Think of social media and PR as a dynamic duo that feeds into each other.
While social media relies on the PR industry for newsworthy content and crisis communications, PR relies on social media to spread the word rapidly and gain consumer insight.
The PR industry can be a tough nut to crack for newcomers, even those who’ve stacked many years of content marketing or journalism experience.
That is largely due to the PR industry’s unique blend of art and science, forged by the ancient craft of storytelling and steeped in modern-day tools, metrics, and technology.
Nothing about it is easy.
So, if you’re looking to break into the world of PR, we suggest you start by mastering social media.
Social Media Facilitates Relationship Building
PR professionals must build and maintain relationships with media outlets, bloggers, social influencers, and public figures.
As you’ll soon find out, it’s hard to grow these relationships without social media.
Social media is a tool that PR professionals use to find, grow, and engage with the audiences they need to reach.
The platform has opened up a world of new opportunities for public relations agencies and in-house teams.
For Example, Social Media Monitoring
Social media monitoring is a huge part of the PR industry that helps companies track what’s being said about them online.
PR teams use social media to monitor mentions and engage potential customers.
But social media monitoring takes things a step further.
It involves tracking conversations surrounding company names and products or services across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, and more.
Social listening tools can track keywords related to your brand, so you know what’s being said about you in real-time 24/7.
Additional Benefits of Social Media Monitoring
According to Smart Insights, a significant segment of PR experts use social media as their primary means of monitoring key messages and sentiment surrounding their brand.
Work Tasks Undertaken by PR Professionals Using social media
Social Media is an Essential Part of Crisis Communications
One of the biggest threats to a company’s reputation is a PR crisis.
A 2019 study by Edelman Berland found that 58% of people would defend a brand they trust in a crisis, regardless of whether it was directly involved.
While social media hasn’t replaced traditional crisis management methods like press conferences, PR teams can use social media to provide necessary information and updates.
Simply stated, trust capital is a company’s best insurance against crisis, disruption, and risks — and further, it’s can also be a company’s best investment towards driving positive business impact tomorrow.
With social media, you can share the facts as they come in and actively communicate with relevant stakeholders.
Using Social Media to Connect with Journalists
One of the best ways PR professionals can land press coverage is by cultivating relationships with journalists.
And what better way to do that than through social media?
Don’t forget that journalists are on social media for the same reasons as everyone else.
They use it to stay up-to-date, find sources, and network with industry experts.
That said, here are a few tips for connecting with media professionals on social media:
Start Engaging with their Content
We suggest you start with Twitter.
Many of the journalists you want to connect with are likely to be active on Twitter.
Follow them, retweet their work, and start conversations.
However, you don’t want to into engaging them. Take your time to go through their posts and articles, and familiarise yourself with the kind of content they put out.
After that, you can go ahead and reply, retweet, or quote their tweets, but be sure not to overdo it.
You’ll soon get on their radar.
And when you do contact them, they’re more likely to recognise your name and respond.
Engage with the Networks they’re Part of
Journalists tend to be part of a lot of networks.
Join the same groups they’re a part of and start engaging with their content.
Again, take your time to read their posts and familiarise yourself with what they talk about before opening up a conversation.
Over time, you’ll build up a rapport with them.
Mention Relevant Social Media Posts in Your Pitch
Journalists are busy people.
If you manage to get their attention, do not waste their time.
Whether you’re cold calling or emailing them pitches, you should try and include a link to a related post in your pitch.
If they’ve mentioned something interesting on Twitter, share it in your pitch when appropriate.
This way, you’ll stand out from the hundreds of PR professionals they hear from every day.
It’s all about personalising your email content. Journalists want to see that you’re not just mass shooting your email message but that you took your time to study and understand their content before sending your pitch.
They want to see that you’re paying attention.
Share Relevant Content from Your Industry
If there’s an article from a journalist you like, share it with your network.
When trying to make the connection, this works as a double-edged sword.
It shows that you read their work and respect what they do, but it also gives them a chance to see what you’re sharing and possibly reach out to you.
Remember, journalists are just as connected as you are on social media.
They follow the same influencers and industry experts you do, so always watch for any articles or posts they may find interesting.
Look for Connection Points in their Feeds
Go through the journalists’ feeds and see if there’s anything you have in common with them.
Look for schools you both went to, events you both attended, organisations you’re a part of — anything.
If you see a post about a webinar they’re hosting, be sure to tell them you’re excited about it and that you’ll be in attendance.
If you see a keynote you both attended, make sure they know you were there too.
Even if it’s just a little thing you have in common, a connection point is always an excellent way to start the conversation.
Social media is as casual as you can get. Don’t try to come off as pushy, serious, or demanding.
It gets tricky since most PR people are used to writing email pitches that sound like sales letters.
When connecting with journalists on social media, you want to try and be as natural as possible. Lay off the corporate mask and just be yourself.
However, you do not want to be overly casual. To avoid such a situation, take your time to study how the journalist responds to questions and try to match their style and tone.
Etiquette is important in the business world, after all.
When in doubt, err on the side of professionalism.
Stick to Appropriate Platforms
Platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are considered private and may feel invasive if you approach a journalist there.
Twitter is good for PR pitches. Facebook is the complete opposite.
Many people may disagree with this, but the universal truth is that you have little success chances with these platforms since you may cross with the journalists’ personal lives.
So, be smart and respect their boundaries.
Twitter provides the best opportunities to reach journalists, especially since you can get their attention with a mention.
Here’s what you need to do: First, find the journalist on Twitter by searching for them using their Twitter handle (i.e., “via @journalist). Next, click on their profile and look at all the people they follow. There’s a chance that they will follow you back, so the next thing to do is create a list of them and add them to your own Twitter “following.” This way, when they tweet something interesting, you’ll get notified immediately.
Finally, don’t spam journalists’ timelines or accounts– it’s pretty annoying. You should have at least three of their tweets in your “buffer” before you reach out to them.
Share the Journalist’s Work
You can show genuine appreciation for the work of a journalist that you wish to connect with by sharing their articles on social media.
Be sure to spread the word about their content by tweeting, posting it on your personal or company’s LinkedIn page — whatever works for you.
People prefer to interact with people, not brands. So, to build a relationship with them — you have to be personal.
Journalists want to put a face to your name. They want to know who they’re interacting with, and sharing their work on a personal Twitter or LinkedIn account is a great way to build that connection.
You also do not want to use a Gmail account when contacting a reporter. When sending out email pitches, it is best to use an official email address from your company.
And if you have to use a Gmail account, make sure the email service provider has configured the SPF records. Be sure to use other authentication methods to prevent your email from ending up in the spam folder.
Keep Engaging even If You Have Nothing to Pitch
You don’t want to engage a journalist in a week or so and go for a pitch. That will be a dead giveaway that you weren’t genuinely interested in the journalist’s work.
Give yourself time to familiarise yourself with the journalist and get on their radar.
Also, if your initial connection fails to get you engaged, keep following them and engaging with their tweets until you’re presented with the next opportunity to pitch.
It might take some more time, but it’ll be worth it since you’d have shown genuine interest in what they write. There is no point in pitching journalists who are not interested in your articles.
So, be prepared to spend some time getting to know them and their work before pitching. And when you do pitch, make sure it’s a good one.
How Exactly Has Social Media Changed PR
Social media plays a significant role in the world of public relations.
Let’s consider the influencers we’re mingling with, the journalists we’re connecting with, and the entire process of pitching our stories to them.
Social media has completely revolutionised the PR industry, and in many ways, it has taken over traditional PR.
It is important to note that social media creates several opportunities for both marketers and journalists.
But since these opportunities are not tangible, it helps to understand how social media affects the PR industry.
Here we go:
- Increased Opportunities: social media eliminates some of the restrictions of traditional PR. You’re no longer limited to working with one outlet, publication, or target audience.
You’re responsible for creating your own buzz, your own voice, your own story. This creates even more opportunities to get more of the things you want.
- A Chance to Reach Anyone You Want: Are you looking for a spot on television? Or are you looking for a feature in a newspaper? That TV anchor or journalist probably has a Twitter account. Follow them there and engage them. Maybe even pitch them a story there, and if you’re polite enough and they happen to like it, they’ll tell you where to send it.
Or maybe you want to get in touch with the CEO of a company. You might as well give them a ring on LinkedIn before trying anything else.
- You have Your Own Media Channel: Very few marketers can afford their own private television channel. And while some of us might not be able to start our own news station, we can create our own personal media channels on social media accounts.
The average person can set up their own platform on social media, cultivate an audience, and build a following.
You don’t have to work for a big news organisation or public relations firm anymore. You can create your own PR campaigns and generate buzz yourself — all through social media.
- Increased Transparency: With the rise of social media, transparency has increased across the board. Journalists are now more inclined to share their work with the world. They’re also more inclined to be real people and not corporate entities.
In other words, the modern-day journalist is more relatable and approachable. They no longer have to put on a face. They can show their true selves.
- Increased Consistency in the Media: When an article is published, that’s not the end of it. Articles are published and republished in multiple places, mediums, and channels.
Take, for example, an article about a company. That might be published in mainstream media, industry publications, or even republished on the company’s website. It can then be shared all over social media.
And this is how social media has changed the public relations industry. Now go out there and do your thing.
- The Definition of Success Has Changed: Before social media, there was only one way to prove our value to clients — and that was to get media coverage for them. But with social media, we can build our own assets and show off our value through our sites and branded accounts.
We can create articles, blog posts, infographics, newsletters, etc., and then drive traffic back to that channel or website. We’re no longer limited by one outlet. We can show our clients we’re more valuable than they ever imagined.
How Each Social Media Platform Can Further Your PR Effort
Each social media channel has a specific purpose, audience, and strategy. They should be leveraged differently, depending on the campaign.
Let’s look at each one more closely.
- Facebook: Use groups, pages, and events to target the right people. Reach out to journalists, bloggers, customers, etc., who are part of that group or audience.
Also, be sure to use mentions, instant messaging, and other Facebook features to start and maintain an open conversation with your followers.
Focus on adding value to these groups. Don’t be quick to pitch to anyone. Instead, focus on getting on everyone’s radar and understanding the journalists you’re targeting.
- Twitter: Use hashtags to match your campaign’s search terms. Capitalise on trending hashtags. Identify journalists and bloggers who are active on Twitter and retweet their content/mentions of your brand.
Join a few relevant Twitter chats to get more exposure for the brand and give people a human face.
- LinkedIn: Join some groups related to your industry or niche market. When joining said groups, add value first. Then, when ready to make your pitch, do so in a more personable way, not spammy.
Connect with individuals, and use the platform to announce relevant company news. Establish yourself as an authority figure, not just another marketer.
- Instagram: Post interesting, relevant images of your brand. Don’t be salesy; instead, focus on the product or service you’re offering. Add value to the conversation.
Build a following (and don’t buy one!) and post about your business when the time is right. Use hashtags related to your industry or niche market, but don’t overdo it.
- Pinterest: Create boards that are relevant to your brand or industry. Add value to them by pinning interesting, relevant images and infographics.
Use keywords in the board names and descriptions and the images you pin (in a tasteful manner, of course). If possible, create a group board and invite others in the industry to contribute.
The bottom line is that we need to be creative and find new ways to get in front of people. But remember: don’t add so much chaff to the wheat, or else you’ll be nothing more than spam.
Specific PR Outcomes You Can Achieve Through Social Media
Small business owners and marketers can use social media to further their PR efforts in various ways. Here are just a few examples:
- Find Influencers: When an influencer shares or recommends your product or service, your business benefits from the trusted relationship between the influencer and their following.
- Influencing the Media: Journalists and bloggers will trust you more if they see that your startup or business is already generating buzz on social media.
Journalists and reporters have their ears all over social media, and they’re constantly looking for the next scoop. They want to see what other people are saying. You can use social media to build credibility with them, gain their interest in your brand or startup, and provide them with the information they’re looking for (e.g., news and information they may find interesting or relevant).
- Managing Crisis: When a crisis occurs, you want to react quickly by reaching your customers and key stakeholders. Social media provides you with a real-time, unfiltered way to get your message out.
- Making an Important Announcement: You can use social media to make an announcement, whether it’s regarding a new product launch, the closure of a store location, or a major milestone.
Social media offers immediate access to a large, attentive audience. You can use it to your advantage by targeting your audience with relevant content, building off their ideas and feedback, and rewarding them for their interest.
- Building Community: Your customers and key stakeholders are already engaging with your company on social media. It’s the perfect opportunity to create a sense of community around your brand.
How to Bridge the Gap Between Social Media and PR
Nothing happens by accident — not in the world of marketing.
It’s not a coincidence when someone scores a positive press or social media mention. Don’t be surprised to find out there’s a PR pro behind the scenes who played a role in making that happen.
Below are ten actionable PR strategies that have proven to work:
Become a Guest Blogger or Contributor
The idea is simple: earn authority or exposure by publishing your content on big-time industry blogs.
Guest blogging is a tried and tested PR tactic. Given that most blogs are looking for fresh content to publish, a well-crafted pitch that demonstrates clear value to readers is all you need.
The advantage of guest blogging for PR:
- You’ll Reach a Wide Audience: Each blog you contribute to has its own following, and guest blogging helps you tap into their following and gain more exposure for your brand.
- You Enhance Your Credibility: When you contribute valuable, well-written content to popular blogs in your industry (including reputable, newsworthy publications), it builds credibility for you and your startup.
- You Establish Yourself as an Authority: When others see that you’re publishing your own content on popular blogs, they begin to recognise you as an authority.
- Backlinks: Backlinks are the lifeblood of Google rankings, and guest blogging allows you to earn them through your published content.
For example, if you contribute a guest post to Forbes.com, you can post your link in the “About the Author” section at the bottom of the post.
Of course, guest blogging requires that you come up with thoughtful pitches and well-written posts.
And after the post is published, you want to share and boost your content on social media and with your email list.
That’s PR at its finest.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The case for making remote work a key part of your diversity & inclusion policy, from our own <a href=”https://twitter.com/PaulFEstes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@PaulFEstes</a> in <a href=”https://twitter.com/FastCompany?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@FastCompany</a> 👉 <a href=”https://t.co/JjLvbgRQqP”>https://t.co/JjLvbgRQqP</a></p>— MURAL (@MURAL) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MURAL/status/1361013088565288960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>February 14, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Encourage Your Employees (Including C-Level) to Get Active on social media
Modern isn’t about just getting mentioned by a popular publication.
Social media offers you a chance to tap into the public part of PR.
Modern PR is about being proactive and leveraging earned media coverage.
For instance, many B2B companies still rely on LinkedIn to spread the word about their content and services.
Specifically, C-level employees in leadership positions often have a lot of followers on LinkedIn.
Making a business announcement from a personal account not only makes it feel more human but also tends to earn much more reach than a business-related post on your company page.
Create a Relevant Media Kit
A well-designed, aesthetically pleasing press kit is worth its weight in PR gold.
Your media kit should include:
- Photos of your team and what your office looks like
- Information about your products or service, including photos and screenshots
- A press release announcing your company’s arrival on the scene
- A short bio about you and your team members
- Links to social media profiles for press outreach
Other helpful assets for press kits:
- A YouTube video of you introducing your company
- An influencer list of big names in your industry who might be interested in your new company or product
- A list of top media publications that cover topics related to your industry
Empower Influencers to Disseminate Your Brand Message or News
Perhaps the biggest opportunity in PR is to create relationships with the right influencers.
Getting your products in the hands of an influencer with thousands (or even tens of thousands) of followers is a sure-fire way to push your products or services into the public eye.
Whether through sponsorships or freebies in exchange for reviews and social media promotion, building PR campaigns around influencer outreach is a great way to gain more exposure for your brand.
Note that what an influencer looks like depends on your industry, especially when talking about micro-influencers.
If you’re launching a product for gamers, you must find an influencer who holds sway over the niche.
Name brands often partner with celebrities, whereas up-and-coming brands prefer working with content creators, big or small.
When looking for an influencer, you should forget about follower count for a minute and instead focus on the generated buzz and their level of engagement.
Use an Ambassador Program to Build an Army of Brand Advocates
An ambassador program is a more robust version of influencer marketing.
Whereas influencers are paid to put your products or services in front of their audience, ambassadors are incentivised to keep spreading the good word about your brand because they are already devoted customers.
It’s simple: you can start by identifying trusted and devoted customers. In exchange for a free product, commission, or other perks, your ambassadors will enthusiastically tell their friends, family, and social media followers about your brand.
Ambassadors are also a great way to improve customer retention and customer satisfaction.
Start Interacting with Publishers and Journalists on Twitter
When talking about “coverage,” the first thing that jumps to mind is journalists.
Journalists and other influencers (like bloggers) are the gatekeepers of modern PR.
What we’re forgetting is that journalists are people too. The same rules of good social media engagement and etiquette apply to their Twitter accounts as they do to everyone else’s.
Journalists love a quick, well-thought-out reply on social media – they love it when people engage with their content.
So, instead of rushing to pitch to them, take the time to engage with their content. Understand their interest, stories, and publications.
Some low-hanging ways to cultivate this relationship with journalists is by:
- Sharing their tweets and posts on Twitter (be sure to mention them when you do)
- Be helpful: when they ask for sources, ideas, feedback, or questions in their tweets, answer them (and even better if you can provide it before they ask)
- Interact with them on a personal level.
Journalists put their work out there for everyone to see and appreciate. So, give them the public recognition they deserve.
You won’t have to look hard to find someone who’s hungry for a story.
You just have to keep your eyes and ears open.
Additionally, hashtags such as #JournoRequest and #HARO are great ways to find journalists looking for sources.
Use social media to Boost Your Press Releases and Speeches
We’re in a digital world, and your press release is not going to go out over the wire-like it used to.
More and more people are just digging through social media for the latest news, events, and press releases.
The least you could do is make it easy for them to find it.
Alternatively, use social media posts as part of your pitch strategy.
And it goes beyond dropping links. Here are other social media formatting ideas you want to use to increase the impact of your press release/speech:
- Summarise the key points of the press release in a caption
- Provide bullet points or a condensed version of the press release
- Format the press release into an infographic or image
Develop a Social Media Crisis Plan to Stay Positive When Things Go Awry
Your reputation is a valuable asset.
Social media is a digital extension of yourself and your brand.
Your reputation can be built, earned, or damaged on social media.
The same goes for your business’ reputation. So, try to be prepared for a crisis.
It begins with how you respond to a negative press release, comment, or call out. You have to be thoughtful about what you put out there — remember, any statement can be made public.
People are more likely to forget the negative things they read when you apologise quickly and sincerely.
You can also try to use humour to diffuse tension, but only for non-sensitive issues.
Be sure to have a plan in place for when things escalate too quickly.
When you make a PR blunder, apologise quickly.
Some of the most effective apologies contain a mixture of empathy, humour, and a sense of accountability.
Encourage Questions and Interaction with Your Company on social media
You do this already in real life. Why not in virtual life?
By encouraging questions in a social media post, you’re not only going to drive engagement, but you’re going to create a dialogue with potential customers.
While at it, you want to use hashtags to push your PR campaigns:
- You can start by building a sense of community with your customers
- You also want to support a good cause
- Address your company’s achievements and milestones