Social media: synergy with PR agencies

By on Wednesday, December 5, 2012

With social media’s popularity increasing rapidly, PR and advertising agencies have been feeling the pressure to embrace this global development and incorporate social media into their client offering. This has resulted in a number of advertising agencies hiring professionals, because social media falls outside of their area of expertise.

However social media and ad agencies have very different goals and disciplines. Ad agencies sell while social media platforms are centred around conversation and customer service. Social media is all about content creation, while ad agencies are concept creators.

It makes sense then that the social media offering should be incorporated into PR agencies, because it’s all communication at the end of the day. In fact, they make a perfect pair as both are intrinsically about building relationships. PR agencies are perfectly positioned to craft the content and convey information directly from a reliable source, which also mitigates rumours.

Social media can be regarded as an additional, important vehicle for PR agencies to communicate key client messaging, urgent press statements and announcements at a speed that cannot be matched by any other medium, not even radio. From the outset, however, social media needs to be aligned to the client’s communication strategy and goals and not seen in isolation or as an afterthought. It is also important to understand that it requires regular content updates to gain a following and decisive, quick responses to build credibility.

Both social media and PR connect a brand with its target audience, but social media offers the added two-way element of customer feedback and the opportunity for the client to respond. This makes customers feel that they matter, that the company cares, responds, interacts, and this ties in with customer satisfaction and brand building. Because of the nature of the Internet, online comments cannot be deleted and this poses a risk to companies’ reputations. A good measure of successful communication is when the number of complaints on the popular South African consumer website Hello Peter, for instance, are reduced. This also presents PR agencies with an opportunity to encourage their clients to become ‘A Company who Responds’ on this website and to take charge of handling the comments.

Other ways in which PR agencies can use social media include sharing and retweeting interesting articles in the client’s sphere of business, engaging in relevant conversations, introducing new products, running competitions, increasing the use of these platforms by directing traffic on one platform to another, and most importantly for crisis communication.

These days there are many analytics tools available online to track social media and just as PR agencies provide clients with monthly reports to show return on investment, they can just as easily include Google Analytics reports.

The synergy between social media and PR is clear. It’s time to bring social media into the PR fold and let ad agencies off the hook.

…ends

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