PR, Social Media Skills

Guest post by Christine Perkett,  named “PR Executive of the Year” by the American Business Award in 2008. President & Founder of PerkettPR, Christine speaks regularly on the crossroads of PR, marketing and social media and has been featured in numerous books and publications such as BusinessWeek’s Social Media Report 2009.

PR, Social Media Skills

What Social Media Marketers Need to Know About Public Relations

With the rise of social media and its use for marketing purposes (some of which haven’t gone so well and others which are really fantastic), there has been increasing demand for a class of professionals who dedicate themselves to communicating brand values through these unique new channels. Traditionally, PR professionals have used a variety of communications methods to reach the public, and the good ones see social media as a wonderful new tool in the PR or marketer’s overall arsenal. This overlap of domain expertise can lead to more success if the two functions understand each other and work together, or it can lead to frustration and friction if relations are allowed to become a turf battle over who owns what.

Understanding and coordinating with PR is a sure way to make sure your client engagements run smoother and produce the best results. PR is about communication and engaging a variety of public audiences and therefore, social media marketers that understand the need for creating messages that resonate with each of those audiences will gain the benefit of this expertise and make sure social media-based conversations feed into and enhance the brand’s overall value.

To learn some basics on PR, read this great article from AdAge. To get a bit more specific on how it relates to social media marketing, here are my thoughts:

1. The difference between social media and PR

Social media is a method of communication. Public relations is focused on reputation awareness and management – the practice of communicating with and influencing a variety of publics that matter to a company or an individual. Social media is one of the tools used to establish, raise and maintain such awareness.

2. Why thoughtful positioning and messaging matter

Social media marketers need to understand the messages that a PR or marketing department want to share with a company’s publics and why. Yes, social media is about transparency and authenticity – – so is good public relations. Dishonesty is bad, regardless of the channel. But “spin” doesn’t always have to mean dishonesty – “spin” is a word largely used by those that don’t understand the value of “positioning.” Everyone positions in one way or another. When you write your social media bio you are positioning. When you pitch a customer you are positioning. Positioning is about wisely choosing the way you communicate when attention is at a premium. Does that sound familiar?

PR executives help companies and individuals to position or deliver messages in a favorable way – one that can, and should be, open and transparent as well. Despite some bad apples, PR teams are not in the business of hiding things. But they are in the business of positioning communications in such a way that is memorable. Social media marketers need to respect the public relations team and their expertise here – taking the time to understand the messages that the PR and marketing team have determined will work best to reach each of a company’s publics – and incorporate these messages into their social media marketing campaigns. Haphazard messages – in the spirit of being “social” – that aren’t well-coordinated will defeat the marketer’s purpose – consistent, persistent messages help publics to remember and recall a brand/individual/company better. Whether the messages are delivered in a social media community or in a written press release, they need to be thoughtful and consistent.

3. PR is much more than media relations

This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about PR. I’ve heard more than one “social media expert” tell companies that they can also do the marketing and PR because “they know bloggers.” While blogger and media relationships are an important element to the overall PR campaign, this is just one part of what a PR executive deals with on a daily basis. Because it’s the most visible part of a PR executive’s job, many relate it to the profession as a whole. But in fact, PR executives spend a great deal of time working on the best and most memorable communications methods for a variety of constituents: industry analysts, investors, tradeshow coordinators, customers, prospects, partners, employees, recruits and more. Not all of these constituents are created equal – they don’t have the same wants or needs. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all social media campaign – or one that will get great media coverage because of its innovative digital content will not appropriately impact every audience that a company or individual entrepreneur wants to reach. A fun video that might attract customers to a retail website will not necessarily communicate the more serious messages needed to attract investors, for example. A slick-looking microsite with bad messaging might get good press pick up for the concept, but could confuse prospects, hurt sales or worse, lead to customer attrition.

Overall, social media marketing is a great new method for engaging directly with the public to share a brand or company’s core messages, values, culture and news. Social media marketers often know where to reach key audiences and how to create exciting digital content. But the PR team should have a hand in what messages are in that content for maximum impact and the greatest ROI. Working together, social media marketers and the PR department can create compelling messages and information and deliver them in exciting new ways that let a company’s public audiences interact, engage and most importantly – remember the brand.

SERIES Social Media SkillsAdvertising, SEO, PR, Graphic Design, Copywriting, and more…

8 thoughts on “PR, Social Media Skills”

  1. Coming from the PR world, I think this post is a great idea. I think many “social media” types forget or never knew about some of the basics that come from the PR world. They apply so well to Social Media, hence why so many Pr pros are flooding into the Social Media sandbox to play.

    However the opposite is also true. Many of us PR professionals should recognize that there are many opportunities for our clients beyond the basic PR pitches within Web 2.0. Some firms are doing this well, some are not.

    Thanks for the insights Christine.

  2. So true Sam. The opposite line of thought is worth exploring as well. I think Perkett is a good example of a PR company that has embraced those other opportunities that exist beyond the PR basics. The whole overarching idea of this blog post series is that communications industries are all merging. I think we all need to be looking at other skill sets to improve our results.

  3. PR is definitely not my strong suit. I had not thought of it directly as so closely related to social networking and web 2.0, but Christine makes some great points here. I wonder if the PR professionals that transition best toward using social tools will make the others obsolete?

  4. Thank you for enforcing that social marketing should be a part of an entire PR plan, versus the only plan. It's an important component for most of my clients but it seldom is able to stand alone.

  5. Jason – thanks again for inviting me to be a part of your series on social media and other business functions. I am grateful for the insights and the opportunity to share – and hear feedback on – mine as well.

    Sam, you are exactly right – PR professionals *must recognize that PR is far beyond media relations now. We are publishers ourselves and we bring a special expertise to the table for companies and brands embracing social media to communicate directly with constituents (in addition to traditional media relations). As Jeremy said, “the PR professionals that transition best toward using social tools” will definitely be the industry survivors. Will make the others obsolete? That remains to be seen.

    Thanks again!

  6. The key thing here is integration between traditional PR and social media – the two are becoming closer in kind.

    There are times when a dedicated social media campaign is the only viable option – i think it is a great way for startups or nfp organisations for example – but these are, i believe, rare instances.

    It’s been said PR no longer stands for Public Relations but Personal Relations, and I think this is the link with social media which will, I think, find itself almost in a customer service role as the skillsets of the individuals involved develops.


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