By Bryan Blaise
Editor’s note: Bryan Blaise is a graduate of the University of South Florida and is currently a senior account executive at GolinHarris Chicago.
I was actually one of those college students who waited for the day that my university received a Facebook network. And as I began my career in public relations at Fleishman-Hillard Chicago, social media really exploded. Twitter, Digg, RSS Feeds, YouTube — every public relations campaign had a strong social media component, many at the center of strategy. Our company even had a commitment to have all employees fully “switched on” and capable of counseling and executing social media campaigns for clients.
And why not? Practitioners could deliver messages directly to consumers at very little cost. And measurement — public relations’ biggest bane — was finally possible. Media relations still held its firm role within our field, but this new media’s aura and possibilities quickly took up more and more clients’ and practitioners’ mind space and budgets. We were all social media centric — and anticipated great results from our hyper-networked, Tweet and post-filled efforts.
Now a few years later, I’ve watched the communications pendulum swing back as we’ve come to understand a little more clearly social media’s role within the media mix and our own campaign mixes. Stop and think about your Facebook and other social media “friends.” Besides inane posts about that tough final or exciting party after the football win, what are they sharing? If they’re sharing anything related to a company or event, more than likely it’s accompanied by a link to a news story or article online, typically by a major news outlet or blog. Sometimes it’s a viral video or promotional site.
Today (and who knows where it will be tomorrow) social media in integrated marketing campaigns really can be leveraged in two ways. First, involves traditional media relations and the prized skill of pitching. A client’s story should be packaged and pitched not just to the beat reporter, but social media and online reporters. An online story from a credible media source can exponentially increase the likelihood of it being shared via social media channels.
Simultaneously, companies must create direct brand engagement opportunities, supported by social media. Whether a flash mob, trade show event or intriguing product launch, consumers who are given a unique and exclusive experience with brands will more than likely share it with their networks. Providing event assets (e.g. photos or video) or on-site access to social media sites for those without smart phones, even further ups the probability of sharing.
Now add in the third aspect — using a client’s own social media channels and sites to share the story.
Together these three can reap the greatest amount of online exposure and sharing. The first two credible sources in the eyes of consumers, back up the reiterated claims of the client’s social media sites. And hopefully, all lead to the greatest number of sales, attendees or other variables for your clients.