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Five ways Quora will impact PRs in 2011

If you’re a switched on PR pro, there’s a good chance you have come back to work this week to be greeted by a barrage of web and twitter chat about Quora. For the uninitiated, Quora is an open, crowdsourcing question-and-answer site where people submit questions or respond on a variety of topics. Although the site has only been going for a few months, it’s only really taken off over the Xmas period judging by the numbers of new sign-ups and reviews it’s getting.

Personally, I’m still undecided as to whether it will be the next best thing since sliced bread or will crash and burn in a few months but from the sheer weight of new people signing up, there must be something about it. As with Twitter (which it kind of feels like) it’s the tech PR and media folks who are the early adopters. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a stab at what such a site could do for PR/journo relations and online reputation.

  1. Even more transparency. With more brands integrating real-time updates via Twitter and Facebook into their communication with their audiences, it seems that Quora will take this a step further as interested parties can now ask more in-depth questions about an organisation’s business practices. If you’re a PR, it means you’ll need to understand to a fairly good degree how your client makes money.
  2. Another channel for PR pros to monitor. If you thought monitoring Facebook and Twitter for a brand is hard going, you won’t be pleased because you’ll soon have to add Quora into that mix. Judging by the number of analysts and journalists signing up, it won’t be long before many will start asking tough questions about a brand or a company. PR consultants trying to protect their clients’ reputations will have to find a way of responding to these within an open forum and without the 140 character limit of Twitter. Those brands with a history of blogging and community relations will probably fare better but overall it will force many to be more transparent (see my first point).
  3. Galvanise the fanboys. It’s bad enough on Twitter when the fans of a product  (*cough*, Apple) think it is being slightly criticised. Think about if they were really able to go to town on anyone who was perceived to attack a brand with a leading question. Joking aside, companies will be able to call on their advocates to answer questions and show case studies of work.
  4. Lead to harmony? Unfortunately, I don’t think it will spell an end to the fractious relationship between journalists and PR practitioners. In the beginning, I’m sure the forward-thinking PR people will pitch stories, products or spokespeople to journalists but if (and it’s a big if) Quora becomes mainstream, it’s only a matter of time before we see rants about being spammed on the site.
  5. The dreaded ROI. Yep there’s no getting away from it. Will engaging in a Quora community bring a client any revenue? Or is it just waste of time pandering to an impossible-to-please online mob? Just as with Twitter and Facebook before it, proving the value of spending any time on Quora to clients is something PRs will have to get to grips with.

Only time will tell whether Quora will be a lasting fixture or is the latest passing fad on the social media scene. However, like Facebook and Twitter before it, it will stand on how its early adopters perceive its usefulness, entertainment value or ability to help them cope with life’s challenges and chores.

Anyone got any other thoughts on Quora to share? Please drop a comment below

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