Over the last decade, the lines between all forms of business communications have become blurred. It's no longer just marketing or public relations or advertising. They're all intertwined, and for that reason, I think you should have a good understanding of each.
So, today I've brought in my friend, Meleah Smith, to talk to you about public relations. PR seems to be a little more mysterious than its other communications cousins, but because it's often free, I think you'll be eager to learn more about it. And better yet, Meleah will put public relations in the context of social media to make it even easier to understand.
I spent a number of years in PR, and know the value it can bring your organization. And after she explains it, I think you'll see its worth too.
By the way, this kicks off an entire month dedicated to public relations strategy, so prepare to become a PR expert!
By some miracle, I’ve been doing freelance public relations for almost 12 years now. The year I started, 2006, just so happened to have been the first year that Facebook was opened up beyond the world of college students.
Gradually over time, my clients began requesting more and more help with social media. Though I grew up entirely without it, social media has been present throughout my entire career. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don't love social media, but it is the single largest space where the public exists. So for the time being, PR and social media are irrevocably linked.
So, here are some big picture things about public relations with a few, specific steps you can take to apply them to the world of social media.
Real Life Connection
My passion for public relations comes from a heart to let people know that they are seen, that they are heard, and that they have a place in your space. Good PR creates spaces for people, welcomes them in for conversations, and invites them to come back.
Conversations and real life connections are critical on social media, and even more so now with the recent changes in algorithms. If you aren’t creating content that is engaging people in conversations, Facebook will not show your posts to people.
Maintain Positive Communication
Good public relations maintains a positive flow of communication. Open up the channels of communication to foster real life connections and trust. In the face of anything negative, you shouldn't remain silent. You positively state what you can, while not affirming what you can’t, all while remaining honest.
No news is assumed to be bad news…or even, the worst news possible. So say something! If you’re the one who puts your message out there first, then others don’t get first dibs to spin it against you. Good PR is not afraid of a conversation.
Social Media Tip: Allow reviews, allow direct messages, etc. Communicate positively immediately on social media any time there are changes happening.
Maintaining a favorable image in the public is closely tied to letting that public know that you like them. Think about it, if you know that someone likes you, you’re probably going to like them in return. And if you know that someone listens to you, you’ll want to talk to them. It's also possible that you'll go to them when you need something. Public relations is no different. Show the public that you like them and they’re more likely to think favorably of you.
On social media, one of the biggest ways that you can let people know that you like them is to engage with them.
Social Media Tip: Like every comment or mention. Reply to every comment and directly mention that person. Respond to every direct message.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—we should listen twice as much as we speak. Excellent PR specialists understand and know their public. You can’t relate with a public that you don’t take the time to know. This does not mean that you sacrifice who you are, but present who you are in a way that is meaningful to them. This is to tie things together and make connections.
Social Media Tip: Post less this week and engage with your followers more. Respond specifically to their post, story, latest blog, bio, etc. If you dare, spend half as much time posting as you do engaging and listening.
Feed Your Creative Soul
Take time to feed your creative soul. Read something not related to work like a classic novel or a young adult fiction book. Go to a concert, gallery, or play. Pay attention to what is resonating more than just what’s merely popular.
Social Media Tip: Post something to inspire your audience this week. Don’t sell anything, just add value, beauty, or humor to their lives.
Be A Learner
What makes public relations impactful will never change, but the world in which we do it constantly changes. People are people, are people…the world over, for all time. But the tools and contexts in which we can reach them are continually ebbing and flowing. So be a learner. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you think you should already know the answer to.
Read all posts in this PR series:
Meleah Smith loves making space for people. She does freelance public relations mostly in social media through SocialLion, manages her brother’s band called As Isaac at home and on the road, and volunteers mentoring students and youth leaders through her church.
She grew up in South Carolina, but has called Chattanooga, TN, home for 16 years.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.