Sunday, June 12, 2011

What are essential social media skills for PR?

Update Aug. 4: Since this original post the number of PR professionals who have taken the survey has risen to more than 100. Among the results the percentages have remained remarkably the same. - Mike Johansson

Twitter or Facebook? Blogs or Wikis? Search Engine Optimization or social media presence management?
What should graduating students interested in public relations careers know about social media tools and how and when to use them?
That was the question I posed via a three-question Survey Monkey survey recently as I started prepping for a new class called Social Media for PR that I’ll teach in the Winter Quarter at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
More than 60 public relations professionals responded to my admittedly un-scientific survey and the results were sometimes intuitive, sometimes surprising and always insightful. Here’s what I learned:

How important is it that PR students understand the various social media tools?
The results (with the percentage of respondents giving each tool a “10” on a 10-point scale) were:
• Twitter – 63 percent
• Facebook – 55 percent
• Blogs – 52 percent
• Social presence management tools (such as Tweetdeck) – 50 percent
• Linkedin – 50 percent
• YouTube – 41 percent
• Wikis – 23 percent
• Flickr – 14 percent
• Social bookmarking – 12 percent
• Geo-location services (such as Foursquare) – 9 percent
• Social gaming – 4 percent

Which tools and techniques MUST students completely understand how to use for PR purposes? Participants were asked rank-order the list: For example, only one tool or technique could be a “10” and only one could be a “9.”
The results (with the percentage of respondents giving each tool a “10” on a 10-point scale) were:
• SEO (search engine optimization) – 33 percent
• Twitter – 19 percent
• Facebook – 18 percent
• Blogs – 12 percent
The results (with the percentage of respondents giving each tool a “9” on a 10-point scale) were:
• Twitter – 23 percent
• Blogs – 22 percent
• SEO – 21 percent
• Facebook – 18 percent
The results (with the percentage of respondents giving each tool an “8” on a 10-point scale) were:
• Linkedin – 26 percent
• Facebook – 24 percent
• Blogs – 20 percent
• Twitter – 15 percent
The high ranking of SEO, frankly, surprised me, while the consistency with which Twitter, Facebook and blogs were given an 8, 9 or a 10 makes it clear they are the big three for now in PR.

How important is it that PR students understand how to use social media for the various public relations functions?
The results (with the percentage of respondents giving each tool a “10” on a 10-point scale) were:
• Crisis management – 63 percent
• Media relations – 60 percent
• Community relations – 57 percent
• Campaign management – 52 percent
• Employee relations – 32 percent
• B2B relations – 31 percent
• Investor relations – 19 percent
• Government relations – 13 percent
All of which tells me a couple of things:
First, social media tools are seen as an effective part of the PR toolkit for the top four on this list and less so for the bottom four.
Second, there may be tremendous potential for developing techniques for better using social media tools in the bottom four categories. Based on some of the comments at the end of the survey this is a chicken-and-egg situation where PR pros are unsure how involved in social media these four groups may be and therefore have not given a lot of thought to how to use them here.

Overall, the responses are tremendously valuable as I develop the course and I’m extremely grateful to the PR pros who took the time to complete the survey.
I’m also impressed that in a very short time (two years or less by my estimation) PR practitioners have gone from casting a wary eye at social media tools and tactics to embracing them as a way to connect with and inform publics everywhere.

Possibly related post
PR crisis management in the ‘Twitter Age’

11 comments:

  1. How would Google+ potentially factor in once company profiles are allowed on the website?

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  2. The Google+ question is a good one and a slight unknown at this point. I too am looking forward to how it might more closely tie PR professionals and some of their desired publics.

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  5. Thanks for posting the results of your survey, very interesting stuff. I work for a PR company in Massachusetts, and I definitely agree with your thoughts on social media.

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