Entrepreneurship. Most people have thought about it at some point in their careers. You, however, have made the commitment to jump headlong into giving up your 9 to 5 job to turn your passion into your career. You’re banking on more than just word-of-mouth to introduce yourself, your product, or brand to the marketplace. Everyone has a suggestion on what you should do – “You should be on the news,” a friend tells you. “My cousin’s friend’s son goes to the same school as so-and-so reporter from the business section – you should talk to her,” a neighbour says. Their suggestions, as eye-rolling as they seem, aren’t completely off-base. Quality earned media coverage is the golden goose to most growing businesses. A well-placed news story in a respected trade publication or a feature on a local news program can, in addition to getting the word out, generate investor interest, drive sales and traffic, and add to your credibility.
I’ve been immersed in the evolving marketing and public relations landscape for 20 years. I’ve seen trends and fads come and go. The commonality, regardless of the communication platform used, is that businesses over-invest in one whilst under-investing in another. A company favours one vehicle over the other without understanding how the two work better when they work together.
This is particularly true for social media and PR. Businesses disproportionately invest budgets in traditional media outreach compared to social media. This dilutes social media’s value and wastes money. Here are 5 ways social media should always be integrated into your PR strategy:
Social Proof of Concept
Social media provides instant proof of concept. Users reply/like/retweet within seconds of you posting. You’ll learn quickly whether your idea has strong enough legs to stand on or you should rethink entirely. Social media also demonstrates transparency and the values of your business. A real life example is a company called MommyCon – one of the largest parenting convention series in America. MommyCon balanced its traditional media outreach and social media engagement to quickly build a social following of 500,000 fiercely loyal fans. This balanced strategy further resulted in sold out events in almost a dozen major U.S. cities, attention from high-profile media outlets, and increased credibility among parenting product brands.
Top Tip: Focus time and energy on building an authentic social media following before pitching to media. A loyal following will add credibility to your offering.
Social media is an essential tool in monitoring your target market, industry evolution and competitive landscape. The knowledge you can gain from seeing what else is going on in your space in real time is invaluable in keeping you in the conversation.
Social media, Twitter in particular, can help foster relationships with journalists who are interested in your industry and what you have to say. You can also monitor what topics they prefer to cover and how they like to be pitched. I’ve seen more and more journalists tout for interview opportunities on Twitter using the hashtag #journorequest.
Top Tip: Listen on social media before pitching!
You’ve secured a quality piece of coverage in an important media outlet. Well done! Now what? An earned piece of media does not – I repeat does not – mark the end of your strategy. It does, however, mark where social media kicks off some great momentum. Use your social media channels to further publicize your coverage. It’s possible to double its reach with the right amplification. Remember: one piece of coverage does not a reputation make!
Top Tip: Extend the life span of your media coverage with heavy social media rotation.
Evolved News Cycle
It was predictable that social media would change the way news is distributed. Some marketers were surprised that it changed the entire news cycle! Twitter is partly to thank (or blame) for a 24-hour “assault on the senses” news cycle and a “gone in an instant” relevance. A well-placed news story can get blasted into “old news” by a single 140- character tweet. It’s fundamental that you incorporate, and monitor, this new reality into your PR strategy in order to make it work for you.
Top Tip: Think about what your Twitter headline would be. This will help you focus on your story, not your brand.
It’s fair to say you started your own business because, among other reasons, you have something to say. You have an opinion that can be backed up by experience and education. Thought leaders are individuals with unique knowledge on a particular topic who can be turned to for expert commentary or direction. Thought leaders are authentic, they believe with every fiber of their being in what they stand for.
Thought leadership has traditionally been associated with print and broadcast media appearances, but social media has now democratized this process. Traditional media outlets are no longer the gatekeepers of content. Instead, you can become a thought-leader by creating your own consistent, quality content, and distributing it to your target audience via your social platforms. Successful blogs, vlogs and podcasts which resonate with your audience and produce thousands of clicks, likes and shares will propel your though-leadership status instantly AND add gravitas to your traditional media pitches.
Top Tip: If you want to build up your media reputation as a thought leader, start distributing quality content via social FIRST.
I have no doubts in the value of a robust public relations strategy for business growth. However, I urge every entrepreneur and small business owner I met to think – how are you utilising social media to achieve your PR goals? Please connect the dots.