Cision UK’s latest webinar, The State of Social PR, that took place last week, was a raging success. How do we know that? From the comments, questions and observations that continue to pour in from the PRs in attendance, highlighting some of the key issues faced by the industry and addressed by our guest speaker at the webinar, Stuart Wilson, head of corporate affairs, communications and marketing at Skills Development Scotland. While we answered most questions real-time, Stuart took time out to follow-up on some of the others that were raised:
What are the best methods for increasing our brand’s following on Facebook and Twitter?
First of all that’s a great strategy because you get to interact directly with your followers. My suggestion is that you grow your followers and “likes” organically. Avoid anybody who claims to be able to buy them for you. Join in conversations that are relevant to your organisation or which you can give advice and guidance on. Search hashtags and like-minded organisations and people and be part of their conversations. Find a popular hook or hashtag being used and adapt it to your needs. When I was at the NHS and the Andy Murray Wimbledon final was on, we got great pick up on public health messages by tying them into the final in humorous ways.
How would you advise your clients on time management of engagement on social media – it can be a full time job?
That’s a very important point but let’s look at it this way. Every communications team I have either managed or worked for has had a 24/7 media on-call facility worked on a rota basis. Why pay people a retainer and on-call allowance for media calls but not to monitor social media? You can never watch it every second of every day but it is easy to set up notifications and to have a rota system in your team where properly trained people are able to respond to social media. Remember the peak times are before 9am and after 5pm so be prepared to be flexible. This is rarely a 9-5 experience. Monitor the usage of your platforms are adapt you rotas accordingly.
Old school PR’s don’t have their own following on social networks. How do they get the message across?
First of all if they were good PRs they should be looking to get onto social networks and will quickly find that their peers and people interested in them will soon follow. If you are well enough known people will seek you out on social media anyway. That said I would never advocate changing some of the old PR methods. Social Media is another tool in the box. You really cannot beat face to face communication, building a network of proper contacts and “getting out there”. Social media just extends that reach but don’t forget to be social too!
What would you say is best practice in approaching a journalist via social media. Do you have a particular formula you use?
It depends what you are approaching them about. If you are seeking to pitch something to them then a phone call or personal meeting is always best. If the journalist in question is following you on social media then a personal message or DM is also a very good and personal way to do it. That is the method I use most in relation to social media these days. Journalists like to feel that your contact with them is exclusive and a personal touch is always best. Sending a generic tweet or Facebook posting to a journalist will seldom be successful but contacting them on a personal basis will be.
How do you deal with the serial complainers who are irrational?
Again this depends on the type of organisation you are working for or representing. It also depends on your definition of “irrational”. However in general terms I would always try to interact with someone. If that didn’t work, I would signpost them to official channels in-house. If that still didn’t work or if the interaction became abusive in any way I would block them. You don’t take abuse face to face so why should you take it online? Don’t be afraid to block but don’t do it just to get rid of someone who actually might have a point.
Cision’s Social Social PR Study shows that 40%+ organisations not responding to media enquiries by social media channels – implies that 60% do. surprising stat?
Surprising only that the 60 per cent is not higher. This will grow as the years move on.
To what extent should the tone of voice used to communicate to journalists be directed by the PR team or digital teams? There seems to be conflict in some organisations as to how has the ‘final say.’
Again, I’m afraid this depends on the organisation, its values, its size and the profile of its senior person or people. When celebrities or politicians use PR companies to handle their social media it can be quite sanitized and obviously not from the person or organisation named. Corporate fluff does not work well on social media so the PR team should ensure it is using language that is appropriate and reflects the organisational values. It should be similar to walking in the front door of that organisation and speaking to someone.
How do you go about reaching journalists on social media? Most journalists, who are under pressure, still ask us to “send us a press release”. . . . .
The answer to this is given in more detail above but do not be afraid to get a message or call from a journalist saying “send me a press release”. That shows that your interaction is working and they are seeking more information. This is a success!
As a B2B SME we don’t get asked any questions on Twitter – how else do we keep communicating with potential customers?
Similar to answer given above in regards to seeking out and responding to relevant conversations. Also just as social media is being used as an additional tool to mainstream media, it can also be used as an additional tool to industry media. Many of your customers will be online and you can copy them in by name to blogs, articles etc. Make sure you push the existence of your social media channels on all your materials and assets. There are millions of industry specific conversations/blogs etc taking place on social media 24/7. (Check the PR industry for example) and you need to be active in these.
Any recommendations for best new social platforms that companies should be using?
It’s hard to see beyond the big three of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn currently but, depending on what your company is, I find Instagram, Vine, Periscope, YouTube and Pinterest to be good for PR purposes. They all serve a different and flexible purpose and it can actually be fun having creative team chats about how you can use these platforms in a way that engages audiences and pushes your brand.
How much of your personality should you inject into your PR social media accounts and how much professional distance should you maintain?
I think you should inject as much of your personality into social media as you can – as long as you are not a serial killer!! That’s if you are speaking as an individual. If you are speaking on behalf of an organisation then it’s more important that you reflect the tone of voice of that organisation and its values than put your own personal touch into it. Being personable and conversational does not necessarily mean you put your own stamp on a company’s social media platform which could backfire.
What is a reasonable time in which to deal with a client query on social media?
Within working hours the response should be instantaneous, even if just to acknowledge you have noticed the contact and are dealing with it. If you are equipped and empowered to answer the question then you should do so with the bare minimum of bureaucratic red tape. Acknowledging is key.
I’m just starting out in the world of PR (having spent last year working on our company’s social media strategy). What are your top 3 tips for starting out in the wonderful world of PR?
1. Be creative and use your own imagination, gut instinct and personal experience to discover the best way to get a message across. What works for you is likely to work for others. Use that!
2. Join a professional body such as PRCA or CIPR and take part in their training courses, conferences and events which lets you meet peers and get great ideas, advice and training.
3. Join as many PR and Comms feeds on social media as you can and learn not just from your peers in the UK but around the world. We are lucky enough to work in such a richly talented profession with so many inspirational leaders that a brilliant article is only ever a click away. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Is Twitter the best way to communicate press releases and do you just use a link after the hook?
Honestly? No. Twitter is a way to replicate the press release, not direct people to it. At the very most you can indeed link to a copy of your press release on your website but the way you do it has to NOT look like a press release. It should be a teaser that is going to make the person want to look further. The press release may not be dead, but it is certainly dying. It still has its place, particularly with local media but it’s a busy and noisy world out there now. Make your message stand out.
Photo Courtesy of Ash Carter on Flickr