PR Part 2: The Social Frontier

Shift CollaborativePR, Social media


by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

As public relations professionals, it is our job to monitor and manage the reputations of the businesses we represent.  Traditionally, this was managed by working with media outlets to spread positive press about the businesses.  While these tactics are still employed, research shows that people trust the opinion of a friend over advertising and press.  Enter social media.  A large network we people can not only connect with their friends, but the friends of their friends.  The everyday person’s reach and influence has skyrocketed, and so has the value of their opinions.

Social media is changing the game of public relations.  Now as public relation professionals, it is our job to engage in social media networks to address negative responses and to encourage and highlight positive responses.  In order to effectively manage the conversation people are having about your business, we have to go where people are talking and looking for information.  That’s online and on social networks.

Why Your Business Should Be On Social Media

If you are a business, you should be on social media.  Why?  Because the people who use your services or buy your products are there, and they are talking about you.  Since they’re already talking about you, it’s a better idea to join in their conversation than to ignore it.  Just think if one of your customers has a negative experience.  Would you like them to tell all their friends and their friends’ friends how terrible your company is?  If you are a part of the conversation, you can spot this interaction early and address it immediately.  Think about it.  Social media provides you with a channel to connect directly with this individual and change their experience.  This improves your reputation with that individual and with all of their friends and their friends’ friends.

Customer Service & PR Become One

Customer service and public relations were once separate functions.  Customer complaints were listened to in person or over the phone and public relations happened behind closed company doors.  Not anymore.  People are not dependent upon the local print paper for news and they don’t limit their complaints to casual in-person conversations.  Instead, people are doing  both of these things in the same place – on social media.

Through social media, a company needs to promote their reputation and resolve their customers’ issues.  We help your business manage both of these tasks through tactics like responding to customers, sharing your press mentions, engaging with influential followers, addressing common questions/issues faced by your customers through content marketing, and more.  Today, if your company wants any chance at controlling their public reputation, then you need to manage your digital reputation.

Engaging Your Online Audience

When communicating online, the people you interact with will have different experience and comfort levels for how they participate in the online community.  The majority of people tend to be inactives, spectators, and joiners.  This means they mostly view content with minimal interaction with others beyond their immediate circle.  However, the most influential people are the collectors, critics, and creators.  These people create and curate content that the rest of the community will view and read.


Online users identified in Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.

If you want to distribute a message, all of these people have the potential to view or read your content.  They key to getting a message to spread farther and go viral is to engage collectors, critics, and creators.  Once these people are creating and curating content about your message, the message will spread further and faster.  As I mentioned earlier, people trust the opinions of their friends the most.  When their friends are the ones sharing the message, that’s when you get more clicks, shares, likes, and comments.

Our next post …

This post was the second in a series of posts taking an in-depth look into the public relations techniques we use to manage our clients’ reputations.  In our first post, PR Part 1: The Media Pitching Process we discussed the steps required for successfully pitching a story to the media.  If you enjoyed either of these posts, check back on September 25 when our next post, PR Part 3: Resolving a Media Crisis will go live.  In the post I’ll be discussing tactics for responding to a crisis.