Simply because you can talk to your audience, doesn’t mean you should.

-The following is a guest post written by Amy Jaick. This article originally appeared on Goodman Media’s website here.-

Social media has revolutionized the PR and marketing world by enabling brands and celebrities to speak directly to their audiences. While this offers an amazing opportunity for ongoing engagement and authentic conversation, it also opens the door to larger potential issues.

Even though companies and individuals can communicate with their followers directly without PR support, for marketing efforts to be truly successful, communications executives should always have a seat at the table.

Identifying The Squeaky Wheel

There’s an old saying that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets greased. Nowhere is that more true than on social media. With a direct line of communication to the brand, followers can publicly criticize or laud a product, often prompting knee-jerk reactions from the brand itself, especially when the commentary is negative.

Before you react to new social media feedback, ask your PR team to do a deep dive into general sentiment. Since PR professionals focus on overall perception, they can quickly evaluate whether all customers feel a certain way or it’s only a small portion of the audience. With this insight in hand, marketers can make more accurate decisions about inventory, product modifications, and more.

 Living Outside The Moment

We can all think of a celebrity or public figure who, in the last month or even the past week, has endured public criticism for incendiary comments fired off in the heat of the moment. Take, for example, Kanye West’s Twitter feed. Though many did “shut up and enjoy the greatness” of some of West’s Twitter rants, his actions ultimately reflected negatively on his brand, causing the public to question his mental health and ability to continue performing on tour (it was cancelled midway through).

Situations like these never end well for the criticized party. While brands often think they won’t make the same mistake as individuals, that’s simply not true. Without the same training as PR executives, brands may inadvertently turn a small issue into a larger crisis.

Publicists are in place to provide safeguards for off-the-cuff responses by those closest to the brand, and plan for the time and distance to carefully craft an on-brand response to any unforeseen criticism. When negative commentary starts flooding in, turn to your PR team, who can assess the situation, formulate a proper response plan and share that with key stakeholders. After all, all it takes is one well-meaning tweet with the wrong word or message to create a firestorm.

Keep Messaging On Brand

While organizations and celebrities are immersed 24/7 in all aspects of their brand, PR pros keep a targeted eye on the messaging and positioning across all channels. Finding an authentic voice is important to engaging and keeping an audience, and a larger team should be involved in accomplishing the sometimes difficult task of brand voice. But, PR people are well-trained to help navigate the brand team through the nuances of language and communications – and ultimately help distinguish between the next top-engagement tweet and a tone-deaf, off-brand gaffe.

Testing, testing, 1,2,3…

Each year, companies spend countless amounts of money and resources developing new marketing campaigns. Even with advanced research and insight, it’s not always clear how the public will react until these campaigns go live. Today, social media provides a valuable opportunity for marketers to test new messages and narratives in a lean way. However, marketers who test it on their own, without incorporating other groups, will quickly find out that they’re only getting part of the story, a mistake that could become costly later on.

PR and marketing executives, who have both spent their careers building and executing campaigns, can work together to test new ideas. Unfortunately, all too often these two groups are working in silos, never connecting until after a campaign has been approved. Working together early in the process, can help marketers figure out what to build upon, what to test further and what to drop, before making a hefty investment in a splashier, all-encompassing marketing campaign.

ROI

While a core component of PR is media relations, the idea that media relations is the singular focus, is no longer correct. Today, PR touches upon all areas connected to the consumer or audience, ranging from social media to marketing to customer service.

This means that marketers don’t have to do it all alone. You can leverage your PR team to help amplify the work you’re doing on social and digital. By working with your communications team, you can draw more attention to your campaigns and increase your ROI.

Good PR professionals – whether an in-house team or an outside agency – bring to the table a targeted expertise when thinking about the overall marketing picture. As the part of your team with a constant pulse on what the marketplace and the media is talking about, it’s always wise to consult PR before engaging with that same marketplace. Teamwork makes the audience engagement dream work!

Written with help from Lauren Hiznay from Goodman Media.

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