Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

PR (public relations) meets SM (social media)

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 10, 2009

Is your PR agency engaged in social media? Not all are, nor do they need to be if that is not a priority of their clients. Here’s my Social Media 101 take as it relates to PR, and how it can impact this industry. 


Social media is an interesting development from a PR perspective. It aligns with all the values and strategies we recommend to clients – deep customer engagement; relevant, topical commentary to establish expertise; content immersion into “earned” marketing and editorial channels. So from that level, social media serves as a way to extend the best practices we already employ on behalf of clients.


As part of your marketing mix, social media offers an inexpensive opportunity to engage more directly with your audience(s), often on a one-to-one level. The rewards can be great, especially if these efforts help convert your audience into evangelists for the company and its products. Social media does require a higher level of engagement and interaction than more static marketing vehicles though, so sustainability of the effort should be considered before moving forward.


What’s different is the level of engagement required. One-to-many engagement through Twitter or blogs down to one-to-one engagement in chat rooms requires more human resources, usually from both the agency and client sides. So we need to really assess what channels make the most sense for a client to engage with, and what will deliver the most relevant results for their businesses. For example, the best mainstream media hit may not work for a client looking for select opinions in their industry or those trying to identify sampling targets for a consumer product launch.


Conversely, deep blog interaction may work to develop great intellectual discourse but may not result in new business for a client. So we really need to consider the full spectrum of publicity opportunities – this isn’t much different than what we’ve always done except that the playing field has expanded.


The biggest challenge is trying to educate clients to the benefits of social media while portraying our expertise in this area in a way that showcases our deep knowledge and successful projects, but does not scare away “beginners” from giving social media a shot. 


Social media isn’t going away. Tools and technology have been evolving in this direction for several years. Will Twitter be here in five years? Will Facebook become a mainstream business application? What new technologies will emerge? The future for the PR community, in my opinion, needs to be complete immersion and ownership of social media engagement.


Social media is a promotional vehicle, a conversation opportunity, a marketing tool, a sales platform.


PR must own this category, lead clients in their social media programs and recognize the opportunity to create vital content platforms for clients.


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