So why do we need to communicate?

It is rare when I tell someone that you work as a public relations consultant that people instantly know what you are talking about, which is ironic for an industry that centres around communication.

Communication is one of the most basic elements that makes up the social fabric of our world. The ability of humans to be able to tell, listen, inform, explain, persuade, read, write, draw and watch is what allows us to organise towards a common purpose.

As a public relations and communications consultant, my role is to look at the way that organisations are communicating and ensuring that their communication is the most effective for its audience and its purpose. It may be looking at how an organisation communications as a whole (communication strategy), how it communicates to meet a specific objective (a public relations campaign), how it deals with potential threats (issues management), how it engages with the community (community engagement) or how it deals with specific audiences (internal, stakeholders, media).

How does it differ from marketing?

Marketing’s purpose is the create and bring to market a product that meets the needs or adds value to the target audience.

The purpose of public relations is much broader and deals with all of the groups that an organisation must deal with to make sure it has a positive environment from which to conduct its business.

Think of these groups and how important it may be to communicate with them:

  • Your employees who are the face of your product, service and organisation
  • Government authorities who create the regulatory environment for you to operate in
  • Media who can give third-party endorsement to your products, company and brand
  • Unions, professional bodies and your industry (including your competitors) who may have an impact on your operations or on the standing of your industry
  • The local community in which you operate

While public relations can be used to directly support marketing, think about how difficult it may be for an organisation to conduct its business, if it loses the relationship with any of the groups above?

Integration- the key to social PR

At Fentons we have been working with our clients to help them integrate social media into broader marketing communications plans, rather than looking at online activity as a stand-alone activity.

This integration is essential in ensuring that you are ‘singing from the same song-sheet’ to your target audience, regardless of whether they are viewing information on your website, reading a brochure or talking to one of your staff.

Read the rest of this post at the Fenton Digital blog.

Ensuring our students are prepared for the PR of now

Great post in social media today about the need for universities to ensure that PR students have the business acumen to place strategy behind the social media that they are increasingly native to.

It is scary to think that there are still courses out there who are only looking at social media as the big thing of the future, when in reality it is here and now. Read the post at the link below

http://socialmediatoday.com/claire-faucett/273562/pr-students-these-days-are-thirsty#comment-30072

Using Twitter for issues and crisis management

If you are creating a social media strategy to handle issues or a crisis that your organisation (or you) may be facing, knowing how to use Twitter in these situations can be a powerful tool.

Twitter has grown to be one of the largest social media platforms. Unlike Facebook, which links people based primarily on their personal relationships, Twitter is built around its content. People follow others not because they know them, but because they like or are interested in what they are talking about, or just because they happen to be in the same locality. This means that information can be distributed to large amounts of people very quickly.

Think about the following tips for monitoring and responding to the chatter on Twitter the next time you are faced with an issue:

Set up geographical searches
While not the most accurate of searches, there are a number of tools available to let you see tweets based around a specific geographical location. If your organisation has specific geographical locations (think of your areas of operation, headquarters or any part of your business that is likely to attract a number of people) think about setting up specific geographical searches to monitor Twitter chatter coming out of those areas.

Monitor and build relationships in peacetime
One of the lines that is always used during media training at http://www.fenton.com.au is that pro-active media is like ‘money in the bank of public perception’. This is never more true than in social media.

If you spend time building and cultivating your relationship with followers on Twitter, they will be more receptive to communication during a time of crisis. Take time to understand those that interact regularly with your brand online. Build the relationships based on trust and mutual communication, not selling.

Monitor online / respond offline

Just because you have a social media strategy doesn’t mean that your response strategy always has to be online. Sometimes, the best solution to a problem is picking up the phone and talking to someone. Make sure your response strategy includes offline as well as online.

Know your Twitter language

Anyone who has spent time online knows that sometimes Twitter users can sound like they are speaking their own foreign language. Cutting things to 140 characters can sometimes bring about some weird spellings. Make sure you know how your brand/sector/industry is being talked about online.

Give someone the role of online monitoring and communication- and the appropriate authority and training

Make sure that online monitoring, information dissemination and response is a dedicated role during the handling of an issue or a crisis. And no, this can’t be just ‘the team that update the website can do that’. Social media during crisis requires a dedicated position to continually monitor chatter and develop and issue responses.

The people earmarked for this role should be natural users of Twitter that are give adequate training to ensure they can handle this medium as part of your crisis/issues management plan – crisis time is not a time for learning social media.

CASE IN POINT – TWITTER MONITORING DURING RECOVERY FROM THE 2009 VICTORIAN BUSHFIRES

In the aftermath of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, geographical and keyword searches were set up to cover specific towns and areas that had been hit by the tragedy. The monitoring was used to review all of the chatter that was coming out of the locations.

The role of this monitoring was not to create a vehicle for direct communication and information via social media- there were more appropriate and personal methods to do this on the ground. Instead, the information gleaned by reviewing information informed the issues management and communications processes. Monitoring the online chatter allowed an overview of some of the public sentiments that was being felt around these towns, allowing the communication strategy to adapt and respond.

Do you have any other tips?