It’s not a comfortable question, but in today’s connected world, it’s one we communicators have to ask ourselves. And here it is:
How many of the media and influencers in our media databases hear regularly from us (or our brands) other than when we have a press release in hand or a story idea to pitch?
In many cases, the answer is “Rarely.” However, social media offers us the ability to develop relationships at our fingertips, as well as some opportunities to significantly improve our personal effectiveness, and the resonance of the messages we publish, specifically:
- The ability to create a landing pad for messaging, by cultivating an interested audience; and
- A way to develop personal relationships with key influencers that will keep you “present” and top of mind.
Creating a bouncy landing pad for messages by cultivating your audience before you communicate:
It’s not unusual for a PR campaign to still operate on the “Ready, aim, fire” principle. The audience is targeted and the message is subsequently distributed. Follow up calls are made. This approach misses one of the greatest gifts to PR from the inventors of networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – the gift of ongoing audience attention. Any content marketing strategy worth its salt makes social channels a key distribution network for messages. PR pros need to embrace this strategy, too. Why?
Every day, on social networks all over the world, with absolutely no regard at all or whatsoever for our various and sundry communications plans and corporate schedules, conversations are happening relating to the products, services, ideas and causes we spend our days promoting. People are looking for information. Bloggers are blogging. Consumers are considering what to consume next. If we’re lucky, several of these actors might alight upon a message we published. If we’re unlucky, however, they may overlook our brands completely.
Now, some folks aren’t considering capturing these spur of the moment opportunities. However, those communicators who are more dialed in to their marketplaces – and, arguably, their company KPIs (key performance indicators) – do care deeply about these opportunities – and they’re wise to do so. The ability to capture the ongoing attention of your audience can result in extremely measurable outcomes, and create a soft, springy and receptive landing pad that can bounce your messages around to different people who will amplify it for you.
Modernizing media relations with meaningful digital connections
The second opportunity social media offers public relations practitioners is a more modern approach to media relations. And no, I’m not talking about simply sending out pitches on Twitter. By paying attention to what journalists are doing on social media, you can:
- Develop a good idea of what sort of stories interest them. (What do they tweet, bookmark or read via social reader?),
- Identify other opportunities for coverage or exposure beyond their primary beat (Do they pin images on Pinterest? Contribute to a blog in addition to their beat? Create vlogs or podcasts? These are all parts of the news hole.)
- Learn what sort of content is popular with the larger audience. (Which stories trigger enthusiastic sharing?)
- Find non-traditional influencers who weren’t on your radar screen but are nonetheless influential, especially in niche areas of interest.
- Understand what topics are near and dear to the hearts of the audience.
The act of simply paying attention to the conversation around topics central to your organization is always informative. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to subtly introduce yourself into the conversation (and to the key players) by adding value when you start sharing useful information, and sharing content posted by others among your own social network. Tweeting a journalist’s story is a positive way to get on his or her radar screen, especially if you have cultivated a solid and relevant following yourself.
Developing digital relationships
The good news is that cultivating audiences and developing good digital relationships with media and influencers on social networks are achieved through similar means. Here’s how you do it.
- Develop a focused presence on the social networks germane to the topic you’re promoting. This presence is ideally branded, but it can be a personal presence bearing your name, as well. If you’re ambitious, you can do both. Either way, be transparent about who you are, and where you work.
- Delve into the topics at hand. Become an expert, share your expertise, and share good content. Engage in conversation. Focus on being helpful, interesting and authentic.
- Research hashtags, follow lists and read what others tweet. Get a handle on the nature of the conversation in your space. Learn what sort of content resonates with the influencers who have gained your interest.
- Look at your media list and connect with key media who have also developed professional presences on social networks. Important: pay attention to how these folks use social media. If they don’t talk shop on their Facebook wall, you should avoid doing so too.
- Commit to building these presences over time. It takes time to gain traction with an audience. Along the way, you have to care for and feed your social presences.
- Practice the 90:10 rule. Fully 90% of what you share shouldn’t be brand-focused. Act as an editor at large, finding and sharing lots of interesting stuff. Yes, you can drop one of your messages into the stream every now and then. But if you want to create and maintain interest, you’ll need to be selfless with the content you curate and the presence you construct.
As you proceed, you’ll pick up more followers, and find interesting people to follow. You’ll identify influencers. And if you do it right, you’ll become a valued member of the community, one who others rely upon for great information. You’ll be creating a receptive audience for key messages, and positive relationships with influencers who matter, and triggering a loop of incredibly valuable attention, interaction and opportunity. We call this new approach to PR and content marketing Agile Engagement.
Author Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik) is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.
Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo.