Why You Should and Shouldn’t Add Social Media to Your Public Relations Program

More than ever, companies are sorting the features and weighing the pros and cons of adding one or more social media channels to their array of public relations tools. 

In addition to their networking and communications benefits, social media channels provide an efficient and highly effective means for you to establish and maintain your company’s positive reputation. They enable you to

Communicate directly with targeted groups and individuals
Bypass newspapers, magazines, radio and television to get the word out
Build and reinforce professional relationships
Deliver important information at the speed of the Internet
Enable individuals to ask questions an exchange information with you 

Also, the prevalence, variety and versatility of such media channels enable you to spread information farther, faster and wider than ever.
And, as the Internet continues to blur the line between public relations and marketing, your use of media channels to preserve your company’s positive reputation will more than likely overlap with maintaining its bottom line.
But you must remember this key point: Social media channels can be highly effective public relations tools, but they can’t replace traditional media entirely. Successful public relations programs meld social media and traditional media with other communications tools and techniques.
Among the many social media channels currently available to you, the most popular and effective include:


You may find others that meet your company’s particular needs.
Regardless of which channels you choose, before plunging into social media, keep these six important tips in mind:

Don’t start a social networking program unless you’re willing to devote the time, personnel and other resources to “feed the beast” regularly. Small companies and solo entrepreneurs should be particularly aware of the huge amount of time you can spend each day maintaining your social media networks. This activity may reap great rewards. It can also become an extremely time-consuming responsibility and possibly a giant distraction from other work.
Social media communication should remain continual and consistent. Don’t crank up the system just to make a major announcement then go silent until the next announcement. Develop a communications plan and stick with it to maintain a consistent day-to-day social media presence and relevance.
Be ready and willing to engage your audience; not only after you contact them, but every time they contact you. Dedicated followers can quickly turn into unhappy detractors when you ignore their comments or inquires.
Supporting your company’s social media channels is everyone’s responsibility. Your communications/public relations department may develop comments and answers, but all employees — from the CEO down — must remain available to provide timely input for such responses. 
Your audiences might not respond as you’d expected — or at all — to the information you send them. Don’t be surprised if people want you to pay attention to them or respond to their comments before they’ll respond to you.
“Content is king.” Always ask yourself and answer these three key questions before sending out information:

> Is it news?
> Is it interesting?
> Who cares?

Bonus tip: If you decide your company isn’t going to participate actively in any social media channels, you’d be wise to set up a company blog and open a Twitter account anyway. These would be in addition to your company’s website, which you must have to establish an Internet presence and credibility.
Even if the blog and Twitter account remain inactive, you’ll have both of these rapid response systems available and ready to go as part of your company’s crisis communications response system.
Just like a fire hose that sits coiled in a glass case, your blog and Twitter account will be available when you need them. You can engage either communications system in an emergency, then put them away until the next crisis.

Brian R. Salisbury, a writer and a public relations and communications consultant, combines a wealth of communications know-how with an engaging writing style to help his clients shape the most effective messages and deliver them with the greatest impact where they count most. Visit Brian’s website at http://www.BriansQuill.com and subscribe to his free public relations newsletter and receive his free report “Ten Key Components of a Successful Public Relations Program.” Or send him an email at BrianSalisbury@BriansQuill.com.

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Twitch: Public Relations in the Age of Social Media Panel
(Left to Right) Jamila Bey, Jennifer Nycz-Conner, McLean Robbins, Lindsey Mastis, Arthur Delaney (standing in for Ryan Grim)
By Fletcher Prince on 2010-01-14 19:58:02

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