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One of the core functions of the public relations profession is publicity. It’s why we chat up reporters, pitch, spin, network, etc. We build stories and buzz around products that are not always sexy. So it is funny to me, that we sell ourselves short when it comes to social media.
How many times have you said/heard “Social media is easy” or “It’s not rocket science?”
If you are like me, you don’t have enough fingers and toes to count. These phrases and similar ones that we commonly state belittle the work that we do in social media.
Sure it comes easy to communications pros, but it is far from simplistic. It’s also not something that anyone can do well, so we should stop selling it that way.
For starters, think about the time that you invest into your social media efforts. Chances are it is not your only responsibility, so you’re juggling the efforts along with other duties (PR, marketing, HR, etc.). Since the landscape is ever-changing, researching new trends and testing them out and participating in them, involves time resources.
Social media gives the general public an open window to converse with companies. Now it’s up to the company to talk back or pretend like nothing is happening. This is a scary proposition for many executives. They are looking for someone to lead the engagement. It’s a big job but someone has to do it. Public relations pros need to be the driving force of these conversations as Tweets and responses are an external form of communications, which our skill set is best suited for.
This frontline of defense in the social space can be a headache. Many customers want responses instantaneously and there will be both positive and negative chatter that needs responses. In engagement, companies need to take the good with the bad with the same approach.
No company wants to run into a crisis situation, however in the case of BP, they have a big one on their hands. I am not sure whether a good presence in the social space would have helped, but it couldn’t have hurt the way BPGlobalPR does. This satirical account has been poking fun at the petroleum company, and by the name, could have been confused and thought the Tweets had come from BP’s public relations team. The account has close to 160,000 followers following the comical posts. Imagine the power this account could have possessed if it had come from the real PR team giving relevant information on the crisis?
Much like the PR profession prior to the Web 2.0 revolution, social requires practitioners to wear many hats, which is never easy. Aside from the three previously mentioned activities, there are hundreds more. Getting involved in the space needs someone who understands the restrictions, but embraces them in stride. Perhaps the most important one is that of the educator.
Social media is not easy, so it is up to practitioners to educate their organization and assist them in incorporating it into the rest of the traditional marketing and communications collateral. This can help break down silos and drive everyone towards the same goal.
Still sound easy to you?
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