may even be our job to build these communities ourselves.  

But what does community really mean?  How deeply does it matter?  I have my school community, work community, church community, tennis community, maybe even a social media community.  But I don’t think I ever appreciated the concept more than when I visited Kenya this summer with my son and a group of youth from our church.

Walking through Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, our guides pointed to a cluster of apartment buildings which bordered the seemingly endless rows of shacks. They noted that the government-built housing was intended to upgrade the living conditions of Kibera’s poorest residents.  Although many have migrated to the housing development, some actually returned to their shacks.  Why?   They cite their need for community.   One of our guides, a volunteer for the Caroliner group, explained that, for example, when someone doesn’t have enough money to cook their dinner, they’ll go to a neighbour’s shack and use their fire that night.  They have easy access to each other.  They help each other. They grow to rely on each other. 

My Kenyan experience showed me that simply believing that “if you build it, (they) will come” doesn’t necessarily work.  Real communities are founded on more resilient stuff.  I recognized that strong communities often emerge organically, and are joined by members with an authentic interest, and investment, in the group.  As a result, communities can be a powerful force.  Online communities are no different.

And that’s why so many leading social media thinkers, such as Hunt, Godin, Moffitt and Dover, are talking about them, and the businesses that are building brand communities that are accessible and helpful, and where members can rely on one another.

And, that’s why I’ll be sharing these thoughts in social media class this fall.  

Speaking of communities, a new community has just formed at Humber College  – the inaugural group of over 80 bachelor of PR students!  We anticipate that this group of aspiring PR practitioners, embarking on their four-year educational journey, will be joined by the extended Humber PR family that includes a couple of decades of grads and industry partners across the GTA and beyond. 

We hope this blog will be an organic place where authentic conversations take place about practicing PR but also about growing into PR practitioners.

Welcome to our new community.  Hope you'll join us.

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