While blogger/PR types are just now fumbling around, trying to find a way to turn a buck on relationships without cheapening what they do, dating sites are wildly popular. Today they’re making money, either from subscriptions, or from advertising.

What, then, can public relations professionals learn from dating sites?

Clarity of Intent
Dating sites aren’t about starting “conversations”. Nor is the role of the middleman ambiguous. For all parties, it’s all about the end result. Members want a date. The dating site wants your subscription money (or ad revenues, depending on their business model). The selling proposition — both for the romantic parties and the dating site — is efficient and honest.

It’s about people, not numbers
There are no follower counts on dating sites. Authority derives entirely from the quality of a member’s character, and how well they express themselves.

Tell your story, or sit at home, alone
On a dating service, you can’t just list a screen name and expect someone to contact you. What are you about? Why should someone bother to say hello? You’re more than just a name. Show people who you are.

Only profiles with pictures need respond
You see this on dating sites all the time. People want to know who they’re really talking to — and nobody speaks to companies. They engage with real people. When you chat online with a company like Dell, you’re talking to someone like Richard. Put faces on your public-facing contacts, and don’t hide behind an agency name.

Profiles are opt-in
The sites are designed around pulling interest from individuals about individuals, not sending unwanted information into dozens of email accounts en masse.

Simplicity rules
All dating sites are basically the same. You choose a screen name, post a picture, and construct a profile. Then you browse the profiles of those who have done likewise. When you see someone interesting, you say hello — and maybe good things follow. Is your outreach this simple, or are you fencing your company with too-clever titles, features, and choices?

Repeat business depends on disclosure
Put some spin in your profile, and you might get a date. But if it’s not accurate, there won’t be a second. Transparency serves both parties.

Connection depends on real interest
Everyone participating understands that match making happens on the basis of mutual interest and develops over time.

I’d like to see PR professionals behave less like marketers and put more love in what they do. There are many ways to measure PR efforts and correlation to business value. Many more than their direct response colleagues can even grasp.

Now if only they can get back to understanding the simple principles that stand behind successful dating sites — emotional connection, story telling, simplicity, disclosure, transparency — they can bank on greater results with social networks. After all, they are in the relationship business, or so they say.

Source: Conversation Agent (by Valeri Maltoni)