Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 Ways PR Can Benefit From Being in the Social World

Social Media has can appear to be a one-size-fits-all solution for businesses or organizations – a way to fold sales, marketing, customer care and public relations into one do-it-all tool.

While there may be occasions where this is true it is clearly not in the best interests of the brand, business or organization to make Social Media THE answer.

Which brings me to thinking about Public Relations and how Social Media has taken the once one way talking-head-to-media-head conversation and made it more universal.

Here are Five Ways Social Media can help in the new Public Relations world:

1. Relationship building: By connecting with key influencers on Social Media PR professionals now have a chance to truly understand what it is those people care about. Knowing this they can then target their messages more effectively.

It can also help with your transparency and trust factors. In their informative book Tactical Transparency: How Leaders Can Leverage Social Media to Maximize Value and Build their Brand Shel Holtz and John C Havens and say: “The flood of Social Media has brought in an age of digital transparency that is putting the power to create or destroy a reputation into the hands of consumers.” They argue that being transparent and trustworthy upfront mitigates much of the danger lurking in Social Media for brands and businesses.

2. Message delivery: This seems obvious, but there are PR professionals who still see Social Media as a “fad.” But, really it is a highly efficient and effective way to engage important channels from the small media audience to the mass community you wish to be a part of.

David Meerman Scott in his excellent book The New Rules of Marketing & PR says the old PR meant trying to impress a few media types in hopes of having the media tell your story, but the new PR means tremendous opportunity to tell your own story directly to customers and the community.

3. Branding: This has always been about getting g the word out on what makes you, your brand or business different from anything else. How better to do it than directly to the customer/community?

But there is also another aspect of branding that too many PR professionals do not understand – SEO or search engine optimization. This is the ability to ensure that all messaging around what you are promoting contains the words and phrases you want to “own” and can assure your brand is top of the search engine rankings. In today’s world that usually means top of mind too.

4. Listening: Just paying attention to what is being said generally and what is being said in Social Media specifically about your brand, business or organization gives you insights previously unavailable to you without a lot of (expensive) research.

You can go low-tech and, for example, set up free Google Alerts notifications or you can go high-tech using services such as Techrigy and Radian 6. The important thing is to do it so that you can know what is being said and where, and also acknowledge your promoters and reach out to your detractors.

5. Crisis management: So all the relationship building and monitoring has still not avoided a crisis? Social Media can help. Brands and businesses can use their presences to offer an apology, offer reassurance, to be seen making amends, to apologize again and then to monitor the response.

In the new media reality the same consumers or community members who were outraged by the YouTube video or the shared blog post are unlikely to be reassured by the company or organization’s official statement as related on broadcast news or in a newspaper. What is far more likely is that they will learn of your timely and effective response through a shared tweet on Twitter or a link to a social bookmarking site.

What is true of all five ways Social Media can help Public Relations is that they take place where many, if not most of the people you want to reach already hang out. Isn’t it time for PR to fully embrace Social Media?

Some great bloggers on Social Media and PR:

Brian Solis has been a blogger on the subject – PR 2.0 for more than 10 years and co-wrote Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

Deirdre Breakendridge has co-written Putting the Public Back in Public Relations among several books on the topic and blogs at PR 2.0 Strategies

Shel Holtz is co-author of Tactical Transparency and has a blog called A Shel of My Former Self

Jason Falls has a burgeoning reputation as a Social Media thinker especially as it relates to PR. His blog is called Social Media Explorer