Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Using social media to boost your PR outreach

The rapidly evolving world of social media offers new opportunities for public relations professionals willing to test-drive the technology.

Nathan Kaiser, CEO of nPost, and Frank X. Shaw, who leads the Microsoft team at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, shared tips for reaching key audiences through channels other than the mainstream media during PRSA Puget Sound’s morning presentation, “Innovations in New Media,” March 27 in Seattle.

They said the value of social media such as blogs vs. the tried and true classics, such as newsprint and TV, depends on your audience. A young guy who tells all his online friends about his cool new shoes may be more influential than, say, an article in the business section announcing Nike’s latest product line.

But when Sarah Lacy, the author of a Business Week cover article and a book about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, interviewed him during a conference of techies, the crowd turned ugly. Lacy’s casual interview style didn’t jive well with the South by Southwest Interactive audience. Among the spectators were a number of bloggers who used Twitter to broadcast their opinions about the interview while it was happening.

Our PRSA presenters offered many pearls of wisdom, which I’ve broken down into the following bits:

· Be present online, as well as in the room. If you know that bloggers will attend an event, assign someone from your organization to monitor online conversations. Your speaker might even benefit by having a laptop in front of him or her. You can then decide whether to change the direction of the presentation. Or even better, create a mechanism for your online audience to interact and suggest topics that interest them.
· Establish relationships. Get to know bloggers as well as you do the reporter at your local newspaper. Check out Twitter, Technorati and TechCrunch to find out who is covering your organization, product or service.
· For every project, try something new that not’s critical to your success. If it works, add that tactic to your toolbox. And remember that while it’s always more interesting to focus on what’s cutting edge, you shouldn’t throw away proven strategies.
· Measure your success. At the minimum, you need to know where your story was picked up. Google News and Google Blogsearch can send alerts to your e-mail account when news occurs. Choose a few keywords, like your company’s name, and receive headlines with links the moment the stories are posted or in a daily digest. You should also pay attention to content: Are your key messages coming across? Track comments and reactions, too: What conversations did the report spark? Services like Compete and Alexa offer analytical tools, while TechMeme can help you identify the most important technology-related stories of the day.
· Be responsive. If a blogger is critical of your organization or service, thank him or her for the comment and say what you’re doing to fix the problem. If you resolve the issue, a critic may become your biggest fan. If a story sparks a flurry of negative reader comments, step back and give folks some time to cool down before you reply. Include a link to your Web site to assure your key messages consistently reach the people who care most about the issue.
Courtesy of Guest Blogger Kristin Alexander, Seattle Media Relations Manager, Washington State Attorney General's Office.

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