By Simon Kingsnorth,
Social media has changed the face of PR forever. A world that has always focused on deep relationships, consumer insight and effective writing has now changed, as social media continues to affect every part of that formula.
But how do you take advantage of these changes and who owns this world in the digital age?
Social media is now an extremely well-established channel. More than a decade of fascinating evolution has wired social media into the world in a way that is almost impossible to reverse out of.
The fact that social media walls are reviewed on news programmes, hashtags intertwined into all major stories, connections made with journalists through social channels and topical research often dependent on social analysis, proves this fact conclusively.
However, there is still confusion in many businesses about how to manage this. Some companies manage social media through Marketing, others through PR, while others opt for a combination of both (or neither). There are clear skills needed and benefits to each different approach.
Social media is a wonderful source of insight. Not only can you see what is trending in real time across almost any subject area and geography, but you can gain much deeper understanding of your audience through the many tools that have been introduced in recent years.
Tools and businesses such as Pulsar, Buffer and Social Bakers can provide fascinating insight into your audiences’ thinking and behaviour, allowing you to effectively steer your content and PR strategy.
You should also be investing in social listening tools to understand the thoughts and sentiment of your audience.
As well as researching your audience you can, of course, also research journalists and publications. This can help greatly with positioning your pieces to key decision makers.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest trends of the social media age is influencer marketing, which has become the absolute for anyone with a popular style or persona to create their own mass following – and the power that comes with that has caused a major shift in media.
Influencers are now celebrities and can become very big earners. The important consideration here is that influencers are not all expensive. Understanding the celebrity pyramid from the limited number of high cost influencers with enormous reach, to the many thousands of micro influencers available, is key. Micro influencers may have a smaller reach, but their audiences are usually far more engaged and authentically interested in the subject matter.
Social media is, at its core, about one thing – being social. It therefore opens doors and can be extremely helpful for PR professionals to connect with journalists who would have previously been elusive.
Journalists are now seeking news stories and relevant connections on social media constantly, so actively seeking journalists is a great technique. (Although you still need to have something interesting to say, of course!)
As with many areas of marketing today, content is king when it comes to PR.
Networking is powerful, but without the content to deliver to that network, your strategy will be minimal. You should review your content strategy fully and sweat it as hard as possible.
My Content Bubble model for content planning (which can be found in the second edition of my new book Digital Marketing Strategy) looks at three areas of focus:
- Company; awards, results, senior hires – stories that are directly relevant to your business but only if it is of interest to employees, advocates and investors. PR is often focused here.
- Industry; stories that are relevant to your industry such as ‘Top 10 holiday destinations’ or ‘Fashion from this year’s Oscars’. This is where most content strategies focus.
- World; the big stories that are trending. Super Bowl, World Cup, Political Elections etc. Here you need to find an authentic angle – a right for your business to talk about that subject – and if you do, the impact can be phenomenal. This content planning model can be incredibly effective and developed in hand with social insights and delivered through social channels.
Ownership is perhaps the most controversial point.
PR is often separate to Marketing in organisational structure and so PR having ownership makes sense.
However, marketing campaigns (both paid and organic) are often run through social media and PR teams may not necessarily be experts in this field. You may want to use a marketing agency for the amplification, but that relationship is often held by marketing. The reason the answer is often illusive is because there doesn’t have to be an answer. The true solution lies in collaboration.
There are multiple input and outputs for social media and it’s essential that a business tightens up its communication processes to bring these teams together, rather than battling over ownership.
So, if you use social media to its fullest extent to research, connect, plan, distribute and analyse your PR, while working collaboratively internally, the new world of PR has the potential to be far more powerful and successful than ever before.
Simon Kingsnorth is a digital consultant and the author of Digital Marketing Strategy, published by Kogan Page and now in its second edition.
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