As publicists, it's our job to share our clients' messages and meet their target audiences where they consume information both online and off. The media landscape continues to change at an alarming pace, and today's consumers receive information through many channels. Information is more than “on-demand” - it's a moving target. Messages are constantly being shaped and transformed as consumers search for, share, like, criticize, and rework them.
The lines continue to blur between paid, earned, and owned content. As a result, we have to expand and continue to hone our craft. As public relations and communications specialists, we understand the power of listening, relationship building, and influence better than anyone. Understanding all of this, it has become apparent that we must embrace social media and some of the more advanced tools that are available to us.
When using social media to listen to and engage your audience, amplify your message, or build loyalty, it's important to always start with a strategy based upon:
- Goals –What are you trying to accomplish using social media? What do you expect to get out of it?
- Audience – Who are trying to reach and which tools will reach them most effectively?
- Rules of engagement - How are people using the platforms you're going to speak through? Will they welcome the type of information you'll be sharing?
- Alignment and coordination – It's crucial that your PR social efforts, messaging, and other communication activities are aligned with your brand's day-to-day social media efforts.
- Measurement – Set benchmarks that reflect your goals. If you can't measure the results, it's difficult to see how effective your efforts were.
In addition to proactively using social media to bolster our PR efforts, we must also consider that many of today's crises originate or escalate online. The rise of the citizen journalist means that everyone has an opportunity to attack a brand or personality. It is our responsibility to our clients to prepare for the worst. To mitigate an issue through social media, one must:
- Listen – Use social media monitoring tools to monitor your brand 24/7/365. If you find yourself in a crisis, evaluate what people are saying before you respond.
- Consider the source – Before you react or respond, consider the source, their reach, resonance, and relevance to your brand.
- Know when to say “mea culpa” – The mob mentality is alive and well online. Often times the best approach is to accept fault and be humble.
- Assign roles - Decide early on who should speak for your brand in case of a crisis and make sure that it's a well-respected figure in your organization. Let people know you are taking things seriously.
- Remember one's friends - Build relationships with influencers before an issue arises. You can leverage these contacts during and following a crisis.
Social media and technology will continue to evolve alongside our professional skillsets. As communications professionals, it is our responsibility to embrace and master any new skills to better connect the brands and clients we serve with their customers.AJ Gerritson is founding partner of 451 Marketing.