Technology & Social Media: How They’re Revolutionizing the PR Game

As an intern and a college student, I try to be a sponge and soak up as much IMGknowledge as I can. After three years of general education classes and longing for some real world experience, I finally got to dive into public relations and marketing in school as well as in my summer internship at AWeber. With a fresh pair of eyes and a spot on the marketing team at a modern, technology driven company, I’ve been able to see what PR practices are being utilized and what seems to be becoming the new industry standard. What I’ve come to learn is that social media, other technologies, and the internet in general are rapidly changing the game.

For starters, everything is online now. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse. It’s a blessing because businesses are able to have a huge reach in areas that they could have never dreamed of before. Someone 2,000 miles away could be reading this blog post right now and that is a truly amazing thing. At the same time, however, this means that everyone and their mother can put anything they want on the internet. More content means more competition. It’s harder to get the media to accept your pitch when they’re getting 500 emails a day from other agencies and businesses.

This brings me to my next point. Creativity and innovation are key in today’s world where everyone has access to almost every article that’s ever been written with one quick Google search. Most stories have already been written. That’s why it’s important to put an 180 degree angle on whatever story you’re pitching in order to get reporters and journalists to bite at it. Run of the mill stories and articles won’t get picked up unless they are buzz-worthy and offer a new, fresh perspective.

Because of the growth of the internet, it’s important to make your online presence loud and clear. The more media outlets and social media networks you’re on, you’ll have a better chance of reaching more publics and growing you or your client’s business. As a young adult and YouTube vlogger enveloped in the online world, I see too many companies with botched social media accounts. Some seem to be made with little effort and others seem to just not fully understand what they are doing. Too many businesses don’t think with the mind’s of consumers.

Social media does need to make sense in the context of your business, but it’s also equally (if not more) important that it looks good and grabs people’s attention. For example, if you run a jewelry company, you can’t just post pictures on your Instagram account of every necklace you’ve ever made. Yes, people want to see the products you’re offering, but you need to be creative and switch it up in order to make sure you’re getting loyal followers who actually look forward to seeing the content you post each day. Post pictures of your jewelry paired with cute clothing or grouped with other accessories. Posting a funny or inspirational quote that your demographic can relate to is also a good way to change up your content. Additionally, the timing of each post is just as important to get optimum reach. Look at accounts with 100k followers for inspiration. They’re obviously doing something right.

Keeping social media in mind, a lot of newer companies are capitalizing on the fame of bloggers and Instagrammers by getting their products in the hands of these social media celebrities. By offering a free wardrobe full of new clothes to a fashion blogger along with a nice commission, these companies are making the right move. These days, people go gaga for their favorite Instagrammers and want to use/buy everything they see them use. The fact that these sponsored posts don’t feel like traditional advertisements really helps because it feels like raw, original content rather than an annoying, pushy commercial or billboard.

Although PR is still a relatively new concept and term in the business world, it’s changing and growing rapidly. Newspaper clippings are no longer the go-to measurement for success, a strong online presence has become standard, and social media has completely changed the relevance of traditional advertising. The bottom line is that nothing is ever set in stone. Tactics change constantly and it’s up to every PR professional to stay on their toes while searching for the next new way to drive awareness to their company.

Julia McNamee is the Marketing Intern at AWeber. She’s also a Corporate Communication major at Penn State, a part-time freelance makeup artist, and a YouTube vlogger. Check her out on YouTube. (www.youtube.com/jaayforever).

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4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

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Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

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The Marriage of PR and Employee Engagement – Industry Experts Weigh In

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Public relations is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” PR is telling the story of the organization and protecting its reputation on behalf of all stakeholders. Knowing that it’s an organization’s employees that give the company structure, substance, and culture – and not the other way around – it’s vital to engage your workforce in this process.

However, one must be engaged themselves as a PR professional first to be viewed as credible to his or her audience. When the PR employee is perceived as a genuine, ethical and trustworthy colleague, in both favorable and disastrous times the organization and its reputation both win.

In his book, WE, How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement, author Kevin Kruse defined employee engagement as, “the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.” Based on a 4-domain model, employee engagement is governed by four primary key drivers: communication, growth, recognition and trust.

A simple exercise mentioned in Kruse’s book is the “We Test.” The test is performed by asking employees to describe the way they refer to their workplace. Is the word “they” used when describing the organization or do employees refer to the organization in “we” terms? “You can tell a lot about an organization’s culture and whether workers are fully engaged in their jobs by how often they use the word “we” as opposed to “they,” “our” or even “I,” states Kruse.

With this in mind, how does PR help to build and enhance employee engagement?

PR needs to be the link in getting employees educated and excited to perform and exceed. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. You really can’t have one without the other,” said Georgina Gonzalez-Robiou, APR, director, marketing & public relations at Baptist Outpatient Services & Baptist Health Enterprises in Miami, Fla. She continued, “employees with a higher level of engagement are more likely to be active on behalf of the organization and serve as brand ambassadors.” Brand ambassadors can be your biggest advocates in the community, be it for charity walks, serving on boards, or representing the organization in various outreach events.

At St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany, N.Y., engaging the employees as brand ambassadors was the key to a successful merger between two large health systems. “We wanted people in each of the legacy organizations to visibly see people (in a television branding campaign) they recognized as both leaders and co-workers who they truly respected and say to themselves, ‘I know that person, that person has bought into this – I am part of it too’,” said Elmer Streeter, director, corporate communications. The branding built trust and the campaign was centered on collaboration and inclusion. “We wanted the unofficial and official leaders of the system who live the mission to be a part of the campaign,” said Streeter.

Matt Cabrey, executive director, Select Greater Philadelphia, said, “PR not only sets the company tone and shapes the image and reputation for how audiences view the company, it has a direct influence on internal communications and the level of pride employees feel in their role and in the organization.”

Bill Cowen, professor and PR program director, Villanova University and president, Metrospective Communications LLC, said, “Whether through tangible rewards or being given a respected voice at the table, collective and creative employee engagement is more crucial than ever to talent cultivation and retention in PR. This is especially the case with the newer generation of professionals that wants to believe fully in the organization.”

However, keeping employees engaged comes with its challenges. For example, the BP oil spill disaster carried with it negligence on behalf of the rig workers, lack of compensation payouts and continuous internal strife. Were the BP employees kept up to date regarding the changing events? Who was taking the blame? When companies are in survival mode it’s even more important for them to engage their employees.

“Relegating employees to some lesser level of importance during a crisis is a mistake,” said John J. Moscatelli, APR, Fellow PRSA, owner, JJM Communications LLC, who teaches PR at Rowan Universtiy. He continued, “uninformed or ill-informed employees, those relying on rumors and speculation, tend to be distrustful of management, express a lack of confidence in the organization to their friends and neighbors, and, in a worst case, make the crisis even worse.” However, out of chaos comes order. The very definition of PR suggests the relationship itself between the organization and its audiences.

Joe Anthony, president of financial services & partner at Gregory FCA, said, “…thoughtfully deploying key employees in telling the company story and weaving their roles into the company narrative can make them feel more a part of the company culture and direction. We do that here at Gregory FCA and encourage our clients to do the same. It’s not just about “staying in front” of employees, it’s about keeping them working alongside of you. That’s why it’s so important to keep them feeling as if they are in the loop.” BP would have fared better if they had strived to achieve this from the beginning.

Often seen as the face of the organization, and an employee themselves, the PR professional must remember it’s important to keep both sides of PR and employee engagement well represented and all parties informed. And remember that it’s an ongoing process. It must start at the recruiting stage, continue through employment, and flow from top to bottom and bottom to top of the hierarchy chain.

As noted by Kruse, trust is a key driver. “Research shows that employees who feel more pride and trust towards their employer are more satisfied and expend more discretionary energy on their work, enabling them to advance key business objectives and achieve results,” said Cathy Engel Menendez, director, communications, PECO. And that after all, are what companies are in business to do. If PR is telling the story of the organization in a favorable light, what better way than to communicate that by using your biggest assets…your employees.

Meg Boyd is a corporate communications professional who is passionate about PR and employee engagement. She earned a master’s in strategic communication from Villanova University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Dayton. She is currently seeking opportunities. Contact Meg via email at marg.j.boyd@gmail.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Boost Your Brand With Online Storytelling

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Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools to build and strengthen your brand, yet many companies are still not using it to their advantage online. PR experts know how to analyze, contextualize and create stories and narratives to showcase brand attributes and draw consumers. Add a social behaviorist to the team and your business is ready to rock your story online!

Why is a social behaviorist so important? The attention span of an average internet user is only 8 seconds. That means digital marketers have only 8 seconds to connect with consumers and entice them to take meaningful action. Understanding social behavior and how target audiences respond to your brand story online brings a competitive edge that delivers greater results from your marketing efforts.

What can online storytelling, in expert hands, do for your business?

  • Strengthen brand perception.
    One of the greatest advantages of social media is being able to listen to your consumers in real-time. That aids in finding possible gaps between the way you position your brand, and the way the public perceives it. Storytelling fills the gaps and creates a smooth transition for audiences to respond positively to your brand message.
  • Boost brand engagement.
    To strengthen brand loyalty, you need to deepen your online engagement. When consumers become aware of your story, they become a part of it as active participants. Emotional attachments develop and consumers believe the thoughts formed in their head are their own – and they react accordingly. They believe the messaging and become brand advocates.
  • Build trust.
    In 2013, 46% of all internet users claimed that social media influenced their purchase decisions. To influence an audience, you first need to build a relationship based on trust. Storytelling can build a human-to-human relationship that leads to trust between your brand and a consumer. And it will last longer than the notorious 8 seconds.

Storytelling forms a strong connection between your brand and its consumer. That’s why it is important to control the way your story is told. Your storyteller must have a deep understanding of your brand and its history. The story told on social media should be a part of an overall brand story that has been integrated across all media and communication channels.

Powerful storytelling enhances your brand, especially if it’s part of a cohesive approach. Is online storytelling part of your brand story?

GillespieHall is an integrated marketing and digital PR firm. Our award-winning team is comprised of astute PR communicators, sociologists, digital strategists, and creative content designers. We are leaders in exceptional results-based marketing, brand development and crisis management. Follow @GILLESPIEHALL on Twitter.

Upgrade Your Instagram

Last week, Instagram shared several tips to help brands maximize the popular social media platform’s potential. The post on the company’s Tumblr page features several brands that Instagram sees as exemplarily users. Keep these helpful hints in mind the next time you take to your company’s Instagram account:

  1. Be true to your brand. Your photos should reflect a clear personality. You can try to work in current trends, but always stay true to your brand’s voice.
  2. Share experiences. Give your followers a look at what your brand makes possible.
  3. Find beauty everywhere. Beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places – take it from General Electric, one of the company’s featured in Instagram’s post. Take what your brand does and find a way to make it meaningful to your followers.
  4. Inspire action. Develop a hashtag and ask your followers to get involved.
  5. Know your audience. Once you know what people like about your brand, you can develop new content based on those characteristics.

Are you already using these guidelines? What other rules do you try to follow when posting to a client’s Instagram page?