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February 18, 2020

The Importance of Social Media in Public Relations

Guest Blog by Camille McClane


Public relations, like all other types of communication, needs a medium.

For many years the media was simple: Word of mouth, the newspaper, phone calls and the occasional public forum. Not only has social media upended those platforms, but they now depend heavily on social media for their distribution.

Additionally, the use of social media as a PR tool is far more complex and effective than previous systems.

The connectedness and the speed with which the Internet makes information available has given those who work in PR far more platforms and methods by which to reach their target audience and the public at large.

Now the task is to understand which mediums to target and how to effectively use them.

pr keyboard

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Understanding Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out

Social media has grown to the point where there are more than just a few options available, with each platform having its own strengths and weaknesses that a smart PR representative will know how to optimize.

Twitter and Facebook are still primary, covering a broad range of people and age groups.

But if you can narrow down your target audience, you might want to consider targeting different social media platform based on the following factors:

  • The age range of your audience.
  • The shared interests of your audience.
  • Where your audience spends the bulk of their time online.

A lot of this will depend on what you know about the people you’re trying to target; so it stands to reason that the more you know and the better you understand them, the more productive and efficient you can be in terms of which social media accounts to use.

SM user ages

Image Courtesy of http://optimiseblog.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ukstats3-550×507.png

When You Should and Should Not Use Certain Platforms

For example, if you’re targeting middle aged folks in the business community, LinkedIn might be a better focus than Google+. At the same time, if you’re targeting a female audience primarily in their 20s and 30s, Pinterest might be a better choice.

You simply can’t target all of the social media platforms in existence. There are just too many of them, so you’re way better off figuring out which demographic you’re targeting and communicate with that audience on their preferred platform.

Besides, you wouldn’t want to target all social media platforms if you have a specific audience in mind, because as the graphs show us, different people tend to congregate within different platforms.

It may take time to narrow down your targeted audience, but in the long run it will make your marketing more effective.

What Platform for What Brand?

If you’re working for a particular brand, you need to be aware of not only an optimal platform choice, but also be ready and able to choose the correct tools within each platform.

For example, do you need to use Facebook ads or simply status updates on a fan page? How about StumbleUpon campaigns or conventional curating?



A more obvious way to answer that question is whether or not the company you’re doing PR for (yours or someone else’s) has money in the budget to spend on advertising and social media. If not, then ads quickly become a poor suggestion, but this is something that needs to be established up front so you know your options.

Determining if a particular brand can utilize a platform should consider the following:

  • Does the brand have a preexisting, established presence on certain social media accounts?
  • Does the company intend to spend money on the campaign?
  • Where does the brand’s typical audience tend to congregate?
  • The brand’s reputation (Organic business methods, personal, known for their blog, etc.).

The Importance of Strategy

PR campaigns certainly involve an element of luck, but a good campaign manager knows how to plan, strategize and set themselves up to have the best luck possible. Make sure that you don’t leave things to chance but take the time to understand the basics of your brand and target audience, in order to roll out the optimal social media PR strategy.

camilleCamille McClane is a content creator and marketer who enjoys blogging in her spare time. She particularly enjoys writing about social media, infographic design and online marketing.


Where PR and Technology Meet

picture-9There is no question that technology has changed the PR and marketing industry. Over the past twenty or so years, we’ve seen the emergence of email (does anyone remember snail mailing photos and slides with your press releases?), websites, social media, smart phones and mobile apps. We are dispersing and receiving information on multiple platforms like layers of an onion.

Many firms are diverting more of their budgets to content marketing, and the PR industry is perfectly poised for this method. The bread and butter of public relations is earned media. Earned media is content driven and traditional marketing activities do still work – in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, direct mail and networking – for the widest possible reach to all demographics.

Social media is not a replacement for traditional marketing tactics, however it is a critical component of an effective marketing strategy. In fact, social media works best when combined with other marketing activities. Using your traditional media to direct listeners, readers and viewers to digital marketing platforms like a blog or a Facebook page is an effective way to deliver content. You then have the challenge of engaging that audience and developing your online community.

Next up: Know your online community. Where are they? How do they want to be reached? – stay tuned!

Making Social Work for Your Website

Guest Blog by David Cavalieri

text bubbles from computerAn online presence is a permanent, expected fixture of a reputable brand and the power of a robust website must not be overlooked. The virtual side of the organization defines the direction, atmosphere, and foundation and enables it to flourish. With the integration of well-developed content, appropriate social networks, and the cross-pollination of ideas by captivated users your virtual presence will magnify and differentiate your brand.

The Website:

It’s a requirement in today’s business world and acts as the quintessential indicator of an accomplished and well-polished organization. However, aesthetics are only skin deep and the message and content portrayed must match the company’s model, style, and culture. Pretending to be someone you are not will only create angst amongst your clients while return business and referrals will suffer. Describe who you are – are you corporate; powerful, yet friendly; inviting; or just downright spunky? Let the world know! People today have increasingly shorter attention spans than in years past and never-ending streams of text might as well be showing them the door – well, at least a revolving door. Be concise with your ideas and get ready for an entirely social world.

social funnel

Getting Social:

Social media, though extremely important to many, isn’t appropriate for all companies and marketing techniques. Determining its role in your company is a vital step in planning your digital presence (the nitty gritty of which will be coming in a future blog, so stay tuned!). So whichever platforms you choose for your business, at the end of the day you need to find a way to tie all of this back in to the website you just gave your sweat and tears to.

The Blending of Ideas:

The goal of marketing is not only to garner the most fans and popularity, but also to keep customers involved and repeatedly coming through the door. Many social platforms have widgets and pieces of code (check in with your web developer if you need to!) to embed into your website and add ways to “Like” your profile or individual pages of your website directly, share the most recent Tweet in a live feed, or present your latest board’s pins as a photo gallery. Comments flow from one platform to the next, content is shared from the most dedicated of fans, and that revolving door will simply become an open door.

Blend the line between website and social media, be creative whenever possible, find a way for users to seamlessly use your website and interact with your social platforms. Comments, ideas, and creativity will flourish and the customers themselves will boost the greatest marketing tactic of them all – the word of mouth.



2012 Wrap Up!

January was a busy month for tying up projects from 2012, freshening marketing plans and reviewing and tweaking budgets. February provides the opportunity to look back and revisit the lessons the previous year has taught us – before we wade into the busy season again!

One of the best things we accomplished this past year was to carefully expand our team. We wanted to be able to accommodate potential new business opportunities and to better manage the projects we had in hand. We kicked off the year with a strategic team meeting. Topics of discussion included our goals for the coming year, a review of the specific skillsets we had in house and what particular needs we anticipated.

The goal was to maximize the talent we already had and to determine if/what areas we needed to add. Having a small team means we need be strategic in hiring. We have a 20+ year track record of growing our team carefully, slowly and with purpose. New employees have been brought in to fill specific needs but also to grow and mature professionally with the company. It was collectively decided that we needed a dedicated social media manager and an experienced events coordinator.

The timing on this decision was perfect. We brought on a new client with two retail properties in early April and another client with a lifestyle center grand opening coming up in May. We hired Jordan Garegnani in April as our Social Media Manager. She brought experience in social media campaigns and a genuine curiosity about this rapidly evolving platform. Jordan was able to take the social media maintenance and research for multiple properties off the project managers’ desks and allowed us to focus on the new clients’ start up needs – marketing plans, websites, collateral, etc. – as well as continuing to manage established clients.

We still had the event planning position, but good, experienced event planners can be hard to find.

The spring and summer seasons are comparatively manageable as events go. We typically produce 5-6 events in the spring and generally run pre-scheduled concerts and children’s entertainment in the summer months. The 2nd and 3rd quarter present a whole new schedule of many larger and more complicated events. We generally produce 10-12 festivals and events between September and December, including a full scale, month-long Santa installation, complete with entertainers and photography. The need for a dedicated event specialist was becoming more urgent as the summer drew to a close.

Brandy Walker joined our team in September of last year, just in time to be thrown into the deep end of the planning cycle. She brought the kind of practical experience and knowledge we needed – permitting, tenting, lighting, sound, and entertainment. Having her available to dedicate her time and imagination to the event logistics allowed us to produce fresh, high quality events without taking project manager time away from, well, project management.

This vertical integration – having the entire set of skills you need for the whole marketing process under one roof – allows our employees to concentrate on their areas of expertise and project managers to have more control over the end product without having to “do it all”.

In review, we accomplished what we set out to do in last year’s strategic team meeting. We added two new team members who brought in specific expertise while maximizing the time and the talent of the people we already had. This allowed us to manage a rapid client growth while continuing to provide quality service to our existing clients. We are about hold our 2013 team retreat. It will be interesting to see what our goals will be this year!


4 Steps to a Productive Facebook Ad Campaign

Social Media is undeniably a moving force in marketing these days, and spending on social ads is increasing right along with it. According to a report by BIA/Kelsey consulting firm, U.S. social-media ad spending is expected to hit $9.8 billion by 2016, up from $3.8 billion last year, and this year companies are expected to spend $4.8 billion on social-network advertising.

Those numbers include ads on Facebook, but getting it all set up can be a hassle or confusing. So here are a few tips from our Online Marketing Manger, aka “web guy,” David Cavalieri. He handles our websites from front to back and is our resident expert on running Facebook ads. 

Facebook ads can easily be tailored to your needs. Depending on your goal, you can set an automated budget and timeframe for your specific campaign. You also get to choose your targeted demographic out of Facebook’s 800 million users – talk about pinpointed marketing!

Getting Started
Log into Facebook, click on “Create an Ad,” and the website will guide you through the process of creating each ad. You have the option to make ads with different graphics and text options that will rotate through as a part of the same ad campaign. When you make the first ad in the campaign you can choose to set either a lifetime budget or a daily budget.

Pick Your Budget
If you have a short time to accumulate interest in your brand, creating a lifetime budget to run within the given timeframe might be your best bet. If you have a long-term goal, a daily budget may suit your needs to ensure you don’t over-spend your total campaign budget. Facebook will intelligently run the ads to find the most popular one (if there’s more than one in the campaign) and utilize your money the best it can based on your budget.

Make Your Bid
Facebook gives you the option to bid your own price per click, but accepting the recommended bid will make sure your ad gets placed. If you undercut this recommended amount, the ad may never show on the website if other ad buyers out-bid you and push your ad off the page. You won’t necessarily spend that bid amount, but it indicates the highest you are willing to spend on ad placement, so set your bid accordingly.

These ads are generally best run on a “pay-per-click” (PPC) basis (there’s also a new pay-per-impression, PPI, option to explore) and you may not use the entire budget if people do not click on the ad. For example, if I set a budget for $1000, but I only get enough clicks to spend $400 before the end date, then Facebook will stop the campaign and no additional money will be charged.

As you can see, Facebook gives you plenty of ways to customize your campaign. So consider all your options and goals for your ad, and make sure you have pithy content with a snappy design. Good luck on your next ad campaign!


Let’s Talk About Social Media

Social media is a growing part of marketing throughout most industries and is predicted to continue taking a bigger bite out of the budget as it increases in use. A recent study by The CMO Survey says that in the next 5 years, marketers expect to spend 19.5% of their budgets on social media, which is almost three times more than current spending patterns.

Social Media Spending Prediction Chart

Jordan Garegnani
That’s why we recently hired a new Social Media Manager to coordinate the online social presence of our clients. Jordan Garegnani joined our team with PR, marketing, and social media experience and has crafted a few guidelines for any social media strategy:

Talk like a human being
Respond and react to the people around you (aka people who share your interests) in engaging ways. Also, people don’t like the person who talks all the time and doesn’t listen. So don’t always promote yourself – follow, like and reply to people you’re associated with as a way to show you’re interested in what they have to offer and hopefully they will return the favor.

Pick your platforms based on your needs instead of what’s popular
Not everyone needs a Pinterest or a Youtube channel. What platform you’re on can depend on if you’re B2B or B2C, if you’re a service or goods-based business model and many other factors.

Get organized
If you have a lot of posts to do each week, figure out a system of organizing and planning your posts to be timely and relevant.

Keep track of what people are saying about your brand
Maintaining a good image just on the social media platforms you post on won’t cut it. Make the rounds to see who is saying what about your brand in different social networks. (Be sure to respond to negative and positive comments!)

Be flexible
One strategy might work for one platform or brand, but not another. If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to scrap it and move on to something else.

Last of all, be creative – social media should be fun!

Dear Graduating Communications Major:

First off, congratulations for completing your studies and choosing an exciting career path.

While I hold a firm belief that your undergraduate years should be about learning what it is you WANT to learn, in this job market, you NEED to have specific skills and experience to even get your foot in the door.

I meet graduating communications majors every spring , to give them a chance to interview, learn a little about the industry, and to get some guidance on how to proceed. With few exceptions, these students are coming out with little if any experience and limited skills to contribute to a PR or Marketing firm. I’d prefer to hire a philosophy major with leadership experience and some workable skills than a Phi Beta Kappa Communications Major without it.

What I look for in an entry-level communications employee:

  • Experience: Event and festival volunteers, fraternity/sorority event planners, bloggers, amateur video or web developers, college paper editors, college radio hosts, and other leadership roles.
  • Practical skills: Good written communication skills (first and foremost), the ability to edit, social media use to spread the word about your pet project or organization (not just familiarity with your personal Facebook page), photography, videography, HTML, graphic design, web design, etc. Certainly not all of these, but SOME of these.
  • Basic computer skills including Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Bonus computer skills: Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks, and even WordPress.

If you are looking for an internship, consider what area you are most interested in pursuing. Is it sports marketing, festival and event planning, healthcare PR, public affairs, media relations, crisis communications, community relations, or online marketing? You have lots of options.

Some ideas to beef up that resume:

  • Intern for one of your local elected officials.
  • Shadow a legislative aide.
  • Volunteer for a political campaign.
  • Volunteer at a polling site in November.
  • Write a guest column for a community newspaper.
  • Volunteer for community/charity events.
  • Work on the student newsletter/paper staff.
  • Intern with a local radio or cable TV station.
  • Maximize your scholastic or social leadership experience.
  • Start a blog about these experiences!

One last thought:
If you are not already, get on LinkedIn. AND, make sure your Facebook page is presentable to a potential employer. Yes, we will cyber-stalk you.

Good luck!

Going the Digital Communications Route:

Why is Social Media Effective?

Social media is just what it sounds like. It’s a relationship. It’s a conversation with your audience. It’s a means of letting them know what is exciting, fun, informative or needed about what you have to offer. It’s also an invitation to your audience to participate. When executed effectively, it’s more interactive than traditional marketing tools like print, radio, TV advertising or direct mail.

Social media is also more flexible than traditional marketing tools and should be reactive as well. It’s not just about posting your message, link, or video and “job done”. It’s important to monitor responses so you can gauge the level of interest and tailor your messaging accordingly. It’s also very important to answer questions quickly so the conversation is fluid and two-way. For an example, you can refer to Reston Town Center’s FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/RestonTownCenter.

Reaching a Multi-generational Demographic:

This is the final installment of the three-part series, “Integrating Social and Traditional Media for an Effective PR Campaign.”

The tools: We are often asked why we need to integrate our Marketing with traditional as well as “New Media” – online advertising, Social Media, blogs and websites. We have to take into consideration a variety of audiences. While some people routinely gather information through television news casts, radio and the daily newspaper, many others rely on their lap tops and smart phones to get their news “fix”.

The message: It is also important to consider your target audience’s age when developing your message. You have The Silent Generation, age 65 and older, The Baby Boomers, age 45-64, Generation X, age 30-44, and Generation Y or The Millennial Generation, age 20-29. Every generation has had a different life experience and communicates differently, so you need to create messages that resonate with your target generation/s. You can’t take a “one size fits all” approach.

Our Changing Media Industry – The Demise of the Newspaper:

This is the second installment of a the three-part series, “Integrating Social and Traditional Media for an Effective PR Campaign.”

Newspapers seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs. Small, hyper-local community publications are struggling to attract advertisers and many were shuttered during the recent economic downturn. In the greater Washington DC area we witnessed the demise of the Baltimore Examiner, the No. VA Observer Newspapers, and the absorption of the Loudoun Independent in the past year. Those that survived were consolidated – The Times Community Newspapers became the Fairfax Times – or are shrinking in size. The larger publications, like The Washing Post and the Baltimore Sun, are hanging in there, but have retired the majority of their senior editorial staff and eliminated entire news departments.

Even under these conditions, print advertising is still expensive and not responding to the lack of demand. And, as the editorial “real estate” shrinks with the size of the papers, there is less room to get your message in print. The one advantage to this is that with fewer journalists having to cover a broader range of news, we often see our press release copy duplicated in print verbatim.