Social media is a great tool for public relations professionals to discover new opportunities and increase outreach for clients (among many other things), but it’s also a great outlet to get creative! In the public relations industry, we have to be creative on a daily, nay hourly, basis; figuring out answers to questions like:
With social media, the creative techniques that have been used in the past to answer these questions can be expanded and leveraged in new ways. This is especially true given the convergence of so many industries like public relations, marketing, and advertising, opening a wider array of opportunities and tactics to take advantage of. But when using these new tactics in terms of social media, it’s all about creativity. Whether that’s finding a way to put the point of your press release into 140 characters on Twitter, or making your article into a slideshow complete with images, it has to be done creatively to get any attention via social media.
In a recent conversation I had with Travis Fitzwater, founder of Fitzwater Enterprises, he noted that, “Social media can be pretty boring if creativity isn’t integral to a person or company’s online posts. As such, impressions are everything in today’s web environment, so if a person or company can’t hold their audiences’ attention, or impress them, with innovative, interesting, and insightful content, public relations via social media becomes obsolete.”
Travis brings up a good point regarding holding your audiences’ attention. With the onslaught of social sites and online portholes, people are now getting limitless information delivered straight to them. So what is going to make someone pick your piece of information out of the hundreds they receive each day? Ultimately, it’s the content, but in order for readers to want to get at the content, it must be presented in a snappy, creative way.
As I mentioned in my post, Using Social Media to Generate Leads, content that typically gets shared via social media is interesting, fresh, useful, and relevant to target audiences. New data, top blog posts, and funny videos are among the top things to get redistributed. Product info, free trials, or software documentation is typically not redistributed, though it can still be useful and interesting – so that’s where presenting it creatively comes into play.
So that press release announcing something about someone… who cares? You need to be able to answer the question, “why is this important?” before distributing it virally to the world. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it’s not going to be important and people aren’t going to care, but our job is to make them think it is and they do! If I were to issue a press release announcing my 100th blog post, no one would look twice, but pulling out a bigger message and using it in a context people do care about, like generating blog traffic, might create more of a stir and get people to read my release – but it takes a little flexibility, skill, and creativity to get there.
From blog posts and Twitter updates to LinkedIn statuses and Facebook profiles, there are a multitude of outlets to brainstorm creative ways to distribute your content and keep social media working as a worthwhile PR tool.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Public Relations, a Look Ahead in New Media, Veronis Suhler expects advertising spending to drop 7.6% for 2009, and again in 2010, while public relations spending is expected to see a 9% increase. So with advertising money coming over to public relations, maybe it’s time PR professionals took a closer look at advertising. In a recent article, Dave Fleet lists scale, creativity, measurement, audience targeting, and message crafting as the five things PR professionals can learn from advertising.
I particularly agree with Fleet’s note about creativity and I think a lot of these points can be boiled down to creativity… at least in order to be successful at them. Take his first point, scale, for instance. The bigger the scale, the broader the outreach for your campaign, and, therefore, the bigger the results. And, let’s face it, results is what it’s all about. Mastering the smaller markets is great, but bringing your client to a bigger audience will generate bigger results, however, that takes creativity. Creativity is where it’s at, especially now with all the overlapping of industries and media. Social media in particular allows for a whole new way of thinking with many tactics conducive to creativity.
Creative social media tactics are also useful to glean insight on Fleet’s fourth point; audience targeting. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Let Them Come to You, Ken Lachlan, a communication studies professor at UMass Boston, commented to me that with participatory media, people can tailor who they want to hear from and what kind of information they want to receive much more easily than ever before. They no longer have to dig through countless sources to find what they want; now, people can select what they want and get it to come straight to them. This selection process is helpful since you’re now able to see whose following or subscribing to you and your content (or your clients’ content). This provides immediate insight into who is interested in what you have to say and your audience research is practically done for you!
For example, if you create a Twitter account for your wireless client, but notice that many of the client’s Twitter followers are in the education sector, now you know a good industry to pitch that’s already interested in what you’re doing. Once you know someone’s interested, it’s a lot easier to influence them.
So if these are the kinds of things public relations can learn from advertising, with a little creativity, soon advertising will be learning from us!
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