PR professionals might traditionally have been tasked with messaging, while social-media teams handled distribution and engagement, but this model of separation no longer works.
While the print industry is filled with tales of newsroom lay-offs, social media is thriving. Facebook has racked up more than 1.65 billion monthly active users - a community greater than the entire population of China. Instagram has more than 500 million active monthly users and Twitter 320 million.
Fuelled by smartphones, the social-media revolution takes place around the clock. Networks are always on and so are consumers. Forty per cent of Facebook users log in several times a day compared with 32 per cent of Instagram users and 22 per cent of Twitter users.
In the face of this constant connectivity and voracious user appetite, social media all too easily takes on the guise of the grim reaper for traditional PR activity. Some argue that social is sounding the death knell for PR, shaking its foundations and challenging practices at every turn. We see examples of this shift every day, as the unstoppable force of social media erodes PR processes on multiple fronts.
PR professionals look to maintain a consistent message rather than encourage a dialogue, advocating monologue in place of discussion. In contrast, social media thrives on community, and encouraging conversation in real time. There’s a lack of control, and a role to play, in managing perceptions following a live post, which many PR professionals find unsettling. The message takes on a life of its own as soon as the social floodgates are opened. Without a structure in place to manage the audience’s immediate response, PR pros could be left vulnerable.
As PR managers we build our audience carefully, one recipient and publication at a time. The luxury of precision means we can hand-pick outlets. If PR is the invitation-only front row, social media is the open-to-all school reunion. Messages are aimed at communities, rather than individuals. Social experts sniff out the channels and influencers that will find their message interesting and ultimately pass that message on to their friends, then wait with bated breath for it to spread like wildfire. Clearly there are PR benefits to be had and it pays to work with social counterparts to determine which approach fits a particular campaign best.
Back in February, Motorola turned not to a traditional public relations strategy to launch its latest smartphone, the Moto E, but to Instagram. The telecoms brand racked up an impressive 55,000-plus consumer engagements on day one alone. This was the right call, with the content creation possibilities of Instagram offering the perfect platform to showcase the Moto E. But remember, this decision wouldn’t have been possible without audience and message input from the PR team, so keep in mind the road runs both ways.
Motorola’s success demonstrates the important role social can play in channel selection. While PR channels are direct and often limited, social channels are built on networks, which tap into other networks and intersect with still more.
Self-styled rock-star swimmer Ryan Lochte felt the aftershocks of just how extensive social-channel reach can be when the story of gunpoint robbery during the Olympic Games in Rio went viral. International scandal, arrest warrants and lost sponsorship agreements quickly followed, a domino effect sparked by a single tweet from Fox Sports reporter Ben Way. Lochte’s PR team was forced onto the defensive, issuing apologies and arranging interviews to take back control of the narrative.
Whether it’s a time of crisis or not, PR and social teams need to connect and adapt to deliver impactful campaigns and message consistency. The best way to do this is for PR teams to actively use social tools themselves, rather than rely on social teams to keep them in the loop.
So what’s the answer?
As PR pros, we need to adopt a social mindset and leverage the many opportunities platforms such as Facebook and Instagram offer. Up-to-date takes on a new meaning on social, with an abundance of data to monitor behaviour, track trending topics, stay abreast of sentiment and see what’s dominating public interest, headlines and conversations at any given minute.
For the new generation of PR pros, social media is a fast track to success. Of course, this success comes only if we can navigate the sheer volume of social content and pick out the information that will really inform our campaigns.
Generate media coverage:
Use social-media listening to find new influencers and develop relationships with them. Use these powerful new contacts to target messages on social platforms.
Stay ahead of the trending curve:
How often have we seen a hashtag featured on the news? Or logged into Twitter to see thousands of mentions for a particular term? Use social listening to find industry themes and emerging trending topics sooner for stronger thought-leadership positioning.
Better crisis management:
Keep tabs on negative brand sentiment by knowing exactly what’s being said and stop a potential crisis in its tracks before it takes root.
Know the minute your brand receives an organic brand mention anywhere in the world. Link these mentions and sentiments together to create more buzz with targeted PR in those countries.
Develop more integrated campaigns:
- Identify clear objectives and set a cohesive direction
- Ensure social activity is aligned with strategic objectives and other marketing activity
- Use trending topics to hold regular brainstorming sessions
- Use social media proactively, PR and social teams listening in synergy, to find influencers, identify brand advocates, understand audience brand sentiment and whether messages are resonating
Meltwater, global leaders in media intelligence offer an essential tool for PR professionals seeking closer integration with social media. Meltwater makes it easy to assign tasks to specific team members, thanks to unified inboxes and automated communication chains.
Use powerful social listening functionality to see what influencers are writing about right now, and identify where we can contribute to the conversation. Build and maintain meaningful relationships, whether we’re connecting on social or distributing releases to targeted influencer lists. With Meltwater we can also schedule posts and press releases for maximum impact, making it easy to reach out at the optimal moment.
PR professionals can’t afford not to be social-media experts. Request a consultation to find out how Meltwater can help you become one.
Heidi Myers is marketing director, EMEA at Meltwater