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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Developing a Career as a Freelance Publicist

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When I graduated college with a degree in both fashion merchandising and communications the market was less than stellar. Despite having interned at multiple agencies around the area, great grades and a full portfolio, I didn’t have a job lined up after college. I interviewed but no one was hiring. Instead of giving up I decided to take matters into my own hands and began freelancing. First with a politician (2012 was a huge year for politics) and then with a fashion brand. A month into this I received my first full time agency job but continued to freelance on the side, after hours. Eventually through networking, hard work and lots of late nights I was able to take my freelance clients (I had a handful now after about a year) and start Piqued PR. Here’s how I started freelancing;

Rates & Services
Businesses often chose to work with freelancers over agencies and in-house positions because freelancers are either more budget friendly or require less of a long-term commitment. Keep this in mind as your developing your services and rates to attract clients.

Portfolio
Just like any other business, an important tool for a freelance publicist is a portfolio to show your past clients and work. In your portfolio be sure and include different clients to portray that you are well versed in the field and can understand the messages and markets in various realms.

Network
The best way to get your freelance business out there is to network both in person and through social media. Use platforms like Linkedin to connect with businesses and potential clients. Attend various events in your area and always have business cards in hand. Eventually the goal is to obtain future clients from existing or past clients through recommendations but networking should always be part of your weekly schedule.

Do you have experience as a freelance publicist? Please comment and share your top tips and advice.

Patricia Maristch is a graduate from Immaculata University and a young entrepreneur. She is the founder and principal of Piqued PR, a boutique lifestyle public relations agency, piquing the interest of press and consumers. Her years of retail experience, shopaholic tendencies and constant desire for all things luxe, provides a unique viewpoint to public relations and social media. She understands her clients’ audience because she IS their audience. While she works and plays on the Main Line her client list extends across the nation. In addition to Piqued PR, Patricia serves on the Wings for Success board, is the Main Line Fashion Week and Her Main Line founder as well as a frequent guest blogger for various publications.

Tips for Conducting Effective PR Surveys

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Survey data is a critical leveraging tool for all PR pros. A practitioner at a client meeting prepared with survey results from a well designed and executed study is no PR pro to mess with. Attention-grabbing and sometimes slightly out of the ordinary results could be the perfect approach for client and brand exposure. Sharing significant statistics without a doubt pique’s the public’s interest and even makes good use for an informative infographic. A recent PR Daily article titled, “9 tips for effective PR surveys,” gives practitioners fresh angles on how to carry out valuable, result driven surveys.

1. Keep the questions short. Always focus on the key objectives of the survey you are conducting. Keep both the questions and the length of the survey to a minimum. If it takes too long to take the survey you may bore participants who will decide to rush through it.

2. Use closed questions. If you are planning to report mean scores and percentages then avoid including open-ended questions within your survey.

3. Use credible stories. Make sure you construct your survey in a way that is relatable to your target audience and the key objectives you are researching. You can do this by including real-life examples and scenarios within the survey.

4. Don’t force answers. Creating a survey can sometimes be tricky. How a question is worded or limited answer choices can easily skew the results. Remember, you want your findings to back up valid points you are trying to convey. If results don’t match up or are easily skewed you could lose credibility in the eyes of both a client and the public.

5. Beware of sample size. For best results limit your sample size to 1,000 interviews when generating results from national or generally representative surveys.

6. Think internationally. Consider conducting a survey within various countries and regions. There are many websites online that are not as pricey as you may think. International surveys can provide eye-opening results as to how others perceive your brand. International data could provide resourceful results, leading you to creative ideas to kick-start a new campaign. 

7. Consider location and sample size Be cautious if you are planning to combine regional and national survey results, without including an adequate sample size.

8. Reconsider ranking questions Sometimes reporting the results of ranking questions can be difficult. The author of the article asks the reader if they are interested in the rank order overall or the percentage who mentioned specific items in the rank order. Also, be sure not to use rank order and rating questions interchangeably. Rating questions asks survey participants to compare different items using a rating scale.

9. Be realistic with business-to-business surveys Be practical when constructing business-to-business surveys. Consider which employees are most appropriate to reach out to in order to receive valid results. There are other decision makers aside from the CEO who may be more knowledgeable about specific topics and information.

In your opinion, what does an effective survey include? How do you analyze survey data to be sure the results aren’t skewed? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Give Your Client the Loyal Treatment

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The harsh reality all PR professionals must face is perfectly stated in this line from a recent edition of the Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat: “the majority of your pitches won’t get a response -” Then, as if offering a tiny glimmer of hope, the sentence continues: “but some will.”

It’s true. We all know media pitching is more of an art than it is science. But what happens when your pitch is a home run, the reporter wants the story…then you have to call a timeout?

It sounds like the unthinkable, but as I recently found out, unthinkable doesn’t mean impossible. Here I was, two days away from an interview I’d set up with a veteran reporter from a widely-read daily. All was well until the reporter’s interest shifted–albeit slightly–away from my original pitch. Great for the reporter, not so great for my company’s brand.

A rock and a hard place is an understatement. Yet it was a real life wake-up call that as a PR professional, I must be diligent in the loyalty I have for my company’s strategic goals; even if it means letting go of a media placement I worked so hard to get.

I like to call it the “loyal treatment.” Not unlike kings and monarchs, treat your company and client like royalty when it comes to protecting their brand and public image. Here are a few more tips to remember.

Know your client’s/company’s intended public brand
Ask your client or company’s senior leaders “What do you want the brand to be?” Also, “What don’t you want it to be?” As times change and companies evolve, answers to these questions will inevitably change, so don’t be afraid to ask more than once. The point is, know what the brand is (or isn’t) so you know not to deviate from it when pitching the media.

It’s ok to tell a reporter “no”
I know it sounds crazy given the sheer difficulty involved in getting a reporter to even acknowledge that you exist (unless you work for Apple or some other big name brand that reporters drool over). But trust me on this. If you suspect the end media placement could compromise the brand in any way, respectfully and tactfully decline. Think about it. The repercussions of making your company or client look bad are far worse than one missed opportunity. Which brings me to my next point…

Put yourself in the shoes of the spokesperson
One of the things I love about our work is that we get to make other people look good. In doing this though, we can easily lose sight of the fact that it’s their face, their words, their reputation that’s on the line; not our own. Now ask yourself, “What if it was me?” This change in perspective can make a world of difference when you consider which media placements to pursue.

Have you ever had to give up a media opportunity to protect your company or client? Share your experience and advice in the comments below.

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

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