I’ve read a few articles recently critical of PR – a few even questioning whether PR is dead – and some of what they say is absolutely right. However what is most interesting to me is the rather archaic view of PR that still seems to exist. Unfortunately this is the fault of some PR practitioners and agencies – the ones who believe their primary aim is to pump out press releases at an agreed volume per month and focus only on traditional forms of media. I find it hard to believe that there are very many of these left; certainly it’s a very long time since I worked for an agency or with a PR that has operated on this basis. Although, it would be very short-sighted to believe that media relations no longer has a role to play. Like marketing, the most effective PR campaigns today integrate across various communication channels, allowing a company to engage with its target audience in all manner of different ways.
PR has always been about creating, managing and implementing a communication strategy that allows a business to talk with its customers, stakeholders, peers and prospects in a positive and credible way. Web 2.0 changed how the game is played, but not its purpose.
Businesses need communications experts more than ever now. Although companies have little control over what is said about them in the online public arena, they do have the power to have a voice in that arena.
Experienced PR practitioners understand the intricacies of effective communication; the potential for damage, the need for honesty, the importance of getting message, content and tone of voice right, and fundamentally, how to manage reputation. These principles hold true online just as they do in traditional print or broadcast media; perhaps even more so. Undoubtedly PR pros must understand the communication environment in which we now operate, but their skills are becoming more relevant and more crucial to businesses by the day.
The blogosphere and social media landscape are filled with opportunity and peril of almost equal measure, far better that companies embrace good PR to guide them through safely and successfully.
The thing with PR and marketing is that it’s never-ending – you can always do more. On the one hand that’s one of the great things about communications; the possibilities truly are endless, on the other hand, there are day’s when you feel you’ve missed a trick.
Social media is making the job of communicating easier and harder at the same time. Its ability to engage, excite and stimulate discussion is incredibly valuable – but there’s so much choice that for many companies it’s hard to know where to begin. Kind of like being overwhelmed at the supermarket – you’re pretty sure you know what you want, but then you’re met with such an array of choice at the shelf you suddenly lose sight of what it is you’re really after.
You’d be nuts not to think about how social media channels could work for your business, but make sure you keep sight of your objective. Who are you trying to speak to? What do you want to tell them? What can they tell you? And importantly, what do you need the result to be? Stack your social media options up against your objectives and find the best fit. You cannot possibly use every one, there simply isn’t enough time in the day – though Ping.fm helps!
And it might sound obvious, but treat social media with the respect it deserves. These are immensely powerful tools in terms of their reach, influence and shelf-life, so be careful what messages you put out there. If you’re using social media under the company name, apply the same rules you would as if sending an email to a prospect or releasing a statement to national media. The tone of voice will of course be different, but the content should be managed just as carefully.
Finally, make the most of the host of free online tools that make running a social media campaign more manageable – I’ve included a few links below.
mashable for business – for everything you ever wanted to know about social media and the opportunity to learn from other companies
ping.fm- one post here and you can update all your social media sites at once
twitterfeed.com – feed your company blog to Twitter or use RSS feeds to broadcast relevant industry news
tweetbots.com – allows multiple users to Tweet to the same account, plus you can set it up to auto-follow people that follow you
twilert.com- receive alerts each time your company/product/service is mentioned on Twitter
howsociable.com – see how visible your brand is across a range of social media sites
socialmention.com – similar to Google Alerts, you can set up an alert to track your brand/competitor mentions on social media sites
trendpedia.com – track and compare volume of discussion around multiple topics