It's all about telling relevant and timely stories that elevate your brand (in a rather subtle way).
By Liz Lemarchand, MediaDev
I started my career in Marketing by working in Public Relations. For some of you, that may sound like a contradiction (PR is not marketing!) but I think in recent years, the lines between marketing, communications and public relations have become blurred. (I’ll leave advertising out of the debate, but I could have just as easily lumped it in the mix in some respects). As any good PR professional will tell you, the purpose of PR is to enhance the image of a brand in the public’s eye; but as any good marketer will tell you, the real reason to do that is to increase sales.
I’ll tell you a story. Back in 1998, one of the accounts I helped manage was Chrysler. (Big name account, lots of resources, it was great). They decided to sponsor a campaign called “Stop Red Light Running”, which was designed to help raise awareness about the dangers of running red lights. We were featured in the news, held press conferences with very important people (including the Secretary of Transportation who participated at one event we held in Washington DC), created a plethora of activities, press books, paraphernalia … the works. But of course, Chrysler wasn’t only trying to make you see them as this “nice guy” company by helping to decrease the number of car accidents due to red light running; they were hoping that by doing that, your nice feeling about them would inspire you to buy one of their cars. So behind any PR effort is an underlying idea, no matter how indirect it may seem.
Marketing and public relations share common ground in regards to product publicity and consumer relations. They may at times operate in different areas, but more and more, the rise in social media outlets for business use is becoming a cross-over method used by both PR and marketing pros alike. That’s not to say they are one and the same — just that the distinction between them is getting harder to make.
In my opinion, any good marketer needs to be good at public relations. Being good at public relations means being diplomatic, conveying your message in the most interesting and newsworthy way, and showing respect for others who may not agree with your standpoint. In other words, the essentials for social media marketing. Here are some other ways that your social media marketing plan can benefit from some public relations mainstays:
Long before marketing picked up on the buzz word of “storytelling”, PR was out there pitching story after story to the media. And let me tell you from my experience, it’s hard work! Finding newsworthy angles to pitch takes a creative mind and a don’t-give-up-attitude; both are inherent to a good PR professional. Content marketing is a lot like brand journalism, and social media is clearly a platform for both. Thinking up a great story and then being able to write about it well takes experienced writers, editors and proof-readers; these skills transfer nicely to blog posts, tweets, status updates and responses to comments on forums.
Timeliness and relevance
PR pros are experienced at creating content relevant to a specific audience. Whether pitching a journalist or producing an internal newsletter, PR experts determine the type of content that’s needed, and they get it out there quickly.
Social media is about being timely, interesting and relevant. No-one wants to see a tweet about a topic that’s a month old — it’s has-been by then. Social media brings a new dimension to timeliness, since our access to information is faster and our attention spans are shorter and shorter. That means the window of time you have to act needs to be practically instantaneous. Learning from the PR pros here can help your social media plan adapt a content calendar so that it’s not too rigid, allowing for change as change arises.
PR professionals are trained in issues management and crisis communications. These skills are vital in successfully preparing for and managing a social media crisis. Many marketers may not realize how important this is: handling a social media crisis needs to be planned out before it happens because when it does, it may be too late.
If a social media crisis does arise, you need to get your company's voice into the conversation as fast as possible, respond to questions, correct misinformation and be as helpful as you can. PR skills in relationship and reputation management are well-suited to handling viral activity when time is of the essence.
Social media provides us with excellent tools to better understand target audiences and communicate with stakeholders. Becoming part of social networks and getting to know what your customers want from you is an essential part of marketing today. So whether you want to integrate social media into your PR strategy or you want to bring a PR element to your social media one, the two need to go hand-in-hand.
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