Savvy marketers are investing in social media for PR (or social PR) as an essential part of their efforts to build brand identity and credibility online. The same techniques also contribute to improving the perceived authority of their website, resulting in more website traffic and higher rankings in the search results pages. Even smaller businesses that might not have capacity for a full-scale PR operation can benefit from social PR. Here are 6 tips to help you craft and implement a successful social media strategy for PR:
1) Recognise the stories that are newsworthy within your business
I like to use the term brand stories with my clients. By this, I mean the key narratives that the business wants to promote. For example, for us, it’s that we’re a creative agency at the forefront of digital techniques, invested in technical excellence. For you, it might be that you are the UK’s leading provider of a certain product or that your materials are all sustainably sourced. When these key messages translate into news stories, you have the foundation of your social PR strategy.
PR is all about promoting stories within the business and, so you need to be able to spot those opportunities. Be alert to things happening within your business that communicate your brand stories. So for us, we’ll share news about new accreditations gained by the team to show our technical excellence, or case studies of things we’ve done where we’ve pushed new techniques successfully.
Consider what constitutes news in your business and how this communicates your brand stories.
2) Craft news stories that appeal to your target audience
The next step is to craft those stories into a format which appeals to your target audience. This might be a press release, written in the traditional style whereby important information is included early and further detail is added as the release goes on.
In social PR, though, you needn’t feel restricted to this one traditional method of story promotion. Because we’re sharing content online, we have far more opportunities to display that content in new and more interesting ways. You might, for example, choose to display statistical information in the form of an infographic—this is a great technique for bringing potentially bland information to life.
Or why not create a video? Whether you do something professional or even animated, or simply film something on a home camera or mobile phone, video content can be a great supplement to a standard press release or email.
3) Use Twitter to seek out new promotional opportunities—and use Hootsuite to filter through the noise
Twitter is really popular with journalists. Consider how busy they are and how limited their time to find news stories, and you’ll understand why. The constant stream of bite-sized news stories can be a hotbed of content and inspiration for them.
And you can capitalise on this. Savvy marketers are using Twitter to identify new PR opportunities in two main ways: 1. When you find journalists on Twitter, you can start to build relationships with them by following what they have to say and tweeting to them directly to pitch your news stories. 2. You can also respond to journalist requests, which they post using hashtags such as #journorequest and #prrequest.
Of course, it can be challenging to sort through all of the content on Twitter. The news feed is constantly updating and, especially if you have limited time, it can be difficult to find the tweets that matter and therefore make the most of the opportunities therein.
That’s where Hootsuite’s social listening functionality comes in. With a few key tactics, you can sort through the noise on Twitter and efficiently identify those PR opportunities that are right for your business.
4) Set up custom search streams using Hootsuite
Full disclosure: I am a Hootsuite ambassador (and of course there are Hootsuite alternatives available, such as Tweetdeck), but for me, Hootsuite does the trick.
You can start filtering Twitter’s content for PR opportunities with a custom search stream, where you state what you want to stream to search for and therefore the tweets you want it to deliver, like this:
“#journorequest” OR “#prrequest”
The search above will deliver all tweets which include the common journalist hashtags I mentioned earlier, thus delivering a stream of journalist requests to which you can respond.
Further to this, you can refine the search above to make it more relevant to you and your business. For example:
“#journorequest” OR “#prrequest” AND “travel” AND “new forest”
The search above is one which I use for one of my clients, which sells holiday cottages in the New Forest, in the UK. Using this search, I have created a stream for myself which delivers journalist requests which are relevant to that client. You could also do it by location, e.g:
“#journorequest” OR “#prrequest” AND “nottingham”
So this would deliver tweets where journalists are seeking information and mentioning Nottingham within their request—great for us as a business that’s Nottingham based.
There are also opportunities beyond the common journalist hashtags. Try searching for mentions of your product in your local area and create a stream to deliver you just those tweets, e.g:
“coffee” AND “hockley”
This can result in earned media placements…
5) Look for earned media opportunities
Earned media refers to those opportunities which you make for yourself through your activities. (Not to be confused with ‘PR stunts’.)
In the example above, I suggested searching for people tweeting about coffee in Hockley, a small area in Nottingham. This was a technique employed by a coffee shop in America a couple of years ago, who searched for people tweeting about coffee in their local area. One particularly stressed tweeter was voicing frustrations about their day and stating their need for a good coffee and mentioned the local area of a coffee shop. The shop responded to the tweet offering a free coffee and a reserved seat to help overcome the woes of the tweeter.
It was a simple idea with little cost, other than the free coffee and the time it took to place a ‘reserved’ sign on a table. But it resulted in a large amount of positive PR for the coffee shop, as news stories cropped up about their generous offering.
Today, we see this reflected in the strategy of the likes of Pret a Manger, who randomly give away free coffees with the expectation that the recipient will tweet their experience, thus driving position PR stories for the business.
Of course, success in earned media comes from a detailed understanding of the target audience. The coffee shop knew that the tweeter would appreciate a coffee and a seat during their stressful day, and were able to provide it. In your business, think about how you can appeal to the specific needs and desires of your target audience, and then get creative in the way you meet those needs online.
6) Promote your own content through self-publication
Promotion of your content doesn’t need to solely come from external sources. In fact, it’s arguably just as important to make sure your brand stories are communicated on your own channels—including your website and social media.
Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to promote their own content, and many are incorporating media centres or content hubs into their own websites as a home for that content. Publish your own press releases and make them available to those people who might come across them, and over time, you may find your media centre becomes a regular content source for journalists relevant to your business.
It’s also important to be able to, strategically, promote your own content through your social channels. This means avoiding becoming a broadcaster—those businesses that only push their own content—and instead using your content to contribute to a wider conversation. On Twitter, Hootsuite can again be useful in this by setting up search streams for your product or service, or looking out for retweets of your content. Across other channels like LinkedIn and Facebook, it means just being aware and present in order to recognise what your target audience is interested in.
Social PR can be an extremely involved process, and there are professionals and agencies who dedicate all of their time to making the most of the extensive opportunities therein. But no matter the size of your business, there are opportunities for you too.