When considering social media and public relations for your institution, the outputs may seem one in the same, but this is not necessarily the case even though it is easy to get all the elements of online branding intertwined.
In short – think of social media as your medium and public relations as your message. What do we mean? Let’s break it down.
Social media refers to your social platforms and your activities on social media.
Your Institutions presence on social media presents many opportunities for your institution and brand. Social media is, in most cases, quite visual; meaning that social platforms allow you to show off your brand’s personality in ways that are easily digestible for your viewing audience. While it is important to stay polished and curated in order to stand out, social media also allows you to give your audience a behind the scenes glimpse into the day to day operations and goings on of your institution and brand. This builds loyalty and support – it humanizes your company’s personality.
Something else that is important to consider is that each social media platform comes with its own set of target audiences. It is important for you to understand who and what platform your intended audiences is most likely to be using. Are you trying to reach thought leaders or stakeholders associated with your institution? Or are you trying to navigate the aesthetics of Instagram to reach millennials? Your target audience will determine the best platforms to use.
Did you know that communication is defined as two-parties having a common understanding? Social media is all about that – it’s about being social. Social allows you to engage with your followers or audience and have a two-way conversation. This means more reach, more engagement and the more your audience is going to notice your brand.
You may be wondering how you will engage and what will you engage about on social media. Social media conversations happen on and off your social media accounts. Many conversations might start by your brand reaching out directly and becoming a part of conversations. Other conversations will start because of the content you have posted directly. The aim of both is to get more followers engaging with your organic content.
So, what is your organic content? This is where public relations can begin. Social media is where you can show, tell, and share your PR efforts – your PR activities become part of your content bank.
Public relations are what you do to build relationships with your community. The relationships most important to your company might be focused around the communities where you operate, your position in the broader industry.
Getting the word out about your brand or institution is essential – and many may think that is the role of social media. Social media is the vehicle – and PR becomes the driver (and maybe a passenger or two as well – depending on how many campaigns you have in market at a time). Your PR campaigns tell the story of your institution, its milestones, and lets your target audiences know what makes you different.
Campaigns can be complex with several tactics or can be simple with only one or two communications tactics. Campaigns may also last for a fixed amount of time or might be a continuous campaign that is on-going. A new product launch might be a campaign with several tactics that lasts for a few months. A brand awareness campaign might have only a few key tactics, but it will be something you always have in market.
So, what are a few key tools for your public relations toolbox?
A major component of public relations campaigns is media relations. Your media coverage should be shared on social media and conversations about the issue you discuss in your coverage can spark conversation with your followers.
Public relations may be more than media relations and media coverage. Public relations can be being out and attending community events. A community event can be something structured like an annual BBQ or show that the community hosts that you can participate in and have a presence at with a booth or as a speaker. Your company could host its own community event ensuring community influencers are in attendance. A community event can even be about facilitating conversations between important groups of people and your audiences. Or, finally a community event could be about sharing a major announcement.
The event should be shared through social media channels – photos, videos, content from the event you are participating in is excellent coverage.
Face to Face
Something that makes public relations different than social media is the face to face contact that you’re able to have. Your efforts to be a good neighbour and keep people informed will be seen first-hand, from your elected officials to the guy next door.
A major tool in your public relations toolbox is keeping people informed in ways that show you care and ways that are memorable. From letters in the mail to billboards, or from social media posts to marketing materials.
CIPR Communications can help with your social media & public relations
Understanding how and when to use public relations campaigns, and how to amplify those efforts through social media is essential to building your brand in a competitive marketing environment. Want to chat through your current PR efforts? Or have an expert audit your business’ social media channels? Get in touch with us – we’re happy to help.