social media in pr

Social media & public relations - a powerful combination

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Once upon a time, public relations (PR) involved little more than releasing a periodic press release. However, that was before the rise of platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, which drastically altered the landscape. Today, social media & public relations are inextricably intertwined, shaping public perception at lightning speed.

The Bvlgari launch of their Man Glacial Essence fragrance, for example, is the type of event that would once have been comparatively low-key and localised. MCI's experts, however, leveraged the power of social media and VR technology to create an immersive 360-degree virtual brand universe for the gathered press, influencers, and their huge numbers of followers.

Taking audiences on thrilling alpine experiences, a much larger number of people were able to discover the fragrance in a multi-sensory way. In this article, we look at a range of instances in which social media PR can be used and how public relations experts can leverage digital platforms to enhance brand reputation.

The transformation of PR through social media

Before social media & public relations became such close bedfellows, traditional PR focused on the flow of information but through tightly controlled channels. Most often, this involved putting together press releases, holding press conferences and developing journalistic relationships to ensure media coverage. 

Traditional PR channels also included:

  • Press conferences - Live events held to make major announcements or to address important issues with the media in attendance.
  • Print media - Magazines and newspapers were primary channels for the dissemination of information and securing editorial coverage. 
  • TV & radio - New segments on the radio and TV were crucial for reaching as wide an audience as possible. 
  • Direct mail - Brochures and newsletters would be sent directly to stakeholders in order to keep them informed about company developments and news. 
  • Public speaking - Conferences and industry meetings offered an opportunity to build both authority and visibility. 
  • Networking events/Trade shows - Direct interaction could be enjoyed with industry peers, potential clients and media reps at industry-specific events. 

While these one-way PR options still exist today, they can be massively complemented and interconnected through the use of social media. The PR meaning in social media circles is far more immediate, impactful and much less predictable. As such, the traditional gatekeepers no longer control the flow of information, meaning brands can talk directly to their customers. 

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Global, two-way communication 24/7

The combined power of social media & public relations provides a two-way channel through which instantaneous feedback can be given. However, due to the dynamic and ever-changing nature of online spaces, the public perception of a company can be much more volatile and influenced by the opinions of online communities. 

It's also a 24/7 global discipline, with brands now able to share developments, updates and news across all geographical boundaries. This immediately carries with it many benefits in terms of quick reaction, but the task of managing a brand's image requires constant monitoring. 

Consider the case of Airbnb's We Accept campaign in 2017, launched in response to concerns over discrimination within its community. It was able to quickly and impactfully announce its commitment to inclusivity and combine it with a Super Bowl commercial. 

Using traditional means, this kind of response would have required considerably more effort, been actioned far slower and, as a result, likely been much less effective.

The analytical advantage of social media in PR

The advent of social media has undoubtedly revolutionised the discipline of PR, offering previously unattainable possibilities. However, the benefits of integrating social & public relations extend far beyond immediacy and global reach.

Laser-focused targeting

Social media platforms offer sophisticated targeting features that can be a real game-changer when putting together your PR campaigns. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Snapchat offer detailed analytics options, allowing brands to tailor their messaging with laser-targeted focus. Insights are provided across a range of metrics like:

  • Audience behaviour
  • Purchasing history
  • Preferences
  • Feedback

Rather than having to use a scattergun approach, segmentation can lead to super-personalised social media & public relations campaigns that resonate much more deeply than before. Conversations about your brand can be tracked, allowing you to comprehend sentiment trends and create a feedback loop that informs all your future efforts.

Social media PR gives you incredible reach, highly personalised engagement and priceless insight for your campaigns. They're advantages that empower brands to better communicate, as well as build stronger customer relationships that evolve when they need to.

social media pr

Impactful social media PR campaigns

In order to see a real-world instance of social media & public relations working perfectly in tandem, we need look no further than Disney's Share Your Ears partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Launched across an array of social media platforms, the iconic entertainment and media conglomerate encouraged people to post images of themselves wearing Mickey Mouse ears, along with the hashtag #ShareYourEars

Disney pledged $5 to Make-A-Wish for every post, up to a maximum of $1 million, and the campaign went viral across the world. This raised money for a good cause while reinforcing Disney as a philanthropic, caring, family-oriented company.

Who can forget the ice bucket challenge?

Another highly successful social media PR strategy that caught fire was the unforgettable Ice Bucket Challenge. For those few who didn't see it, it was created to raise awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and involved pouring a bucket of ice water over your head while videoing it ad posting it on social media. The participant would also be required to nominate others while encouraging donations to the ALS association. 

This led to more than $115m being raised, and it was all started by Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player. While it wasn't a strategy with a commercial origin, it still serves to show what is possible in terms of engagement with social media PR when it's done right. 

The role of influencers in social media PR

We can't talk about the benefits of harnessing the joint power of social media & public relations without mentioning influencers. Global celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Christiano Ronaldo carry a lot of weight with potential customers, meaning that they wield considerable power in shaping public perception. As such, they offer the opportunity to amplify your brand message.

What makes their voices so impactful? They connect with their followers on a personal level and exude authenticity and trustworthiness, meaning that their opinions matter. When they sample a product and tell others about it, it can generate huge levels of organic interest. 

The personal connection is key 

As entirely relatable, credible sources of unbiased information, influencers are able to create a bridge between customers and brands. By creating personal, genuine content, these popular personalities are able to amplify social media & public relations, making them a very real strategic asset for any company to consider. 

The investment required depends on the profile of the influencer, as they range from nano-influencers (1,000-10,000 followers) right up to mega influencers (1 million+ followers). No matter the profile of the influencer partnership, they help connect brands to a loyal following that hangs on every word they say.

Techniques for marrying social media & public relations 

To finish up, we now take a glance at some of the ways in which a PR agency or your in-house department might marry social media & public relations together to gain traction with your audience and boost the reputation of your brand.

  • Hashtag campaigns - You could create unique, brand-specific hashtags to encourage sharing and engagement
  • User-generated content - Content created by your social media followers using your brand's hashtag can be very impactful.
  • Live streaming events - Live Q&As, product launches and behind-the-scenes tours can be a great way to create a positive buzz.
  • Social media takeovers - Allowing influencers to take the reins of your account for a day can enhance your brand profile. 
  • Direct engagement via comments/mentions - It helps the process when you respond directly to follower comments and mentions you get online. 
  • Exclusive social offers - Your social media PR efforts can be enhanced by sharing deals and promo codes exclusively with your followers. 
  • Countdown/teaser posts - When you have a new product coming, an effective way to build anticipation is with countdown or teaser posts that encourage people to keep checking back for fear of missing out. 
  • Educational content - How-tos, tip sharing and industry insight posts represent great PR, singling your brand out as one that offers value in its content. 

This is a fraction of the social media PR techniques that can be implemented to raise your profile and make those all-important connections. All are low-cost, fast-acting and can go viral when all the right ingredients are included. 

Want to benefit from social media PR? Talk to the experts

When you get the blend right, the combination of social media & public relations strategies can take your results into the stratosphere. It's about tapping into all the unique benefits social platforms offer and leveraging the considerable power possessed by the most popular influencers in the space. It takes experience and know-how, and that's why partnering with an established agency is a wise move. 

At MCI, our team has the creative spark and expertise required to connect with your followers in the most engaging ways, elevating brand perception in the process. The next-level content services we provide help businesses grow and thrive while establishing a reputation, so why not check us and see what we can do for you?

MCI Content Team