I remember being a junior in college and setting up a blog for a class assignment. At the time, blogging was still a new form of communication for our industry (wow, that makes me sound old!), and I remember wondering when I was going to use it. Little did I know, blogging and using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter would become part of my everyday job.
As public relations professionals, we strive to find the best medium for distributing our key messages to target audiences. We are challenged with making our messages succinct, timely and transparent. And with social media, our job really is no different. Social media is just another tool in our kit that doesn’t necessarily replace traditional media but instead complements it. In fact, when done correctly, social media is treated as a channel rather than a tactic.
I’ve learned five lessons in my career about social media’s role in our profession:
- Don’t set out looking for a job in ‘social media public relations.’ I think every practitioner should have a working knowledge of the platforms that exist and how they can potentially apply to client strategies. It’s part of our job to know all the communication tools out there regardless of whether your title has social media in it or not. Yes, I leave Twitter and Facebook open all day. That doesn’t mean I’m on it every minute, but it needs to be easily accessible to make sure nothing is missed. For me, it’s just like having my email open. Plus, you never know when a reporter is going to post that they are looking for a source. Trust me, it will happen!
- Social media is constantly evolving. Whether it’s a new photo sharing site or changes to the way brand managers get Facebook Insights, there always seems to be something new to learn. Don’t ever grow overconfident in your social media skills.
- Try new things. When I hear of a new site, I usually try to use it on a personal level before trying to incorporate it into any campaigns. This step would be the research part of the RPIE process. You wouldn’t start a campaign without research, and you wouldn’t jump into social media for a brand without doing that research. Using it personally will give you great insight into how a user will be viewing and interacting with your brand.
- Listen, listen, listen and then listen some more. If you don’t listen, then you really shouldn’t have a presence on these sites. People want to interact with your brand, and they want to be heard. It takes time to build the relationships, but it’s worth it in the end. After all, the goal for using this channel should be dialogue and engagement. How can you accomplish that without listening?
- Be careful what you say. Given the real-time nature, it’s easy to want to respond quickly. However, it’s important to think through your response and even have someone do a quick review of it before posting. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
How are you using social media in your postition? What other things should new professionals know about social media’s role in our profession?
Christina Morton is an account executive at Fry Hammond Barr, a national advertising, public relations and interactive marketing agency that’s been connecting people and brands for more than 50 years. Fry Hammond Barr has offices in Orlando and Tampa.