“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express his revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”
– Timothy Leary, 1966

Let’s do a quick experiment. Scan your Twitter feed and Facebook news feed. How many “Five Ways To” or “The Top Five Tips On” or “Ten Keys To” lists do you see? Probably a lot.

With the advent of social media we’ve become knowledgeable in a lot of things and experts in nothing.

Is a “Top Five” list really going to make your public relations firm experts in Google analytics; will a “How To” guide suddenly spawn SEO experts among your staff? So many lists. So little time. Want real PR measurement? Talk to your clients.

Maybe it’s time for a new, public relations-related twist on Leary’s iconic “turn on, tune in, drop out” phrase. (Dropping LSD is optional, but it seemed to work for Steve Jobs.) Instead of turning on, tuning in and dropping out, how about we “log off, drop in and find out?”

We’ll call it “organic public relations.” Instead of your Klout score, what is your firm’s “OPR” rate? It’s the return of the traditional PR firm – with a twist.

We’re too consumed with trends in social media these days, oftentimes blindly obsessed with finding the secret path to Twitter nirvana (hence the proliferation of How To lists) instead of truly listening to our clients’ needs.

So try something: Log out of TweetDeck. Just for 30 minutes, or even an hour. You’ll be shocked at how less Log out of social mediacomplicated your workday becomes.

While you’re logged off, use the time constructively. Drop in with your clients. No, not by surfing their websites and reading their blogs. If you can, physically “drop in” at your client’s office. If you can’t, pick up the phone. A handshake or a phone greeting works wonders for building relationships.

Make the time. Do your pitching early. Get out of the office.

You want to know how so many tiny newspapers have survived in this anonymous black hole paved in social media gold? It’s the old saying (forgive the paraphrase), “We do the chicken dinner circuit well.” In other words: “We know our audience.”

Public relations professionals could take a cue from the survivability of the hometown newspaper and really get to know – and understand – the needs of their clients. Figure out what makes them click in the community, why they are so valuable to their clients. Doing so summarizes “finding out,” the last part of the organic public relations equation. Instead of guessing the latest keyword for SEO optimization (those tricky man-behind-the-curtain wizards at Google will just change the formula tomorrow anyway), hop in the car or pick up the phone. Why does a phone suddenly seem like an antique?

You really want to shock them? Write them a short letter. Or a thank you note. Do you remember how to write in cursive? Another lost art.

Understanding social media and the trickery behind search engine optimization is essential for success in public relations, no doubt. It’s a valuable and exciting communications platform, a brave new world with limitless possibilities. No argument there. And technology is a great thing. (This blog was written – not edited, mind you – on the notes app of an iPhone during a bout of insomnia).

Just try not to let it control you or dictate all your public relations strategies. Recognize it as an important piece of a comprehensive platform. Think outside the social media paradox and shake some hands.

Find the time to “log off, drop in and find out.” Your firm’s OPR rate will thank you.

The LSD is optional.