Social media has become a game-changer in the world of public relations. The advent of the blogosphere, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and "review" sites, like Yelp all provide opportunities for companies looking to attract positive attention.
The Old Model
In the old model, the practice of public relations was primarily a one-way street. A company had a message to deliver and reached out to the media in hopes of delivering that message to a wide audience. Whether it was a new product launch, an announcement of a major executive hire or news of the company's most recent charitable efforts- the public relations team would:
- Send out a press release
- Hold a press conference
- Initiate direct media outreach
If all went well, the message would get the attention of the local newspaper, magazine or broadcast outlet and the company would get the equivalent of "free" advertising.
Public Relations Today
While many of the tools of public relations have changed, the goals of public relations campaigns have not.
What are the typical goals of a public relations campaign?
Generally, it is to convince the public that your organization/company is one with which they should do business. It is about communicating the message that the company, its executives and its employees are highly skilled at what they do and have either the products or services that will be of great use to the targeted audience.
The traditional model was based on the notion that the power to provide positive information about your company resided exclusively in the hands of newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets. They were the "influencers" who had the tools and the scope to reach your target audience.
Thanks to the explosive growth of social media, both the targets of public relations and the dynamics of public relations have been changed forever.
Reaching out to Traditional Media Outlets
Despite the decline in the newspaper and magazine publishing businesses, reporters and columnists remain extremely influential. A positive mention of your company or products in a major metropolitan newspaper or a respected industry magazine can have a significant impact on a business.
While the traditional targets of public relations campaigns are still targeted, it no longer suffices to merely send out a press release or call to pitch a story idea.
Members of the traditional media have jumped onto the social media bandwagon. Not only are they using social media to broadcast news, they are using it to converse with their constituencies.
If there is a reporter you want to target, then follow them on Twitter, "friend" them on Facebook, connect to them LinkedIn and comment on their online articles and blog posts.
This is a terrific way of not only getting direct access to the members of the media, it is also a smart way to see what's on the reporter's mind at any given moment and what kinds of topics they are currently writing about.
By engaging the reporter in conversation (offering timely information/advice/expertise), you engage the reporter instead of merely "pitching" him. By commenting on points made by the reporter, you can demonstrate your expertise and get the reporter's attention. This process can take weeks, or even months, but it is a worthwhile pursuit.
Reaching out to the "Influencers"
Social media has proven to be the great equalizer. There are powerful figures on blogs, on Twitter and other online media. On any given topic, there are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers. Every second, there are thousands of people communicating on Twitter and people are discussing brands, products and individuals on Facebook.
These "influencers" reach thousands, even millions of people online.
The easiest way of finding these influencers is through a simple Google Blog search. It will show you who is talking about you, your company, your products or your industry.
A Google Blogs search for "Online Marketing"
There are also plenty of online lists of the most influential bloggers and Tweeters in most industries.
Once you know who's talking about you or your industry, then it is simple to reach out to them.
- Comment on their blogs
- Provide them with links to content you've created
- Try to e-mail them
- Do everything in your power to convince them that you have a product or service worth talking about.
Getting a reporter's or a blogger's attention is not always a good thing. When you place yourself and your company on their radar, it can open a Pandora's Box. If you are confident of your expertise and your offerings, then there's little to worry about. On the other hand, if a reporter doesn't like you, your company, your products or services, they are in a position to broadcast their views to a wide audience.
This kind of negative publicity can be devastating.
PR does not stand for press relations, it stands for public relations. The web gives you many more tools to get your message out to the public. Use those tools wisely and your business will thrive. Use them poorly and you can do damage to your company's reputation and your bottom line.
Jon Gelberg is the Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media, where he oversees a wide range of content initiatives including Blue Fountain Media's "Business Learning Center." Read more about Jon here.