Monday, 3 December 2012

How can an organization full of specialists use social media for PR work?

I was interviewed for a thesis about using social media for PR and I wanted to share my answers with  you too.

Do you think Social Media is a good platform for PR activities?
PR is defined in Wikipedia like this: Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions.

Yes of course it is a good platform for PR. There are a lot of possibilities you can do for free and you can reach the people who are interested about you easily without any middle-men (aka journalists) who choose the messages they want to deliver further – with social media the public itself makes the decisions of what is important to them and what they want to distribute further to their own networks. Social media is not making the content creation any easier than it was before because just like press the public wants good quality content too (they can be even more demanding). People can easily start following brands in social media. They can look for you or they can find you via their own networks e.g. when someone retweets your content.

Social media is also a good channel to get feedback from customers and other interest groups.

How can Social Media be used for PR?
Wikipedia says: "Common PR activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication."

So when you are e.g. speaking in a conference, you can inform about that in social media in very many ways:
  • tell in Facebook that you are going to be in the conference
  • if there is a LinkedIn (or Facebook) event about the conference, you can join it and promote it to your followers too
  • live tweet from the conference
  • stream from the conference (live-video)
  • add the video of the presentation to YouTube
  • take photos of the conferences and share them in social media
  • add the presentation material to SlideShare
  • blog about the conference
If you win industry awards you can share the information in your social media channels mentioned above and you can add the information to Wikipedia which will make your public image better.

For working with press Twitter is ideal as many journalists use it for news hunting. You can also share materials with them e.g. using Pinterest (for links) or some photo services like Flickr for photos.

With social media services you can also communicate with employees, you can e.g. have Facebook/LinkedIn groups where the open positions are informed or ask them to contribute to your blog or have internal microblog channel in Yammer.

What are the risks using Social Media for PR?
The biggest risk is forget about social media.

Another risk is in resourcing. When you start using social media you need to keep updating the channels also in the future, long breaks in content creation are much worse than no social media channels at all. Sometimes the social media channels are given to hands of people who do not understand that it is different to talk with your own friends in social media than with customers of a company and in those cases a lot of bad publicity can be got.

Organizations also need to prepare themselves for crisis: what do they do if something unexpected happens, who can answer and how fast can it be done. E.g. removing customer comments from Facebook pages or blogs is not a good idea as social media culture is open.

What are possible activities for an organization full of specialists like us using Social Media for PR?

Your key resources are your employers the specialists themselves. Try to encourage them to participate to social media with their own name and to include their employer in their profiles. Give them social media trainings and give them reasons to participate. Define how much resources they can use for social media monitoring and participating during the office hours.

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