Let’s face it, social media has rocked PR’s world. It’s changed the game and made PR pros work A LOT harder, a lot faster, and our skills have to get stronger. There is double the number of outlets reporting at 10x the normal speed. As a species, humans can roll with change – we’ve evolved from cave drawings to text messages – but we need to keep a few things in mind when communicating a message on behalf of a client.
Social media is the internet on steroids. It’s the amped up version, and it’s super informative, super fast and super easy to botch.
Some public relations skills have been crucial from the very beginning and, even with social media (or because of it), these skills are more important than ever:
Pay attention to detail
With the ability to get information out at lightning speed it’s pretty easy to send the wrong information. Or if it’s not wrong, there’s a good chance that you’ve made a typo or grammatical error. These things don’t reflect well on you or your client. Whether it’s a written letter or a Twitter post – read it and re-read it. In the 24 hour news cycle, we have to move fast, but taking the time to post correctly will spare you from developing a reprieve (or explaining yourself to your client) and save time in the long run.
Build the Relationship
You may have spent hours, days, or weeks trying to reach the right reporter. To land coverage, it all boils down to building relationships by identifying the correct journalist and sending the correct message, at the correct time.
While social media actually makes it easier to find the right person because they’re tweeting or posting about topics they’re interested in, there’s no shortcut to building that relationship. In fact, there are no shortcuts in Public Relations. Period. In order to get a few columns in print, we’re up against media deadlines, staffing shortages, competitor sources and breaking news. It takes more than a cleverly written pitch to secure that placement and social media is no different; just because the posts and comments come quickly, it doesn’t mean that your client’s coverage will. Whether it’s traditional or social media, show our colleagues in the media general courtesy and respect and take the time to cultivate the relationship.
With traditional public relations we spend a ton of time crafting the perfect pitch. We research our content, line up subject matter experts and generally try to serve up a story on a silver platter. Just because we now have about 140 characters or so to do it doesn’t mean we should spend less time doing the background work. Granted, we’re not using Twitter for pitching, but we ARE using it to establish our client as a credible, relevant source of information. You need to identify the right targets, not just blast your client’s information all over the internet. You want your fans and followers to think of your brand as a resource – just as with traditional PR. I’ll say it again – in public relations there are no shortcuts. Do your homework. Know your client and your client’s industry. You wouldn’t craft a traditional pitch without doing all of the legwork and finding the right contact, so don’t post on social media or pitch a blogger without putting the background research in.
Social media presents us with a lot of new opportunities – and plenty of new outlets – but to be an effective social media participant you need to remember the fundamentals of public relations.