Ways to Integrate Social Media with Public Relations

Generally, the goal of public relations is to create or manage a buzz around a business, product, service, brand or individual. According to Wikipedia, “public relations is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.” With the emergence of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn, businesses have almost unlimited access to the public. In order for PR to successfully manage the tide of information, PR representatives must venture beyond traditional media outlets to Web 2.0 in order to monitor all messages. In fact, social media management should be an integral piece of your public relations campaign.
Through social media management, a PR pro can help businesses interact with clients, customers and prospects to increase brand awareness and direct traffic to the desired website. A channel like Twitter allows your business to engage with customers, other industry leaders and the media to grow your list of followers and update them on your latest company news. Another top networking site and PR opportunity is LinkedIn. Through discussion forums and queries regarding a particular industry, you can be positioned as an expert. A high level of involvement online improves brand/business recognition and gives search engines and crawlers extra opportunities to find you and place you higher on search engine rankings. Regardless of which sites you use to increase your exposure (or your clients’), below are five ways to get the most out of social media as part of your public relations strategy.

Link to articles. Almost every media outlet has online versions of articles and news segments. When an article runs about your business, let others know by posting a link on your social media networks. This not only heightens brand awareness, it also shows the publication or channel that the public is interested in what the reporter said about your business. Bookmarking sites like Reddit, Delicious, StumpleUpon and Digg are also great ways to flag an article for others to find through keyword searches.

Drive traffic to website. Do not forget to always include your website in every email, blog comment and forum post. On LinkedIn, for example, after answering a question or posting on a forum, include your URL. If your post was interesting or informative, chances are high that the viewer will click on your link for more. In public relations, the online objective is to do more than just raise awareness; it is to direct interested parties to the business? door or web page. Then it is up to the business to make the sale or pursue the relationship.
Be an industry expert. Rather than focus on selling, present yourself as an educator. If you are in the IT industry, answer general questions and prove yourself to be a credible resource. When others view you as an industry expert, they will be more likely to turn to you for their IT needs and refer others to your business. This particularly applies to LinkedIn or any professional network.

Respond to feedback. The general public freely gives opinions all over the World Wide Web. A big aspect of managing social media is maintaining a pulse on what your customers and prospects are saying about you or the brand you represent. Gossip is no longer exchanged behind your back, it is public and is as simple to find as a Google or Twitter search. Once you discover comments, whether positive or negative, respond. If people sing your praises, thank them and use the feedback as a testimonial or an opportunity to retweet on Twitter or include as a status update on Facebook, FriendFeed or LinkedIn. If you come across disgruntled customers, it is best to make it right and put your best customer service practices to work.

Involve the audience. Some of the best viral marketing campaigns involve audience participation on Twitter, Facebook fan pages, YouTube and Myspace. One way to harness attention of your business through public relations is to host a contest. If you have a new product, invite your customers to think of a name for it. Include directions on your website, then direct participants to submit YouTube video entries and vote via Twitter or other sites. Not only would this make your company be incredibly searchable, but you generate a big hype around the new product that may warrant news coverage for your company as well.

There are many other PR and social media tactics, however these are five basic ways to merge social media and public relations efforts. If you are a business with a PR team, consider their social media management services. Do they offer to network on your behalf? If you are a PR professional, these five ideas will help you take your campaigns one step further. It is crucial for your business to be grounded enough to know your mission and purpose, but fluid enough to adapt to the latest trends. Public relations is a steadfast and necessary marketing medium, but the mode of communication with the press and the public is evolving; embracing social media is the key to staying on top.

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