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PR social strategies have got to change

Posted by Sanjay Dove on 25th March 2015

Once upon a time, when social media was still this new-fangled thing that businesses didn’t totally understand (and your grandma called it “The Facebook” and “The Twitter”), businesses paid PR agencies to build online communities on social media.

That was — in a nutshell — our job as far as social media strategy is concerned. Grow the company’s following online

As the digital world has progressed, we’ve now succeeded in building these communities. So what’s next for us? The CMO is well within their rights to say “thank you very much PR folks, we’ll handle things from here now” and take things in house. But if we’ve worked on building a community from scratch, it’s become our baby. While we’re not going to want to relinquish control we have to give good reason for why control should lie with us.

Meanwhile 70% of marketers expect to spend more on social in 2015, and we can’t assume that a big chunk of that is going to come our way. We need to justify our existence as PRs to grab a slice of the action.

Last week I attended a PRCA breakfast event on precisely this topic: how PR can bring social media back and convince a CMO to invest.

I’m sure either speaker, Simon Hilliard or John Brown, would acknowledge that whoever’s running the social media accounts has to justify everything they’re doing. There are many tactics we can employ that, when put together, will paint a very strong picture as to why we as PRs should own social.

Think short-term gain

CMOs are rarely willing to invest in a 12-month social media plan — they see it as risky. If you can get the CMO’s buy in with much smaller projects with “quick wins”, you stand a much better chance of convincing the company to reinvest.

Know the audience better than the marketing and advertising agencies do

Our job is to know the audience and its influencers inside out, and I’m not just talking about journalists. Don’t underestimate the power of bloggers, Instagrammers, Viners and social commentators — they can be as equally powerful as journalists in amplifying your company message.

Boost your strategy with some paid-for media

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t pay for promoted content, but investing a small amount into your social campaigns can give them the shot in the arm they need to get off the ground.

Prove our worth

We’ve moved on from measuring just “growth in Twitter followers” or “growth in retweets”. These figures alone may prove the success of a social campaign, but businesses care more about whether the social campaign has had an effect on its business objectives, whether it’s generating leads, driving sales, improving customer satisfaction or whatever they’d like to measure. To help us hit those business objectives, we should be measuring actual engagement, general mood of those on social, topics under discussion, and link that back to what the business really wants to achieve.

The main lesson to take away from the event is that there’s simply no one single “killer idea”. If it were that easy, we would’ve done it by now. But by approaching social in the right way, there’s no reason why PR can’t dominate the action.
photo credit: Instagram and other Social Media Apps via photopin (license)

Sanjay Dove

A senior account manager at Wildfire, Sanjay has extensive experience with executing campaigns for brands in the IT, cybersecurity, marketing tech, semiconductor and consumer tech industries — with notable clients including Acquia, RepKnight and Samsung. He is equally at home working with small startups to build their brand awareness and credibility, and working with the big tech brands to manage their reputation within their given industries. Sanjay joined the agency in October 2014 after working for a couple of years in technology copywriting and sports PR. An English Language graduate from the University of Manchester, and a Journalism postgraduate from the University of Salford, Sanjay confesses to being a bit of a grammar nerd. While away from the office, he enjoys playing cricket, watching Chelsea play football, listening to jazz, and playing the piano and the drums. But not all at the same time. Obviously.