A guest post by George Wang of Access Communications.
Social media has convinced us that we have to constantly stay on top of what is current. We’ve been trained to check in everywhere we go, to Tumbl ironic news items, and Instagram filter all our photos. But is this all that social media is good for?
No, not for a real PR pro.
Social media shows that a story becomes real and interesting when it happens to (or is shared by) a friend, peer, or company that you admire. You don’t even have to personally know someone affected by an issue. Social media creates new levels of access to people who live outside the realm of our own influence, so we can get an authentic taste of what’s happening around the world.
That level of access is the real secret sauce of what good PR practitioners use to stay relevant in the age of social media. In other words, the savviest people in PR are taking social media to the next level by creating noteworthy pitches and by thoughtfully engaging journalists. What can be seen as a superfluous glut of information on social media ends up as a boon for PR. Social media is a veritable treasure trove of personal, relatable information.
Through social media, pitches can be customized to incorporate stories about people a journalist knows or issues he is experiencing. Social media also lets a PR person get more in tune with the stories of the day. By tracking multiple reporters across an industry, you observe how certain journalists think and like to interact. Then you can decide if they would be receptive to your story angle.
That advice may seem like PR 101 to some folks, but the key is to use social media to transcend the fundamentals of PR. You need to use social media tools to be a part of current conversations you would otherwise not hear or not be able to access. More importantly, when you start taking part in these conversations, you must understand that interesting conversations are about interacting with people—not trying to force something upon them. Approach online conversations the same way you would approach conversations with someone at a bus stop, grocery store, or local bar.
Before engaging in such conversations, you must be comfortable in the social media realm and understand the conversations taking place.
Here are five steps PR people should follow to get started in online conversations.
1. Go beyond just knowing the names of top reporters in your field and their respective beats
You need to choose whether you want to follow them on Twitter, pin their images on Pinterest, or hang out with them on Google+. Pick a social media platform that presents information in a format that excites you and start tracking the media and influencers on that platform. Opportunities to interact with top reporters then will present themselves.
2. Do daily check-ins, and just read what’s happening
Curate a list of key people that focus on one particular industry, and follow what they post to see what interests them at the professional and personal levels. Remember: They’re people just like you. They have hobbies and lives outside of the stories they write.
3. Engage in conversations
Retweeting and reposting content doesn’t add value and doesn’t make someone you don’t know interested in you. Though retweeting and reposting may be a good way to get started, the real value of social media lies in creating conversations with media or people around the world that you don’t see every day. Respond to current events with your personal thoughts, share your own quirky humor, and just strike up a conversation.
4. Don’t pitch ideas endlessly
Responding to a post doesn’t mean pitching every conceivable story angle at a reporter until you see what sticks. Once again, taking part in the conversation and providing valuable context to an actual situation will help you win what’s a marathon—not a sprint—to get yourself and your clients noticed.
5. Keep at it
Be patient. Know that a comment you make might one day be the basis of a future feature story. Just ask James Erwin, whose one Reddit response skyrocketed him to social media fame and landed him the chance to write a Hollywood screenplay.
What advice would you add to this list?
George Wang lives, breathes, and feeds on technology and gadgetry while working at his PR agency, Access Communications. You can reach him on Twitter at @GeorgeWangSF.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Photo Puzzle)