Where Social Media and PR Meet

Jeff Barrett is the CEO of Status Creative and a contributor to the HootSource blog.

When it comes to content, there are no accidents. Most videos or pieces of content that go “viral” follow a formula intentionally or unintentionally.

Perhaps a great example is the “Double Rainbow” video. It went from thousands of views over a couple months to millions of views in days when it appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Not every video or piece of content follows such an exact or linear path but there are common elements. While content can thrive digitally, traditional media is still a beneficial tool to reach the masses.

If digital content benefits from traditional media then that means it requires having relationships with decision makers at various media outlets. That’s public relations. Social media is not a billboard, it’s a conversation. Public relations is about leveraging relationships to frame and position that conversation.

What about the press release? The press is release is not dead. Rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. It is evolving, adapting. As a tool for writers, it’s great. Having all relevant information in one place makes it infinitely easier to create an article or broadcast piece. As a convenience it is always necessary. As a promotional tool, in its current stat, it is irrelevant. It’s the equivalent of using one of those 15lb Nokia cell phones.

Why? Follow along with this over-simplification. Pretend you are an editor or news director. You are given two pitches. One story is a press release from a trusted source. The other is a link to a story that shows 1.5 million people are already talking about it. Traction leads to action. It makes sense to cover the story with widespread buzz, apparent value. Traditional media’s bottom line is to go where the eyeballs are. Demonstrate that and you will get all the coverage you want and more.

Social media is used to create initial traction to gain traditional media coverage. Most perceive social media as a tool to create and continue engagement after the life cycle of content. Sure, this relationship is cyclical but most of the productivity social media can provide is before and during the launch of content.

The best example for this is The Super Bowl. Advertisers last year paid over $3 million for a 30 second spot. You may think that all the commercial buzz occurs after the game and the days following. However, multiple reports show that most of that buzz is gone 36 hours after the game. The real window to capture attention via social media is the two weeks preceding. This is why advertisers leak parts or all of their commercials online. Some even create bonus or related content. Having a Super Bowl commercial is just the entrance fee. It is validation that their content will be interesting and engaging based on the expectations viewers have for these commercials. They also want to be the first to see new content. Never underestimate that human need. People don’t want to wait until the Super Bowl. They want it now. Advertisers who time this process right are capitalizing. Impressions in the two weeks before the Super Bowl are far exceeding the actual broadcast impressions.

Keeping all of this in mind, the formula start to come in place. The last thing to consider is influencers. Social media is not this magical, wonderful place where everyone views everything and cats do amazing things. Ok, that second part is true but I digress. Creating shareable content for social media is not complicated. Don’t let gurus, ninjas, swamis and other people with ridiculous titles tell you otherwise.

Know your release date. Determine what the trending conversation of that time will be. This is never exact but if you are releasing something the day before March Madness about basketball – it has a much better chance of being successful.

Keep your content flexible. Leave open the possibility to capitalize on other trending topics of the moment. This is where being a creative writer in under 140 characters is key.

Jeff Barrett is never at a loss for a way to communicate. Image source: Jeff Barrett / Facebook
Jeff Barrett is never at a loss for a way to communicate. Image source: Jeff Barrett / Facebook

Involve influencers – these are the people with large followings that can kickstart the sharing of content. In prior projects I have made a point to either put them in the actual content or give them exclusive access to products or content first. It’s about creating value and giving them an incentive to share the content. Simply tweeting someone to share something usually doesn’t work. We have all been there. Most of the time we say “cool story, bro” and lump it in with being asked to join someone’s online farming community.

Finally, have a compelling story that is designed for news coverage. Create a hook. Tie it with good timing, flexible content and plenty of influencers and you will create the social traction necessary to yield traditional media coverage.

Once it reaches traditional media coverage, you should have additional content ready. The best time to launch new content is when existing coverage is getting a ton of coverage.

This isn’t everything but it’s a start, a frame of reference when looking to apply social media to public relations. When done effectively this method produces massive ROI and creates stronger relationships with traditional media sources.