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Special PR deal – the traditional/social media combo!

Social & Digital

Special PR deal – the traditional/social media combo!

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When youre active in the social media space (as I tend to be, along with countless others in the marketing sphere), its sometimes easy to get caught up in the minutiae of Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, blogs and the like.

Ive been having my kitchen renovated these past few weeks and – as anyone who has gone through this process can attest – you get to meet a variety of people who come in, do the work, have a chat and then leave. In my instance, it was Nigel the chippie, Nick the plumber and Elizabeth the fine arts student who paints kitchens on the side (and a damn fine job she does too!).

As a communications practitioner, Im always interested in the best and most effective ways to reach people. Elizabeth the painter, for example, couldnt give a brass razoo about Twitter or social networking sites generally.

Shes not alone by any means and there are plenty of consumers who are happy with the traditional media diet of newspapers, magazines, TV and radio (this is despite my 77-year-old mother the other day asking me about Twitter – now that freaked me out!).

Our clients (if in agency land) or senior management (in-house) would still much rather see a positive story on page three of The Age, for example, than mentions across an assortment of odd blog posts. I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with that. Such a get remains a prized PR brownie point: hell, you can even have it framed for the boss if its good enough!

However, as a profession, we need to be acutely aware people are turning to social media in their droves. If were to be taken seriously as a legitimate communications discipline, public relations practitioners need to understand intuitively the seismic shift that’s occurring online.

This is not something that can be appreciated from afar. Reading articles and books on social media is encouraged and absolutely necessary, but nothing – repeat, nothing – replaces total immersion.

If you think you understand Twitter, for example, without actually participating, you’re kidding yourself.

If you reckon you know how a blogger thinks and acts without putting in the time to understand, don’t even bother.

Yes, social media can be a fantastic way to get the word out about your brand, but if you believe you can approach it as you would print and broadcast media, you’re in for a shock.

If you look at social media simply from the point of view of – ‘okay, now we’ve got all these extra new communication channels to push our message out’ – then you will be missing out on the opportunities these online platforms present.

The current societal shift (relevant to the communications industry) has a lot to do with ‘influence of opinion’ – who’s got it, and who is prepared to wield it.

The ability to influence opinion continues to shift away from corporations and the media and into the public’s hands. Today, people are empowered as never before. They’ve now got the tools and the know-how to find the information they want, to voice their opinion and to drive the conversation.

Which brings me back to the original theme for this post:

Yes, we live in a hyper-connected and content-driven world.

Yes, peer-to-peer dialogue drives the marketplace.

But from a PR perspective, traditional media is still relevant and pivotal and will continue to be so for a good many years yet (that’s not to say they don’t face considerable challenges along the way).

Make no mistake, editorial coverage can be very powerful… it gives us fantastic reach for the brands we represent, perceived third-party endorsement (and therefore added credibility) and often works well as a catalyst for social media-driven conversation. And yes the boss or the client gets all warm about it too.

The difference is now, social media can help drive the editorial message and sometimes, it can also prove to be the source of editorial content (get a big enough social media buzz and journalists may well come knocking).

In other words, together, traditional and social media are more powerful than either/or as a standalone. Think of traditional media as trickle down if you will, and social media as bubble up: combine the two and… well… your audiences are fully ‘soaked’ in the message!

Ideally, returning to our earlier example, imagine if you do manage to generate that page three article in The Age (congrats on that!) and people tweet and re-tweet about it. In turn this might lead to several blog posts, which may drive people back to The Age again. The effect has been multiplied via this conversation while the visibility of your brand has been amplified.

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