Once upon a time, it was all about getting enough press and publicity—putting news, press releases and information “out there” for target audiences to read. Companies hired PR agencies to get them the print and broadcast coverage they wanted.
Enter social media—the biggest disruptor to traditional PR—in which the audience now takes an active role in a dialogue with a business. And what does this mean for brands? It means that the audience has just as much control over the message as you do—if not more, in some cases.
All of this means major changes in the way businesses look at their strategies—and it means a major paradigm shift for PR firms as well. Instead of talking “to” the public, businesses must talk “with” the public, in two-way communication that builds relationships and trust. And that is part of the beauty of social media—companies have the opportunity to build relationships that are genuine and long-lasting.
It’s all about content, and here are the strategies that good PR now requires
Here are a few statistics from a recent ING study, as reported in a LinkedIn post by Ehtesham Rahman:
- 81 percent of PR pros believe that social media is necessary for them to do their jobs.
- 24 percent of business marketers use Facebook; 80.95% us Twitter; 73.81% use LinkedIn
- 9 percent of corporate communication on social media is related to customer relations, and 57.14 percent related to the general public.
- Prioritization of message types are events, news and achievements, promotions, and activities related to social responsibility. About 57 percent stated they responded to complaints/criticisms.
The question becomes, of course, how companies go about designing PR strategies that are well-received and that build relationships with customers, both current and future. Here are some tips will make that happen:
You cannot be boring
Here’s the thing: every word, image, video, that you post on any social media channel is PR, no matter what it is. And if you want consumers of those posts to “stick” with you, then you have to get pretty creative. Whether it’s an announcement about a company event or new product; whether you are telling your brand story; whether you are providing an explanation of a “how to,” you must engage, often entertain, and even inspire your audience.
As Christopher K. Mercer, a public relations specialist and the founder of Citatior says, “Nothing gets published unless I am certain my audience will find it compelling. And to do that, my team has to come up with more than just topics for posts on our social media channels. They have to come up with amazing and intriguing headlines, compelling visuals, and the opportunity for followers to respond, comment, and, hopefully, share.”
Be comprehensive but concise
A short video (less than 90 seconds) can replace thousands of words. Use these on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Combined with a good headline, these will be more compelling than text. Check out the way Upworthy does this on Facebook; check out the YouTube explainer video from Dollar Shave Club; check out how Foundr Magazine uses Instagram. All of this is compelling content with visuals/videos, and it is all really PR.
James Daily, the Head of the content department at Flash Essay, puts it this way, “We spent a lot of time on social media with a lot of text. Big mistake. Now we use short video testimonials of our satisfied customers, and it is the best PR we can have.”
Be as newsworthy as possible
Customers’ want to know what you are doing, but they want it also to relate to what is going on in the world. What is your company doing to make life better for even a small part of the population? When you participate in charitable events; when you support a cause; all of these things are newsworthy.
When the water crisis hit Flint, Michigan in 2016, a number of companies stepped up to provide bottled water to the town’s residents—Coca-Cola, Nestle, Walmart, etc. And so did bottled water companies, like that owned by Mark Wahlberg and Sean Combs. This was great PR for everyone involved, and the public came to feel all warm and fuzzy over these companies for their actions.
Toms Shoes has a one-for-one donation program. For every pair purchased, one is donated to a needy kid. Publicizing this, as well as the numbers of shoes donated, has given Toms Shoes a special place in the hearts of many.
Respond, respond, respond
Social media is where your customers hang out a lot of the time. And they are pretty free-wheeling with their comments and feedback, especially when they are not happy. It is a PR disaster to have negative comments and reviews posted and sitting out there for the world to see. And there is no reason today for you to be unaware of what is being said about you on social media. Get a good social monitoring tool – one that will alert you anytime you are mentioned anywhere on social media. Monitor this daily.
Remember, PR is now much more than what you say. It is the dialogue that you have with consumers of your products or services. Your goal is to gain only positive comments and feedback. But when you get the negatives, your PR strategy must include responding and resolving. And when you do it right on the social media platform, you make that response public. This develops trust.
Amanda Sparks, an in-house marketer at Essay Supply, speaks from experience. “We spent a lot of time posting on several social media platforms, to get the word out about us and what we do. We were somehow oblivious to the fact that we had to listen too. Now that we are monitoring what others are saying about us, we can head off any negativity without it just sitting out there.”
The big takeaways
First and foremost, let’s repeat one overriding principle. In this age of social media, everything you create in the way of content is a form of PR. And consumers are as much in control of your PR as you are. This has changed the whole ball game.
“It is not enough for you to push out wonderful stories about yourself and what your company is doing. You have to engage your audience, listen to that audience, and respond to it,” emphasizes Veronica Wright, CEO at Resumescentre.com.
While social media PR is a lot of work, it is where PR is today, and you have to accept that. But consider this: it is also a great way to get back to the basic goal of PR—building relationships with your audience.