You’re probably already familiar with the concept of ‘a marketing mix’ but right now we’re talking about two particular ingredients, namely PR and social media, which when brought together can make for pretty sweet comms success. To continue this weird food analogy, let’s think of PR as peanut butter and social media as jam, both great on their own but when you combine the two that’s where the magic happens.
How to use social media to inform your PR strategy
Social media is a hugely valuable window into the thoughts, feelings and opinions of your brand’s audience, making it consumer research ripe for the PR picking. Cookies aside (food pun intended), we reveal a lot about ourselves on social media so monitoring your audience’s views on news and current affairs can be a great guide to positioning yourself for success.
Surveys and focus groups will always have a place in the PR and marketing world, don’t get me wrong. However, when you need real-time reactions to breaking news, social media is the place to go for hot off the press info which is fast to turn around, free and straight from the horse’s mouth.
With this said, it’s important to consider the various social media platforms out there and the different conversations they host.
Observing your audience across a number of platforms helps you to build a big picture of who they are, what they care about, and how your brand is going to engage them. Just thinking about the difference between your own LinkedIn and Facebook content and the way you use these platforms gives you an idea of what I’m talking about. From your LinkedIn profile, no one would know your frustration about losing the Leeds leg of the HS2 but your Facebook page gives your opinion loud and clear.
Monitoring your audience’s social media engagement with regards to your company news, as well as news on a wider scale, is a sure-fire way to get reliable unfiltered opinions. Measuring the sentiment of published content is likely to produce a majority of positive or neutral results. Whereas social media allows us to gain a much more well-rounded view of news reactions, which are unfiltered by journalists, and allows you to strategically plan your next steps.
When it comes to making those next steps, social media can be used to help ensure you are one step ahead of upcoming trends which could be the next big thing. By monitoring conversations around certain keywords and hashtags, you can keep an eye on the trends and ideas that are emerging and be one of the first to have a juicy opinion on the latest hot topics.
Feed the conversation
Pre-social media, a brand expressed its views and opinions via PR activity and traditional advertising, but today social media provides a stage for brands to reactively have their say on anything and everything, whether a journalist asks for it or not. The red pen permission of editors has been taken away and we can use key messages and new ideas in more creative ways than ever. As conversations move so rapidly, monitoring social media ensures that a brand’s statements are timely, relevant and never out of date.
With this immediate outlet for opinion, it has become expected that brands speak out and join the conversation on news and events, from COP26 to Cuthbert the Caterpillar. Whether it’s a witty 280 characters on Twitter or a heartfelt message of solidarity following a crisis on LI, there’s serious PR power in social media activity, if you are bold enough to embrace it.
Furthermore, by monitoring social shares on news articles and announcements, we can gain insight into what our audiences have an appetite for and serve them up exactly what we know they want. Social shares show who’s reading your news and how engaged readers are on certain topics. This means, if social shares on news relating to COP26 for example are going down, then adding to the climate change chat might not be worthwhile at that time.
With this in mind, brands need their news to be newsworthy AND social media-worthy. Whether it’s a headline, key stat, or an incredible image, your content needs to be the Quality Street of news, ‘Made for Sharing’.
Too many cooks - blending PR and social in strategy
Speaking from an integrated agency point of view, perhaps I’m biased, but arguably the perfect blend of PR and social media can’t be created by teams working in silos, let alone across different agencies.
For consistency, and a strategy where PR and social media feed and inform one another, everyone needs to be reading from the same recipe book, which is where an agency that does it all comes out top. Get yourself an agency that can do both (and everything in between) and you will have the winning formula for success.