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Public relations creates a two-way communication between an organisation and its audience, or a person and the people they want to influence. Guess what social media does? Exactly the same thing!

So when you combine social media with PR, it’s a collision that catapults your profile, reputation and credibility exponentially.

Why is it so powerful?

With PR, the media’s representation of a story can significantly impact on public opinion about an organisation, product or even a person. Editorial has a credibility factor as it is endorsed by the journalist or third party. However, there is always the risk that you can’t control what the journalist writes so then you consider going straight to the source – via social media.

With social media, you are developing credible relationships with huge numbers of people directly – often they feel that this relationship is one on one. Using platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re cutting out the third party and offering your messages directly. It is a much quicker, more direct route of communication to a very targeted audience who have chosen to engage with your brand on social media.

You can actually become the direct source of news about your company or brand by writing a blog and posting articles or media releases on your website. This can help raise your profile, increase your credibility as an expert in your field and all that fresh, relevant content being posted online certainly doesn’t hurt your SEO efforts!

A foot in both camps

Because of the rapid speed with which a social media misstep can become a PR disaster, you need to have a media radar. You also need to be in the conversation already to manage crisis situations.

Just as there is crisis management within a traditional public relations role, social media can also lead to some negative press which is understandable when you have a platform that can become anyone’s soap box. A fear of what people might say about you in the public space is not a reason to avoid using social media.

In reality, people are going to say whatever they want about your company, the difference is whether you are already a part of the conversation with them. This gives you the chance to intercept and implement damage control before the conversations get out of hand.

Where do you start with PR and social media?

You start with your story. Everyone has a story. So think about what stories you have, or your business has to tell. You can use the same stories across both PR as well as social media – you just use different channels.

For a specific story, using PR you might write a media release, but with social media you might write a blog post. It means you are reaching different audiences with the same story.

One technique for developing story ideas is to note which questions are commonly asked by customers and use these ideas to write a trends based article. This article can be pitched to key journalists and bloggers.

You can run a survey or poll about issues relating to your product or services, or piggy back on other surveys. Do you have a personal story that’s inspirational such as how you came to start-up your business or a true rag to riches tale?

Don’t forget to announce new products/services, new contract wins and new store openings.

Storytelling is a constant effort. Be strategic and plan out your stories and the mediums you will use to tell them.

Key PR tactics

The most well known PR tactic is a media release, but there are other equally effective ways of telling your stories to your target audiences.

A media pitch is a targeted story idea (or media angle) that you “pitch” to a specific journalist in a publication or TV show that you know relates specifically to their readers or viewers. Case studies provide an ideal platform to leverage business success and tell your story to the media through your customers.

Speaking engagements are an important aspect of building profile and credibility. They are a cost effective way of reaching large, influential audiences and positioning you or your spokesperson as an expert within your industry.

Contributed articles (what you are reading now!) also position you as an expert. Write articles on your area of expertise and pitch them to both print and online publications.

Social media channels

While there are hundreds of social media channels, the key ones to consider are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Foursquare.

Think about how you can place your story in each of the channels – not all will suit every story or audience. Just because your competitor is using Twitter, doesn’t mean you need to. Think carefully about your audiences, messages, stories and available time to keep them up to date.

Interlinking is the trick

The key to combining PR and social media is interlinking all your social media accounts and cross-linking to your PR tactics. So if you have footage of your product, put it on YouTube and add the link in your media release. It will enhance your story and bring the product to life for the journalist.

When you get media coverage, announce it on Twitter with a link to it (if it’s online). You can also add the coverage (check Copyright first) to your blog. Every time you send a media release, add it as a blog post and then tweet about it (with the link).

Don’t forget to interlink your social media accounts. So link your Twitter to your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. This means every time you tweet, it automatically updates the status in the other channels. When you add a blog post, tweet about it. This saves you time, drives traffic to your various channels, but also means your posts can be read by different audiences.

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Catriona Pollard

Catriona Pollard

Catriona Pollard is the founder and director of CP Communications, one of the most respected and innovative boutique PR and social media agencies. She is co-founder of Social Media Women, teaches a PR course she designed and writes the popular blog, Public Relations Sydney. Catriona regularly shares her expertise through articles and presentations to assist businesses grow and thrive by effectively using PR and social media. You can find Catriona on: Blog: www.PublicRelationsSydney.com.au Twitter: @catrionapollard Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PublicRelationsTips Facebook: www.facebook.com/cpcommunications

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