Public Relations and Social Media: A perfect pair
Three years ago, social media was all the rage. As businesses struggled to stay afloat in tough economic times, they slashed traditional advertising budgets and put PR and marketing on hold. Then came social media. “What’s your Twitter handle?” and “Friend me” were the buzzwords. Everyone wanted in on the hottest trend in marketing. People soon jumped on the social media bandwagon, not fully understanding what social media was or entailed, but knew they needed to be a part of it. Company’s who had put all traditional media buying on hold began pouring this money into social media, expecting the same sales driven results as traditional media. Social Media managers were expected to show the results of traditional advertising, marketing and PR initiatives, all through social channels and with smaller budgets.
Social media is in nature, supposed to be social. Social entails “engaging” with fans, opening up the channel of communication from 1 way to 2-way communication, and not direct sales. As companies allocated traditional marketing and PR budgets solely for Social Media, they became unsatisfied with the results. They were looking for social media to be the magic bullet to fix their business, to drive sales, and to give something it was never meant to give. In an effort to stretch dollars put into social media, companies began pushing harder to drive sales through the social channels they set up. The more they pushed the sale, the further away the fans went.
As the economy picks up in 2012, traditional media budgets are slowly coming back into the marketing mix, and companies are integrating these traditional media vehicles with social media strategies. The result is a fully integrated marketing approach with increased opportunities for the end user to engage with the brand through several touch points.
Social media cannot stand in a silo. To run a successful marketing campaign, social media must be integrated within a larger Public Relations and marketing strategy.
Social Media and Public Relations go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other. Public Relations fuels Social Media with content and placements for posting, and social media fuels Public Relations with larger opportunities to form direct relationships with journalists and publications at large. A social media campaign without PR would lack rich content for continuous posting, and a PR campaign without social media would lack a primary vehicle in which to share placements with a larger fan base.
For example, a Westchester fashion boutique was looking to build buzz about their new store opening. This particular retailer is a perfect example of a company using social media and PR interchangeably. Traditional press releases were written for the grand opening, as well as social media releases to bloggers. A local celebrity spokesperson modeled clothes at the Grand Opening, and was utilized in the preliminary ad campaigns. The spokesperson also utilized their social media to get the word out about the store. As a way to take the conversation offline and meet their fans in person, the retailer has participated in event sponsorships such as The WAG’s Ageless Forever Event, or A Taste of The Towns at The Gym in Armonk. They also shoot all of their own ad campaigns, and reward their Facebook fans with teasers of behind the scenes footage from shoots to create a unique experience that can only be found in social media. For Valentine’s Day, a “wish list” was created in print for customers to track their favorite items in the store. We combined this in the digital realm by creating a “digital wish list” so users could get a similar experience at home on their laptops, if they didn’t want to fill out the list at the store. Everything in the campaign is integrated seamlessly.
The role of social media for businesses in Westchester County has drastically changed, and will continue to evolve in 2012. It is no longer a question of “Should my business be active in social media?” but rather, “What social media strategy is my business implementing this year?” As companies continue to put money back into traditional advertising and PR campaigns, social media will become a pivotal feedback mechanism to gauge response rate. Facebook in particular will serve as a powerful and free focus group to test ad campaigns. Company’s looking to place media buys in traditional print are now taking advantage of Facebook’s advertising platform to test ad concepts to determine which ad gains the highest response rate from a loyal fan base. Impression rates, social reach and click through conversions can then be used to create PR and marketing campaigns.
Company’s that are most successful with social media strategy are those who see it for what it is; not a direct sales tool, but rather, a new form of selling through the art of ‘not selling.’ Social Media fans are coming to your fan page to get an entirely unique experience, one that cannot be found in print, email newsletters, or even your web site. Company’s that embrace this form of brand building within their larger marketing budgets will be satisfied with the results. Social Media is only one component of a comprehensive marketing strategy. The most innovative companies with successful marketing campaigns today are combining social media, Public Relations, marketing communications, event sponsorship and corporate social responsibility initiatives into their marketing plan at large. They leverage all of these marketing opportunities to cross promote and further build their brand.
Kris Ruby is President of Ruby Media Group, a premiere Public Relations and Social Media Agency serving Westchester and Fairfield County. For more information, please visit www.rubymediagroup.com
Date of publication: Westchester County Business Journal, February 21, 2012