Online PR – is it really about getting back to basics?

Retweets and fans, user generated content, citizen journalists – either music to your ears or a cacophony that makes no sense.

But, it can and must make sense.  The impact of social networking on the way we communicate and engage with our target audience is undeniable. It’s not future forecasting, it’s happening now.

Australians spend  more time visiting social networks and blogs  than any other developed nation in the world.  In one month alone, more than 10 million Aussies used Facebook, about 9.9 million visited YouTube, and around 1.6 million were on Twitter. (source).

Why does it matter? Aren’t people simply talking about their lunch or watching funny animal videos?

No. We’re going online and asking fellow internet users for opinions and information about products, services and brands.  We’re reading reviews, posting comments, liking brands or products.

This means the power has shifted to the consumer and the network of communities online who can influence the reputation of a brand and have a direct impact on sales.

For PR professionals it means forgetting the broadcast model of old and getting back to basics. Understanding your target audience, tailoring your message, listening to what your audience are saying and responding appropriately.

And your target audience want to participate. They want to know what is going on with new products or services. They’re demanding your openness and honesty. They may criticize you but they’ll also praise you publically.

If all this sounds too much, don’t panic. Here’s some hints and tips to get you started:

1. Gather intelligence. Get online and listen to what your customers, clients, employees, and suppliers are saying about your brand, or your product / service.

2. Determine if and how you will respond and build this into your communications strategy.

  • Don’t jump on board just because everybody else is doing it.
  • Choose the right platform. Facebook isn’t for everyone.
  • Define roles and provide guidelines for company involvement.
  • Make sure you have the resource to maintain momentum.

3. As part of your strategy, identify and prioritize content.  Look inside your business for information or advice that your target audience will value and share, for example:

  • Advice from an in-house specialist on product use that might make a great video.
  • A podcast to support that latest industry report.
  • A presentation explaining new technology that could be uploaded to Slideshare/

4. Don’t ignore traditional media and their own online efforts:

  • Find our which journalists or media outlets are using networks like Twitter. Follow them – listen, learn, look for opportunities.
  • Research the blogs or forums used by trad-media online that you could target.
  • Package your stories for online media with video and graphics content.

5. Update your issues and crisis communications strategies to include social media monitoring. And, if you have a social media presence, don’t forget to use this channel during a crisis.

6. Think about your customer service and how it might be improved via social media.

7. Optimize everything you do online.

Remember, just like Apple claims we’ll never stop doing the things we love, technology just allows us to do things differently.

This post was originally written for Linc Integrated

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