Tip Sheet: 10 Ways to Solidify PR’s Role in Social Strategy

It’s safe to say, as Domino’s, Chapstick, United Airlines and FedEx have all discovered, the public truly owns social media. Yet the debate over “ownership” of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social platforms continues to rage on in the agency world. As corporate marketing dollars increasingly shift from traditional tactics toward interactive social marketing, the social land grab persists.

Public relations agencies were the earliest adopters of social media and thus reaped the benefits of first mover advantage, but they are now facing increasing competition from smart advertisers, direct marketers, media buyers and a new breed of digital companies.

And certainly PR’s competition with marketing has become stiffer. But if you are claiming ownership at the top of your lungs while your peers do the same, you can be assured that no one is doing it right. Effective social media activation spans multiple disciplines, agencies and departments—but that does not mean that you can’t become an invaluable strategic leader, particularly if you keep the following tips front and center:

1. If you’re in an agency, execute flawlessly in your designated activation area. A client who is unhappy with your agency’s ability to execute the more traditional PR responsibilities is unlikely to trust you with their social strategy. Proving your ability to manage media/blogger relations should be a primary goal.

2. Accept that not all social media is earned. The time has passed when all bloggers do it for fun, for love or for free product. Lots of content producers have created ways to monetize their services while at the same time preserving the integrity of their editorial. If the occasional paid placement or partnership is not your cup of tea, be graceful in declining and move on.

3. Learn the basics (and beyond) of social advertising. Facebook and Twitter’s paid offerings can be invaluable in ensuring your reach and your target audience, as well as increasing the resonance of your earned and owned efforts.

4. Recognize that the budget pie is bigger than your slice. The media agency is already buying scads of display ads to support the campaign. Maybe they’re even recommending Sponsored Stories on Facebook or Promoted Tweets. Make sure you are on the same page so that the budget allocated to these activities is spent wisely.

5. Think in content. As PR pros, we know how to generate a good story. In addition to the key messages, explore ways to support them with content. Aim to create five good pieces of shareable content that extend a story and bring it to life.

6. Think in verbs. With great content comes great responsibility. Make sure users can “like” it. Ask them to share it. Even better, implement Facebook’s new Open Graph APIs to make the sharing process automatic for real-life actions such as watching, listening, cooking, wearing, learning and more.

7. Know how to measure, and creatively. Get to know the ins and outs of Google Analytics and other tools. Impressions are great, but they’re only a part of the equation.

8. Generate integrated reports. Marry your digital metrics report to your media report and include appropriate insights in your regular recap reports. If you can demonstrate that a media placement drove significant traffic to your organizations (or your client’s) Facebook page, your client or boss may better understand how PR efforts build an engaged community.

9. Plan accordingly. In your PR plans, include how digital will be integrated in every PR action. If you’re only communicating your team’s ability to drive social conversation through traditional media outreach, you’ll only be granted a seat at the media relations table.

10. Practice what you preach. Regularly engaging with industry peers, potential employees, prospective and current clients and key media and influencers across a variety of community management platforms will subtly showcase your social media savvy and willingness to communicate via non-traditional mediums.

At its core, PR is about appropriately communicating a brand’s message. On that principle, PR should not only own a brand’s social media messaging, but also provide strategic social media guidance. PRN

[Editor’s Note: For more articles on social media, visit PR News’ Subscriber Resource Center.]


Mike Hollywood is director of new media at Cone Communications. He can be reached at mhollywood@coneinc.com.