Many companies struggle to determine how to use social media. Using social media platforms as public relations tools is an excellent place to start.
Defining Public Relations
There are many aspects of public relations. It includes internal communications, brand positioning, and earning media coverage to create brand or product awareness.
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
And another definition:
“Public relations (PR) is the set of techniques and strategies related to managing how information about an individual or company is disseminated to the public, and especially the media.”Investopedia
PR goals include increasing brand awareness and improving the perception of your brand. PR is also used for crisis communications and damage control when problems arise.
PR professionals have many tools and platforms to work with to exercise their craft.
- News Conference
- Speaking Engagements
- Press Release
- Media Outreach
- Social Media
A news conference attended by reporters can be very effective for large companies with big news stories and crisis management. While not usually used by small and medium-sized businesses, a news conference delivered as a webinar can communicate directly to customers and other audiences.
Speaking engagements at conferences are planned and formal. Conference speaking guidelines normally prohibit sales pitches, but these engagements positions the speaker and their company as thought leaders that deeply understand the industry.
Press releases are still part of an effective public relations strategy. Online services such as PR Web can quickly and inexpensively distribute your press release on newswires. Industry publications and websites continuously monitor the popular newswires and may pick up the story and automatically publish it on their website newsfeed. A press release released only on the newswires is a spray and pray tactic that alone will likely consistently produce results.
Media outreach is where Public Relations professionals provide the most value. Public relations professionals typically focus on one or a few industries and create and nurture relationships with reporters, editors, bloggers, and thought leaders that are active in the industry. PR professionals make targeted pitches to get their clients highlighted in feature stories or mentioned in relevant articles.
Social media is the newest tool in the PR toolbox. Social media allows public relations specialists to:
- Broadcast news stories to a broad audience
- Facilitate media outreach by connecting and establishing relationships
Broadcasting News on Social Media
Broadcasting news stories, blog posts, and other industry-related information provides direct-to-customer communications. A regular posting schedule, managed by a publishing tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite, and Sendible, allow you to share a consistent stream of stories on your social media accounts.
To keep your social media stream from being all about you, use Andrew Davis’ 4-1-1 rule:
- 4 posts should be curated content, sharing relevant information or articles from other people or brands.
- 1 post should be your own content.
- 1 post can be self-serving, such as promoting a gated eBook or free trial offer.
You don’t need to follow the 4-1-1 rule strictly. The point is to share more of other people’s content than self-promotional content. Having your social media stream include other people’s content will build trust by showing you are aware of industry issues and aren’t just talking about yourself. Nobody wants to listen to a guy talk about themselves all night at the party. Don’t be that guy.
The 4-1-1 rule is a good guide for scheduled social media content. But your most effective use of social media might be to build relationships with media outlets.
Six Steps to Engage with Reporters on Social Media
Follow these steps to establish mutually beneficial relationships with reporters and editors.
Over time you can create the media relationships necessary for successful PR by monitoring your social channels daily and blocking out time a few days each week for more focused efforts. This seems like a lot of work, and it is.
1. Start Before You Have the Need
This is Networking 101. Whether creating a network for public relations or your career, building a network is a continuous process that should begin long before you have a need.
Establishing relationships before you make an ask builds trust and allows you to promote content from people in your network. They may be more than happy to help when you have a need.
2. Identify Who is Responsible For Media Relations
Media relations take time. It takes time to build the skills and develop relationships. This is why it makes sense for most SMBs to outsource media relations to a PR agency or freelancer with established relationships with reporters, editors, and thought leaders relevant to your industry.
3. Find Relevant People and Establish Relationships
Whether you outsource media relations or do it internally, create a list of influential people in your industry. You can maintain the list in your CRM system, or it can be a simple spreadsheet shared with your team.
People to connect with include:
- Reporters and editors at relevant trade publications
- Bloggers, influencers, and thought leaders that discuss about issues important to your customers’ industries
- Speakers at conferences and online events
While reporters and speakers are easy to find, bloggers and thought leaders may not be so easy. Places to find thought leaders include:
4. Join Online Conversations by Commenting on Posts
Social media makes it easy to build your network. Follow everybody on the list you’ve created on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Create a Twitter list for your PR network to easily see their activity.
Share posts and engage in conversations around posts and comments by people you follow. But only comment when you have something unique to share, like an example, a unique perspective, or an alternative viewpoint. If you don’t have a unique perspective, you can like a post or share it with a colleague or friend that might find the information helpful.
5. Connect on Twitter, Then on LinkedIn
In her article PR Tips to Help You Land Media Coverage, PR consultant Michelle Garrett states that Twitter is the preferred social media platform to reach journalists. Surprisingly, journalists rank Facebook a distant second ahead of LinkedIn.
Twitter is the most accessible platform to begin online relationships. When you follow someone, they will often follow you back. Once you’ve engaged on a few conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn, send a personalized LinkedIn connection request. Mention that you find their information helpful and enjoy the online discussions. Don’t request anything in the connection request other than making the connection. If you can, explain why the relationship might be useful for them.
6. Reach Out With News Stories
Once you connect on one or more social platforms, you’ve created a direct line of communication. Don’t abuse it. If possible, don’t submit a story idea immediately after making the connection. Continue to engage like you have been and nurture the relationship.
When you have a newsworthy story that fits what a particular person in your network writes about, reach out with a brief description and why it benefits the reporter. Why the story is a good fit for them is more important than the story description. You can reference a related press release but don’t expect them to read it until you’ve already got them interested. Better yet, tell them the release is coming out soon, but you are offering an exclusive before it is released.
Leveraging Social Media
There are many business use cases for social media, including:
- Customer service
- Identify and engage with prospects
- Generate and nurture prospects with social advertising
- Public Relations
The use cases you use may span several departments. Coordination is necessary. Regardless of your social media strategy, it should always include public relations.