Five Lessons for Integrating Social Media in PR

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 MortonChristina 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.

career advice…Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media by Adrienne Bailey

Social Media; a treasure to many and a monster to a few. I think it is safe to say most everyone in our industry has engaged in social media via one form or another. Without much direction, everyone began posting, linking and tweeting away. Both excellent conversation and even large controversy have been the result of a platform with little-to-no rules.

Here are just a few do’s and don’ts on social media etiquette. I’m sure we each have our own unique experience so feel free to share your rules — I’d love to hear what you have to say.

  • Do personalize your messages, especially when making connections on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Don’t flood all outlets with the same content, be sure to provide new content or alter messaging to fit the specific audience. In other words, don’t link all platforms together, Twitter to LinkedIn, Facebook to Twitter, etc.
  • Do mix personal with professional, but be smart about it. Have a personality but be ready to take responsibility for your actions.
  • Don’t be a robot.
  • Do respond to people trying to engage in conversation with you.
  • Don’t try and connect with people on Facebook or LinkedIn you don’t know. Those are more personal platforms and you are better off beginning with the ‘follow’ button on Twitter.
  • Do offer to help people when possible. But don’t always expect something in return.
  • Don’t tell me everything; it adds noise instead of value.
  • Do contribute something more. As contradictory as it sounds, Twitter is a great place to lead and not always follow.
  • And finally, don’t ever auto DM or spam.

What social media etiquette rules do you live by?

Adrienne Bailey is an account executive in the public relations division Young & Laramore.

pr strategy… The Dangers of Social Media Marketing by Travis K. Kircher

I spent four years working as an assignment editor for a local TV station. We covered a host of fatal accidents, homicides, house fires, etc. One of the first things we did when we got word of a fatality, whether the death was a tragic accident or the result of foul play, was hit Facebook and MySpace up to see if they had an account. If they were young, chances were they did. And chances were, it was an open account. That is, any member of the public could access it.

I can remember one instance in particular when we were covering a fatal accident involving a young person. As soon as we got the identification from the coroner I ran his name, and, sure enough, there was his profile page, his smiling face beaming eerily from the computer screen. Already his friends had gotten word of the tragedy and were posting memorial messages on his wall. It became standard practice for the media to show those photos and read these messages on the air.

When people stop to think that they might wake up one day to see the contents of their MySpace or Facebook pages as a topic for discussion on the morning news, many of them bristle. Isn’t that a little below the belt? After all, what business does the media have delving into people’s private lives?

This is the lesson all of us must learn: As long as your profile page is open to the public, IT IS NOT YOUR PRIVATE LIFE. When an agitated husband writes, “I hate my wife!” on his evening status update, it’s no different than purchasing ad space on a 250’ x 500’ digital sign in Times Square and announcing it to the world.

The media will investigate anything in the public record, and an open Facebook account IS public record. And it may not just be the media thumbing through your MySpace photos. Prospective employers, loan officers, ex-girlfriends, sexual predators, your boss, and Osama bin Laden could all be checking you out.

Like individuals, businesses can often be careless about their social media accounts. When setting up a MySpace or Facebook page, it is critical for marketers and public relations professionals to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep business and pleasure separate on social media. A business owner who already has a personal account under his name should not use that same account for business purposes. Clients don’t want to hear you “shoot the breeze.” They want to see professionalism and expertise. Keep one account for fun, and the other for business.
  • Double-check the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Facebook and MySpace give you the option of making your accounts public or private. It’s a no brainer that any high level executives with personal accounts should have them set to “private.” Business pages will likely be public.
  • Be aware of potential exposure to litigation. Don’t post any content to your Facebook page without first determining whether you have the legal right to do so. Posting images of minors may pose a problem if you don’t have parent’s permission.
  • Monitor your social media networks. One of the most dangerous things a business can do is open a social media account and then forget it is there. Entire conversations may have taken place and accusations may have been leveled against your company without your knowledge. Take an active, aggressive, and vigilant approach to the way you handle your account, and be quick to nip any problems in the bud before they explode into a PR nightmare.
  • Don’t post anything to social media you wouldn’t say to Larry King. You have no idea who is accessing your account. Even if it’s closed to the public, one of your friends could save images from your page and e-mail them to others. Anything posted on a social media account should be run through the PR office first. You should also be aware that once it’s up, it’s permanent. You may take it down, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already seen it, saved it,and distributed it to others.

TRAVIS K. KIRCHER is an independent copywriter and founder of WriteNow Creative Services, which does indeed have a Facebook account (feel free to join.) He can be reached at

your pr career… Walking the Social Networking Tightrope by Courtney Vaught

Remember when we used Facebook to write funny comments on friends’ walls about the previous night’s blunders or to post pictures to keep memories alive? Now Facebook antics bear the same brunt of judgment as walking into work on Friday covered in sharpie drawings.

I recently read a blog post by Ari Adler titled, “Facebook Users Show Two Faces to the World,” discussing how some Facebook users are creating separate profiles for their professional and personal lives. This made me think about the challenges new professionals face in the expanding social media world–Facebook specifically. As Facebook’s 35-and-older demographic continues to expand, we are seeing our parents, aunts, uncles, clients and employers join in on a world that used to exist only within college walls.

The new professional’s generation (i.e. Millenials or gen Y) started using social media years ago, in a very different environment, for vastly different purposes than today. This is where I believe some of us find our struggle.

Personally, I maintain stubborn grounds in wanting to keep the fun, ridiculous college memories up for all to see. I say, if you have a problem with my photos, don’t look at them. However, some comments about my photos from colleagues led me to cave and block all the pictures on my profile. (Boo, I know.)

However, after discussing this topic with some fellow new professionals, I have found that I’m not alone. A former classmate of mine had an interview with a PR agency scheduled, but was e-mailed with a cancellation note a few days before the interview. When asked why the interview had been cancelled, the agency’s answer was that it had something to do with “social media content.”  My former classmate has since taken down all Facebook pictures and continues to monitor content closely. (And if you are curious, my former classmate was able to find a position at another PR agency.)

Others haven’t had as much trouble with their Facebook content but have taken similar steps to protect their reputation–and jobs. Jennie Ecclestone, General Motors, blocked all of her pictures and posts selective albums for public viewing. Ashley Mead, Fleishman-Hillard PR, closely monitors all photos that are tagged of her and “maintains a very genuine approach” in everything she has on her profile, and Nikki Stephan, Franco PR, uncluttered her profile by deleting all of the applications.

All of these privacy techniques may protect you professionally, but it begs the question, is this defeating the whole purpose of social networking sites? Are you really showing who you are when you have to monitor the content and only place pictures that show you in one, highly-monitored light? It’s an extremely fine line, one that I don’t think anyone has successfully balanced on yet.

Have you balanced on the social networking tightrope? Leave us your comments!

Courtney Vaught is an account coordinator at Eisbrenner PR and a member-at-large for the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. Contact her on Twitter @CourtV. 



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