Top 5 Innovative Ways PR Pros Are Using Social Media
by Leyl Master Black
Most PR professionals have now incorporated social media into their day-to-day activities, and many would say that they couldn’t live without it. But beyond the basics, such as following and engaging with key media, keeping tabs on competitors and sharing company news and perspectives, what are some of the more innovative ways that communications professionals can use social media in their daily jobs?
Here are five creative ways to use social media for PR.
1. Tap into Breaking News
When you’re looking to pitch into breaking news stories, social media opens the door to a number of new tactics that can be deployed in a matter of minutes … if you’re quick on your feet.
Take the New York Public Library, whose fast action and creative tactics have made it the number one public library in the world on both Twitter and Facebook. In addition to using social media for both “the basics” as well as creative advocacy programs, the library’s Public Relations Director Angela Montefinise says they routinely use Twitter to insert the NYPL into the day’s breaking news cycle.
For example, when JD Salinger died, the NYPL spent the day tweeting Salinger quotes and then linking to relevant items in the library’s collection. Most recently, it used its Tumblr account to share photos from its theater collection of Elizabeth Taylor as media were remembering the career and life of the colorful celebrity. Newsweek and NPR Fresh Air reblogged the content, and Digital Journal and DNA Info mentioned the NYPL in their stories as well.
2. Connect with Freelancers
Finding freelancers to pitch can be tough, particularly since many aren’t listed in media databases. So why not use social media to bring freelance writers to you?
Racepoint Group did just that when Rwanda’s tourism department asked it to find travel writers to go on a tour of the country.
According to Ben Haber of Racepoint Group, “The tourism department was paying for all costs except for airfare, but as we contacted people, we found that they either weren’t allowed to accept a free trip, or they couldn’t afford the airfare. We had to find a different approach.”
After two weeks of trying with no luck, they decided to hold a contest through the tourism department’s Twitter handle to find travel bloggers and tweeters who wanted to go to Rwanda and would be able to pay their own airfare. To enter, writers were asked to write a tweet to the @TravelRwanda Twitter handle stating that they wanted to go on the trip.
This did the trick. The contest attracted 82 entries, and three people from the U.S. were selected as winners. While in Rwanda, they posted a combined 448 tweets that were visible to more than 1.5 million people, and the entire week’s Twitter activity made over 45 million Twitter impressions.
3. Create Proprietary Influencer Networks
While most PR agencies have strong relationships with individual media, a few agencies are using social media to deliver entire networks of social influencers as a package deal to clients.
Child’s Play Communications, a boutique PR agency targeting moms, has built a number of proprietary social influencer groups who serve as advocates and advisers for clients. For example, the firm has built a network of mom bloggers — called Team Mom™ — that is an exclusive group of opinionated, social media savvy mom bloggers who review products for brands. It’s also gathered a focus group of influential social media moms — the Parkbench Panel™ — who can offer insight into new products before companies bring their concepts to market.
In addition to these networks, the firm also hosts co-op blogger brunches, where the agency brings together approximately 50 bloggers with 10 brands in an intimate setting for networking and relationship building.
4. Connect with Media at Events
The real-time nature of social media allows PR professionals to insert themselves where and when news is happening, and sometimes even track down the people reporting on it. Nowhere does that dynamic come into play more prominently than at the SXSW Interactive Festival. At this year’s event, savvy PR pros abandoned email and phone calls and turned to Twitter and location-based apps to find and connect with reporters.
“The only way I was able to reach reporters was via Twitter — all emails and phone calls were lost,” says Kristen Nelson from PetersGroup Public Relations. “In the past, our firm would initiate aggressive email and phone outreach in order to distribute news releases, set up briefings and interviews with the media on behalf of our clients. Now, we follow key influencers and media on Twitter.”
During SXSWi, her firm secured coverage on behalf of clients by showing up at events where media reported they currently were, either via Twitter or location-based applications.
“For example, a CNN reporter sent a message via Twitter to come pitch her at 2pm over a beer. This mass query turned into a prime-time video feature for the respondents,” adds Nelson.
5. Take Your Feed Into the Real World
Sure, you’ve syndicated your Twitter and Facebook feed onto your website … but how about on I-95?
In late 2009, accounting firm Freed Maxick launched a digital “Twitter billboard” in Buffalo, NY. Located on a major connecting commuter thoroughfare of the area, the billboard displays updates from the firm’s Twitter account in real-time, promoting the firm’s expertise, services and experience as a means to offer high-value, issue-oriented content to the business commuters of the area.
In 2010, the firm revitalized its digital billboard strategy with the debut of outdoor interactive digital Facebook billboards. The billboards displayed real-time, select content from the firm’s Facebook Page to help raise awareness of local charitable and community-based organizations. Calls-to-action on the billboard encouraged participation in events and causes and encouraged interaction online.
According to Emily Burns, Freed Maxick’s emarketing and communications specialist, the initiative worked to help the firm drive new business and stay top-of-mind within the community.
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