Tips on how to ‘socialize’ your public relations

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sacramento Business Journal – by Debi Hammond, Contributing writer, Marketing

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are all great options for small companies

Many companies view social media as a way to create connections with customers. But social networks also can help you reach a broader audience.

If you’re not using social media to enhance your public relations efforts, you’re missing out. Every major — and not so major — news outlet now uses social media to uncover leads and reach readers, viewers and listeners.

CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Fox News all have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Locally, The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Magazine, Sacramento Business Journal and Comstock’s magazine (which just launched an iPad app) all engage in social media for business use.

Here are few tips to help get your public relations program more “social.”

Follow: Start following editors and reporters who cover news important to your business. You never know, they just might start “following” you, too. Get to know what they cover and share appropriate information with them.

Friend: A lot of media are surprisingly open with their Facebook accounts. This is a great place to learn more about them, both personally and professionally. If you’re not actually “friends,” this is not the place to try and become one. It’s a place to connect and learn, but leave the pitching to the appropriate venues and business hours.

Connect: LinkedIn is a great tool for creating business connections, and the media is no different. Media outlets use it too for their own professional career connections as well as company information and news. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for doing preliminary research on media outlets and journalists. If you don’t have an account, sign up! And if you’re not currently using it to connect with the media, you should start.

Post: Don’t have a blog? Maybe you should. A blog is a great tool to share information in a personal and immediate way. A company’s web site used to be the go-to source for information, but these sites are usually static, containing old information that hasn’t been updated in months. Now, more than ever, blogs and other social networking sites are rapidly becoming the first stop for the media and consumers, because it’s real-time information.

Comment: People in general have a lot to say — but they may not say it online. In fact, according to Forrester Research, a market research firm, participation on most social media sites falls into the following categories: 90 percent of people “lurk,” passively reading the work of others; 9 percent comment and 1 percent create content. My recommendation is to do less lurking and more commenting. If you like what a reporter has to say, comment on it. It’s a great way to make a real connection.

When pitching media outlets, you need to connect with them where they are — and according to Nielsen Online, social networks and blogs are now the fourth most popular online activity, beating personal email. Nielsen also reports that Twitter and Facebook use is up 82 percent from December 2008.

Although not all reporters and editors embrace social media, that’s where a lot more people are spending their time. As you embark on your public relations outreach, be sure to start by getting “social.”

Debi Hammond is founder and CEO of Sacramento-based Merlot Marketing Inc. Reach her at debi@merlotmarketing.com.

Sacramento Business Journal

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