Business Wire Los Angeles hosted a breakfast event July 16 where public relations professionals from across the Los Angeles area gathered to discuss best practices for companies to engage in the social media.
The panel discussion, “Communicating Through Social Media: How to Build Relationships to Reach Your Audience,” focused on how social media is impacting the public relations industry, what opportunities exist for PR professionals because of the emergence of tools like Twitter and Facebook and what companies are doing to engage with their audiences through these new platforms.
Karen Kovacs North (far right), Director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California, moderated the panel, which included (right to left):
- Siobhan O’Neill, Account Supervisor, Edelman Digital
- Nick Mendoza, Senior Account Supervisor, Zeno Group
- Nicole Jordan, Director, Integrated Communications, Rubicon Project
- Social media blogger Julia Scott.
Among the key points made by the panel:
- Ms. Jordan notes that companies tend to jump into social media without knowing why. She stressed the importance of knowing what the business objective is. The reason you should go on the social web is if your customers are there, not just because it’s an item on a checklist.
- Ms. Scott says it’s important for a company to have an individual voice. For example, she believes it’d be more personable for a brand like the 99 Cent Store to have an individual Twitter account, like @elsie_at_99Cent, rather than just a corporate account, like @99CentStore. She thinks there’s an opportunity there for the store to show the customer a different side of the brand.
- Ms. O’Neill says that social media is not a bolt-on, but rather a part of an integrated communication strategy. Brands should be ready to take on the expectations that come with engaging with customers on these platforms. There is an expectation that you can answer questions and help if they have a complaint. Your organization needs to be set up to communicate on a more immediate level.
- Ms. O’Neill believes that you should just be who you are on Twitter. Not every post needs to be promoting something for your brand. She believes in tweeting about what you’re passionate about and talking about what resonates with you. Twitter is what you make of it—be who you are.
- Mr. Mendoza says that social media has opened up so many opportunities for everyone in our field. It’s shifted our approach, giving us direct access to consumers. There are so many tools out there now to engage with our audiences, it’s just about being strategic about it. But with so many opportunities, Mr. Mendoza believes that social media is more exciting for PR than it is threatening.
- Ms. Jordan says that social media has shown the cracks in the public relations industry, in the sense that PR isn’t known for being a part of strategic and integrated communications. In this way, PR hasn’t evolved with the industry enough.
- Ms. O’Neill notes that we’re starting to move away from public relations, marketing, customer support, etc being in their own individual silos and starting to level out a little in communicating to the public. It’s all about talking to real people and establishing relationships now. Who is better equipped to lead the charge than public relations?
Hear some audio clips from the event: