Guest post by Christine Perkett, named “PR Executive of the Year” by the American Business Award in 2008. President & Founder of PerkettPR, Christine speaks regularly on the crossroads of PR, marketing and social media and has been featured in numerous books and publications such as BusinessWeek’s Social Media Report 2009.
What Social Media Marketers Need to Know About Public Relations
With the rise of social media and its use for marketing purposes (some of which haven’t gone so well and others which are really fantastic), there has been increasing demand for a class of professionals who dedicate themselves to communicating brand values through these unique new channels. Traditionally, PR professionals have used a variety of communications methods to reach the public, and the good ones see social media as a wonderful new tool in the PR or marketer’s overall arsenal. This overlap of domain expertise can lead to more success if the two functions understand each other and work together, or it can lead to frustration and friction if relations are allowed to become a turf battle over who owns what.
Understanding and coordinating with PR is a sure way to make sure your client engagements run smoother and produce the best results. PR is about communication and engaging a variety of public audiences and therefore, social media marketers that understand the need for creating messages that resonate with each of those audiences will gain the benefit of this expertise and make sure social media-based conversations feed into and enhance the brand’s overall value.
To learn some basics on PR, read this great article from AdAge. To get a bit more specific on how it relates to social media marketing, here are my thoughts:
1. The difference between social media and PR
Social media is a method of communication. Public relations is focused on reputation awareness and management – the practice of communicating with and influencing a variety of publics that matter to a company or an individual. Social media is one of the tools used to establish, raise and maintain such awareness.
2. Why thoughtful positioning and messaging matter
Social media marketers need to understand the messages that a PR or marketing department want to share with a company’s publics and why. Yes, social media is about transparency and authenticity – – so is good public relations. Dishonesty is bad, regardless of the channel. But “spin” doesn’t always have to mean dishonesty – “spin” is a word largely used by those that don’t understand the value of “positioning.” Everyone positions in one way or another. When you write your social media bio you are positioning. When you pitch a customer you are positioning. Positioning is about wisely choosing the way you communicate when attention is at a premium. Does that sound familiar?
PR executives help companies and individuals to position or deliver messages in a favorable way – one that can, and should be, open and transparent as well. Despite some bad apples, PR teams are not in the business of hiding things. But they are in the business of positioning communications in such a way that is memorable. Social media marketers need to respect the public relations team and their expertise here – taking the time to understand the messages that the PR and marketing team have determined will work best to reach each of a company’s publics – and incorporate these messages into their social media marketing campaigns. Haphazard messages – in the spirit of being “social” – that aren’t well-coordinated will defeat the marketer’s purpose – consistent, persistent messages help publics to remember and recall a brand/individual/company better. Whether the messages are delivered in a social media community or in a written press release, they need to be thoughtful and consistent.
3. PR is much more than media relations
This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about PR. I’ve heard more than one “social media expert” tell companies that they can also do the marketing and PR because “they know bloggers.” While blogger and media relationships are an important element to the overall PR campaign, this is just one part of what a PR executive deals with on a daily basis. Because it’s the most visible part of a PR executive’s job, many relate it to the profession as a whole. But in fact, PR executives spend a great deal of time working on the best and most memorable communications methods for a variety of constituents: industry analysts, investors, tradeshow coordinators, customers, prospects, partners, employees, recruits and more. Not all of these constituents are created equal – they don’t have the same wants or needs. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all social media campaign – or one that will get great media coverage because of its innovative digital content will not appropriately impact every audience that a company or individual entrepreneur wants to reach. A fun video that might attract customers to a retail website will not necessarily communicate the more serious messages needed to attract investors, for example. A slick-looking microsite with bad messaging might get good press pick up for the concept, but could confuse prospects, hurt sales or worse, lead to customer attrition.
Overall, social media marketing is a great new method for engaging directly with the public to share a brand or company’s core messages, values, culture and news. Social media marketers often know where to reach key audiences and how to create exciting digital content. But the PR team should have a hand in what messages are in that content for maximum impact and the greatest ROI. Working together, social media marketers and the PR department can create compelling messages and information and deliver them in exciting new ways that let a company’s public audiences interact, engage and most importantly – remember the brand.