Technology has continuously added to the comforts of the communicators. Migrating from old-style bulky phones to fax and then to emails and finally to the two-way social media tools, as professionals we have watched with glee the many comforts that technology has bestowed upon us with the passage of time. Technology has made us more efficient and this is especially true of those who in the business of communications.
Public Relations agencies today can use social media for a variety of purposes – ranging from simple dissemination of information, to crisis mitigation, stakeholders engagements and creating platform for dialogues and so on.
I list below five not-so-talked about ways in which PR can deploy social media tools for their clients.
Go Beneath the Dust Cover: Often advertising, and even regular PR activities, capture and depict only some aspect of an organiation – akin to the dust cover of a book. So you tend to highlight the mission and the vision, or a new product, a new initiative, the financial results and so on as per the needs of communication, which is defined by the top management of an organisation. The consumer or stakeholder gets to see very small part of the corporate personality – You can surely make a first impression from the cover of a book, but to know the real worth you have to get onto the pages inside. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Blogs can help us get inside the book – meaning they can help disseminate many aspects of organisations which conventional communication may not capture.
Converse Closely: Social media tools have opened numerous windows for conversations. They have expanded the scope of communication – not too long ago organisations had to depend on tools like surveys to gauge the mood of their consumers / stakeholders. Some such tools, while still in use, have their limitations especially in understanding the softer side of human personality – their predilections, association, anguish and anxieties. For those who are willing to get close and personal with their consumers and stakeholders, social media surely provides a way out and this is a great opportunity for PR agencies.
Advocacy – Find a Voice, Create a Noise: Social media is very effective, if used judiciously, for articulating serious issues and generating dialogues around it. Our client ABLE – AG or Association of Biotech Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group, which is an industry body representing agri biotech seed companies including giants like Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and Monsanto, is grappling with a misinformation campaign unleashed by those opposed to GM crops in the country. Fact is the myths being perpetuated around safety of GM crops is nothing more than a bunch of distortions and lies. Along with our regular advocacy campaigns including reaching out to policy-makers, we work closely on Blog and Twitter to dismiss fallacious claims and submit science and evidence-based facts in public domain. We collate large number of academic papers and write-ups in media and put these on a blog and share with journalists, scientists, academic and policy makers.
Be a Resource Hub: Social media is also a great tool to enable journalists and other stakeholders understand the many issues that your client may want them to know, understand and follow. As part of our advocacy campaign we have created a page on the Facebook and an account on YouTube where we capture / upload the many updates, beneficiaries’ testimonials and global studies on the same. We also use social media for facilitating updates on issues which are of constant interests to journalists.
Read Faces on Facebook, Map Journalists: Often social media can serve as critical tools to map journalists and gauge their preferences and orientation. Many clients today have specific needs in terms of media visibility – which may require a non-conventional approach to media engagements. Non-conventional means looking beyond only the beat reporters for a particular sector.
Navneet Anand is Secretary of Delhi Chapter of Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) and founder of GreyMatters Communications & Advisory.