No Dumping on the Internet: 6 Tips for Effective Social Media Management

By Alyssa Bedrosian
In just a few years, social media has become vital to our personal and professional lives. From wedding hashtags to Instagram advertising campaigns, the impact of social media is felt in all aspects of society, and so it’s no surprise that it has changed how companies approach public relations. As this new media gives organizations new platforms for storytelling, PR pros are adapting to this dynamic communications tool that gives everyone a voice.
At RLF, we manage social media for several of our clients. While tweeting and pinning may seem like second nature to the millennial generation and younger, successful social media management requires strategy and measurement.
Although we have several professionals with experience in social media management, it’s always helpful to exchange best practices and lessons learned with other industry professionals. Earlier this week Jenifer Daniels, APR, shared some of her experiences as social media manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tar Heel Chapter monthly meeting. Daniels is the creative resources specialist for the library, and has nearly 15 years experience in nonprofit and education communications.
After the library’s budget was cut by 50 percent a few years ago, Daniels used social media to actively listen to the concerns of patrons and share the library’s story. Here are some key points from the discussion:

Follow the Pareto Principle, which states that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the causes.

The 80/20 rule pushes us to focus on the 20 percent of tasks that really matter and are key to success. You can see dramatic improvements in social media engagement by focusing your efforts strategically, rather than trying to do anything and everything on social media.

As social media managers, 80 percent of our time should be spent as active listeners.

Find out what customers are saying about you and listen to what they want from your organization. The remaining 20 percent of your time can be used to share information with your followers.

Don’t chase followers.

You want hearts, not eyeballs. Organizations should seek followers who will actually engage in discussion, regularly visit an organization’s social media pages and share content.

Don’t lose customers to negativity.

Try to solve their problems as soon as possible, and take their recommendations into consideration.

No dumping on the Internet.

Don’t overindulge on social media just because you have the capacity and resources. Before you post, ask yourself these questions: What do my followers want to hear? Am I posting something of value, or am I just posting junk?

80 percent of posts should be helpful, interesting, funny or irreverent.

20 percent of posts should be original or self-promotional. Share messages that will resonate with your followers, but feel free to weave key messaging and positioning into these posts.
In a world that has been saturated by online content and social media overload, Daniels’ advice is short and sweet: Simplify your social media strategy through focusing your efforts, listening to followers and posting interesting content.
Daniels ended the conversation with one last social media tip: If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter.

Five Tips for Effective Communication in a Crisis

By Michelle Rash
At RLF, one of our core strengths is crisis communications. We have several professionals skilled at advising clients on what – and what not – to say in the event of a crisis to help communicate to key audiences, and address any issues and concerns in the most effective way possible.

Crisis communications takes skill – say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person, and you can make a situation worse. You also need to be able to reach your audience quickly, yet calmly, under pressure.
While we have experience in drafting crisis communications plans and on coaching clients through tricky situations, it’s always good to have a refresher on the dos and don’ts of good crisis communications. Such a reminder was provided earlier this week at the PRSA Tar Heel Chapter monthly meeting where Nora Carr, chief of staff for Guilford County Schools, spoke on the subject. Carr has a deep background in communications and has worked with several school districts in times of crises, including Columbine, Colo., after the 1999 shootings and Moore, Okla., after a 2013 tornado destroyed an elementary school.
Among Carr’s tips for good crisis communications:

  • Most people are not prepared for the crisis that actually comes. While companies plan for natural disasters and physical tragedies, the vast majority of crises (82 percent according to the Institute for Crisis Management) are the result of bad employee or management decisions.
  • Expect the unexpected. While having a crisis plan is important, and one that is reviewed and discussed regularly, a crisis will not unfold in real life the way it does on paper. However, planning and preparing are still important because it will help you more instinctively make the best decisions under pressure.
  • Communicate clearly, quickly and frequently. Carr says whoever gets the message out first will shape the agenda, and in the age of social media, getting the message out first can mean sharing information in a matter of seconds. She advises that facts are shared early and often, updating key audiences regularly as needed. If misinformation is shared, by you or someone else, be sure to correct and clarify as quickly as possible.
  • Know your key audiences and how to reach them in advance. During a time of crisis is not the best time to create a media list or find the mayor’s phone number. Compile all the key contact information you need and keep it in a safe place. Update it regularly so it will be current if you need it in a crisis.
  • Communicate internally first. Carr says that so often in a crisis, organizations are worried about talking to reporters or external audiences that they often forget to keep their employees and other key internal audiences informed about what is happening. These individuals can be key advocates for you, and have a vested interest in helping you through a bad situation, so make sure they know everything they need to know.

Good communication is key and can make a significant difference in how a crisis is handled internally and how it is perceived externally. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, having a good plan in place and trusted partners in advance of a situation can make all the difference.

Content marketing to be key in 2014

By Michelle Rash
There is growing buzz in the PR and advertising world about “content marketing,” or the use of company-created materials to educate, inform and potentially grow your customer base. At a time when many people simply fast forward through commercials on their favorite TV shows or have a growing distrust in the traditional news media, content marketing is viewed as an increasingly vital way to get your core message out to potential customers.
Content marketing is not advertising, in the traditional sense. Its emphasis is not, and should not be, simply on selling a product. Content marketing focuses on adding value to a product, on telling the story of the company and its customers or educating consumers on a topic that your company is an expert on.
RLF has used content marketing as part of our overall PR strategy with clients for many years and in a variety of ways – from writing blog posts and producing YouTube videos to developing microsites and creating downloadable guides. We see the value that such content has for building trust and awareness among potential customers and for establishing loyalty among existing customers.

Earlier this week, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tar Heel chapter hosted Dan Dooley (pictured right), senior vice president of digital solutions for Pace Communications, which has been recognized nationally for its content creation work for a variety of national brands. Dooley spoke about content marketing and why it matters for companies and brands. As I listened to him speak, I found that many of his key points were good reminders of some of the best practices of content marketing.
Among Dooley’s key points:

  • Quality is key: With the surge of content being created, quality matters more than ever. Google uses the quality of a piece of content as one component of its search-ranking algorithm, as does Facebook. If you want your content to rank high on these sites – a necessity to help reach your target audience – you need to create content that is well written, liked and trusted and shared by others.
  • Expect failure: One of the most interesting things Dooley said was they expect about 20 percent of the content they create to fail – to generate little to no interest. But, he stressed, failure can be a good thing. It means they are being innovative and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t, which will help them to create better, more effective content over time.
  • Make changes as you go: A side effect of expecting failure is that you need to be willing to make changes. While most people think of content as being static – once it’s done, it’s done – Dooley said it should be much more dynamic. Pace monitors the response to their client content in real time (for example, how many page views something is getting online). If something is underperforming, they are not afraid to change it, whether that means putting a new headline on it or repackaging the content in a different way.

The role of content marketing will continue to grow in an overall public relations strategy as companies continue to look for new ways to engage with customers. When it comes to educating and engaging customers, content really is king. As a PR tactic, it is starting to supplant advertising in terms of importance and investment. If done well, content marketing builds trust, conversation, engagement, advocacy and emotional connection with customers; those are important for any product or service wanting to avoid becoming a commodity.