In Learnings: I’m no expert on social media and/or PR, but I’m learning. Past few weeks I have been meeting senior PR practitioners to interview them for my research project. My thesis revolves around how social media has changed the practice of PR in New Zealand. The practitioners I have met so far have all been from different areas of work including public sector, consultancies and corporates. They all might have different perspectives about social media and its usage in PR but some observations were the same across all. Here are a few:
1. Embrace it, learn it: Social media is a new tool of communications, just like the fax and e-mail. The cynics need to shed inhibitions and learn more about how it can be put to use in PR. The best way to learn is by doing it. Get on to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and see how it works or get someone who already knows about it to teach you. What’s more, there are plenty of good courses that can help you get onboard.
2. Remember, it’s just another tool, use it strategically: Don’t get too carried away by the hype and the excitement. Use social media like you would use any other communications medium in your campaign – strategically. An ad-hoc approach will take you nowhere and offer no ROI. Know your target audience, analyse the medium they prefer (example Facebook vs Twitter) and design your communications accordingly. Use social media because you need to not because you have to. There’s a PRINZ course on Digital Strategy that’s worth attending. I’ll share what I’ll learn there.
3. Train your staff, have a policy: Anyone can be a journalist with social media. Word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire, especially the gossip and the negative comments. So be careful and train your staff to handle it and handle it well. Also, have a social media policy in place, to make sure your staff is not ruining your company’s image by being extra-witty on their Facebook page or Tweeting company inside stories as gossip.
4. Don’t do something you’ll regret later: On social media, the word spreads before you blink your eye and stays there somewhere, forever. So don’t write anything silly that will be held against you later. Remember, everyone (and I mean everyone) goes on social media platforms to ‘check-out’ who they are hiring or doing business with. Your profiles say a lot about you as a person, so be careful when putting-up pictures and adding friends. Same for Twitter, YouTube et al. Remember what happened with the guys who tried to make a silly video about playing with food inside the Domino’s kitchen?? Yes, they got FIRED!
5. Learn how to monitor: Monitor the social media sphere for anything that might have been about you or your brand/client. There are several free monitoring tools like IceRocket which can help you do that. Now even search engines offer results from social media, so it’s not that hard. This will help you track issues and possibly avoid a crisis and respond to the critics before the issue gets out of hand. Also, this will help you understand the extent to which people are engaging with you on social media.
6. Don’t just talk, listen: Social media has inspired the writer in all of us, hasn’t it? But make sure you’re engaging with people /TA on social media and actually listening to what they are saying, instead of simply putting your opinions out there.
7. Make the most of it, while it lasts: Twitter took over Facebook and tomorrow the next big thing will take over Twitter. So make the most of what social media offers today before this becomes history and you miss the boat. Keep yourself informed of whatever’s new in this market but take it on, only if you have the need to. It should all come out of a strategy, but remember to stop and give a thought to social media whenever you make a strategy.