How is a social media strategy similar to a PR campaign? I’ve come to realize that their outcomes don’t come from what one posts on their own page, or how many submissions are made to media outlets, or how many times one tweets, but somewhere else entirely. PR is based on the premise that unsolicited word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and the second best is what a journalist or other third-party says about you – assuming, of course, that it’s positive. Media outlets like television news and local newspapers are flooded with stories every day, so they pick the compelling ones to feature. What about social media? A good social media strategy isn’t about Facebook or Twitter at all. It’s not about the “where” of the message, but the what: What can you do, say or sell that is fresh and valuable enough for others to pass along? Note: If we offer a reward or incentive for clicking the “Like” button on Facebook, we’re engaged in a direct response strategy, not network marketing. A social media strategy involves network marketing, so your message is passed from one network member to another – usually in their own words. Notice that in each case our success or failure depends largely on one item: a compelling story. If the story is so important here, what can you do to create a great one? It begins with a customer experience worthy of sharing, and what words to use: Start listening carefully to your own friends and associates when they tell you about a product or service that they liked and make notes. Ask yourself, What makes each story compelling? Remember, you have little control over reactions to your stories, so if people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Your best defense here is Truth. If it’s not true, don’t say it or imply it in your stories. Social media & PR strategies do not exist in a vacuum. The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created (usually it’s based on a written plan that outlines goals, with strategies/tactics aimed at achieving them). Your ads, sales literature, web site, logo, videos, how you answer the phone, all create a feeling – a marketing environment – that supports or undermines your stories. Generating your own Facebook “friends” is nothing compared with getting your customers to tweet, blog or talk about your products/services and the wonderful ways they were treated by yourself and your staff. Make that the foundation of your PR and social media campaigns and you’re almost assured success.
Let’s say you’re looking for a new toaster. You want a toaster that fits your situation perfectly. You start with the internet and soon you’ve discovered every brand out there. A trip to the magazine kiosk yields several resources that fill in any missing information. You’ve now researched as many manufacturer claims as you can find. That’s marketing. You’ve been operating in a carefully crafted environment that was created (hopefully) to entice you to a decision. Marketing creates environments that pave the way for a sale to occur. It’s like a basketball game. When a team gets the ball, they set up a play (environment) that creates an opportunity for a shot (sale). When a player shoots the ball, the sales process begins. Getting back to our toaster, we see how powerful marketing can be. However, it may not have led us to a decision yet. We know those messages and photos and videos were paid for, so there remains a bit of skepticism. But what if a friend has one of the toasters on your short list and talks in detail about its virtues? And what if you’re watching TV and see a feature on toasters? You’d likely perk right up and watch with interest. And when they point out that a famous chef whom you know uses that same model in his/her own home, well, shall we just say - decision made. That’s PR – messages that are perceived as being unsolicited. True experiences that include the polish and the dirt, so you really know what to expect. Actually, a PR strategy is remarkably similar to a social media strategy, but we’ll save that for a future post. In most companies, and as many experts will agree, PR and marketing often overlap. This requires collaboration between different departments, and in smaller businesses requires one department to incorporate both. So how do we manage a PR/Marketing blend? Understanding the Trade Off There’s a trade off and overlap. You control the marketing environment and keep it on-brand. You can start a PR campaign with great stories, but you have little control over reader responses. If people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Truth is usually the best defense here. If it’s not true, do not say it or imply it in your PR stories. Building a Solid Foundation You need a sound marketing base to support the stories being told (PR) about your offerings. A marketing strategy that outlines goals, strategies and tactics along with budget guidelines is best, but you may only need a branding strategy or even a good creative brief. The point is to create a pre-designed environment that sets you apart in the mind of your prospects. Creating Stories that Get Noticed You need compelling stories if a PR campaign is to succeed. Listen to your friends’ and family’s stories about their favorite stuff. Hire the greatest writer you can find. Great PR is not just about media placements, it’s about the story being told. Great stories will be picked up by the media! Keep Your Eyes Peeled The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created. Look for what’s being said about your offerings like a man on fire looks for a pond! Those stories can take on a life of their own and you need to be aware of them. Budget Control Generally speaking, skew your budget towards PR once you have a solid marketing strategy in place (collateral, ads, website, etc.). But note, most everyone else is doing this as well, so your PR success will likely boil down to how compelling and interesting your stories are.
As a small business, our marketing was focused on the printed word. As a marketing agency, we worked in print as well, opting out of expensive TV and radio productions. We did a lot of direct mail and print ads in those days. I remember sorting mail into stacks on our living room floor and putting them into pre-labeled postal bags for bulk rate postage. I also remember making layouts with glue and rub-off letters of all sizes. Photoshop was a baby back then. PC sales were booming, and then came the internet. Everything was changing. Pasted up layouts were replaced by digital layouts in the wink of an eye, and the internet was growing so fast you could hardly keep up. Yahoo was the big search engine and sites like eBay and amazon.com were booming. Business people were jumping into anything internet related because their stocks were almost guaranteed to go up. Then a big stock market crash came and devastated the internet segment. We learned a valuable lesson: Avoid jumping on a new technology until you understand it and can see clearly how to use it for your benefit. We’ve used that lesson ever since and it has served us well. A Media Marketing Blueprint Today we have more marketing choices than ever. The internet is no longer a single media, it’s a giant cloud full of opportunities and risks. Our approach to this puzzle is to learn first, then test. Here are a few strategies that have helped us achieve goals for our agency and for our clients: Online Press Releases - The key is a good story. Write it around 2 - 3 keyword phrases. Then add it to a template that includes your logo/contact details and save it as a PDF for download. Post each new press release on your website, blog and Facebook page if it matches the goals for those initiatives. Use your list of keywords for tweets, which helps your release be relevant and get picked up by others. PPC & SEO - We use PPC to search for the best performing key words that are within our budget. Once we find a good one, we’ll build a page around it or will re-write an existing page. The new page may be a landing page (no navigation to the main site) or a page within the site. Videos - YouTube is the second largest search engine, so we have built video campaigns for our clients with amazing results. If your goal is to generate clicks, then be sure to write around a key phrase or two with each video. We also post to other video sites. There are many out there, so check each one out carefully before jumping in. Blogs - Obviously these are powerful, but they need to be based on goals. We’ve had the best success using blogs as a way to get a more personal look into a business, so they need to be written by employees and anyone who works within the organization. Facebook & Twitter - Where we use key words to drive clicks to web sites, Facebook and Twitter react better to a PR strategy, where a good story grows on its own within the network. Most companies usually use Facebook and Twitter as a way to advertise their business, but we find that stories work best for our business. Facebook is also often used to engage with consumers, but that works best for retail type businesses. People who don’t know you or can’t purchase from you are more likely to get involved if there’s a story that gets their attention.