I am not old enough to remember when PR first came about, however it seems to me those that do still think PR is about control.
News Flash: Publications no longer own the flow of media. Breaking news is no longer delivered via newspapers that arrive on your doorstep a day after the event. News breaks on Twitter; news is shared and discussed on Facebook, not the water cooler.
Just to clarify, when I say PR I am referring to Public Relations. Hmm, that word “public” what do you suppose that means? Is that like the general public, like you and I?
Old School PR used to be about control, PR agencies guarded their (1) Media Contacts as if they were the last spec of food on earth. To them, it was all about access. PR professional have writing skills, tried and true from writing (2) Press Releases to share at just the right moment. Wait for it… sharing news, events, and new product launches, takeovers, etc. all things that are now shared instantly on the web. When I was in advertising we would partner with PR agencies to handle (3) Crisis Management, this was back in the day when companies had days and weeks to craft a response. Today, companies now have minutes and seconds to respond before the public shares their thoughts.
As you can see, the role of PR has evolved much like the world of marketing, advertising and communications in general. So, what does this mean for you and your business?
It means you now have the ability with social media to handle your own PR. I will demonstrate how you can use social media to handle 3 of the above outlined roles of old school PR agencies.
(1) Connections are no longer just made (IRL) in-person; they can start and be forged by way of social media. Who hasn’t reunited with an old acquaintance, friend or relative via Facebook? Our networks go way beyond a Rolodex or black book; we can now utilize LinkedIn or Twitter to isolate professionals with similar interests and experiences. Here’s the biggest change, it’s about sharing and spreading the word as fast as possible to as many people as possible. It’s not about waiting for the right time to share news. Remember the control is in the hands of the masses; it’s no longer with publications looking for exclusivity. Exclusivity is old news.
(2) With the ease and popularity of blogging and social media, companies both big and small can create and share their own content. What does this mean? Brands have the resources and ability to promote (share) all aspects of their business from their culture, product lines, events and updates to just name a few. Besides that fact that this helps you build relationships with your customers, it allows you to influence what the public sees and hears about your brand. Public Relations was and is still about assisting a company to represent themselves in the best possible light in the eyes of the public, especially the companies target market. The web has drastically changed the way consumers gather information, as a society we have all become accustomed to deciding when and where we find our information. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are often the first places consumers turn to find out more about an individual, a company or a product. By creating a steady flow of content, between blogs, social media posts, website updates, videos, pictures and more, you will be influencing what results your prospects stumble upon organically. Breaking News: Content is king.
Resource: Invest Long-Term In Your Brand
(3) Now how about monitoring what people are saying about your brand? I remember the days when interns used to gather local and national papers to comb them for mentions of clients. There has got to be a better way, don’t you think? Of course there’s Google’s free resources ranging from good old fashion search results to Google Alerts. In fact monitoring your brand has never been easier; I mean the results literally come to your inbox. As for social media monitoring, each network has its tools as well as 3rd party apps such as Hootsuite (my personal preference). All of these tools allow you to be aware of what your customer and the general public are saying about your brand. The best way to avoid a crisis is to not be blindsided, make sure you are monitoring both the web and social media. Try and make this a daily habit.
Now, what about Relation(ships)?
The art of Public Relations is about building relationships, worldwide and locally. From a business and brand’s perspective, I cannot think of another medium that allows big and small brands to interact and relate to their customers 1-on-1 the way social media does. What other medium allows you to reach masses all the while talking and listening to individuals? Yeah, so I think this social media thing is a game changer. #justsaying
Take-Away: Is PR still relevant today? Sure, they can play a part just like anyone else. But I want you to understand that you have options, and ability as an individual to handle PR for yourself and your company through the use of social media. This time the control is in your hands.
I’d love to hear how you use social media for PR purposes.