The days of PR carefully controlling the message and acting as the buffer between executives and the media are long gone. After years of focusing on shaping the agenda, managing the outreach, supervising the interview and then generally presiding over the whole process, this is a challenging shift for many PR pros.
A recent post from a former VentureBeat reporter highlighted how PR people are often perceived as a roadblock. Combine that sentiment with how social media gives everyone more access to the media than ever before, and it’s clearly time to shift how things are done in the PR realm.
To reach the media and position your executives as industry experts, PR needs to move from the role of ruler to facilitator. Successfully navigating this change requires a fundamental re-engineering of how things are done, starting with putting executives front and center on social media.
Understand and Manage the Risks
Before turning your executives loose on social media to build their profiles and position themselves as experts, you need to lay the groundwork. As an organization, you need to have a set of simple and basic guidelines about how social media is used. This is not to gag anyone or control the agenda, but to protect the company from risk.
To start, executives should be trained on social media etiquette and the fundamentals of the platforms they are using. The goal is for them to be able to use each platform with ease, and ensure the company looks professional. Before they dive in, the PR team should ensure that social media profiles include information that boosts each’s reputation as an expert and that the appropriate pictures are used. Finally, educate executives on how reporters use social platforms and how they can build solid relationships with key contacts.
Empower Your Executives
With the basics in place, executives should be given the power to use chosen platforms to their full potential. Instead of creating an elaborate set of guidelines that paralyzes your team, give them the tools they need to be successful along with free reign to communicate using common sense. If you have a large organization with multiple individuals using social media, you may want to define who talks about what based on their subject-matter expertise.
For engaging with media, social interactions happens in real-time, so executives need to be able to respond without waiting for PR to craft a response. PR’s role comes in when that dialogue turns into an interview or the reporter needs background information.
Pick the Right Platform for Each Person
As an organization, there are so many social platforms each person could use, so if you are helping to guide executives on building their brand on social media, you want to match each person with the right platform(s).
For example, perhaps your CEO has an active presence on LinkedIn and is very comfortable using it. That would thus be an ideal platform for them to use. To optimize exposure here, they could contribute articles using the new LinkedIn publishing platform, provide regular updates and actively connect with key reporters. Or maybe your CTO is interested in Google+. You can encourage them to use the platform to its full potential by taking advantage of its many unique features.
Use Each Platform’s Native Capabilities
PR can also assist with providing content to be effective on each platform. If one is using Facebook for a product launch, for example, make sure they have images that are sized for optimal Facebook exposure. Or, relay starter content that they can make their own.
Trying to use the same content and images across multiple platforms results in your messages not being received by your target audience, let alone the media. If the thought of creating content or images for multiple platforms is overwhelming, focus on your top three channels so you can do those well.
The idea is not to manage the accounts for your clients, or to script them, but to act as a strategic resource and make it easy for them to use social media effectively.
Schedule Regular Check-Ins
While you’ve empowered your executives, you want to take the time to keep them up-to-date so they can be effective in their efforts. If social media is a key part of your press outreach strategy, you want to make sure that their efforts are aligned what your PR program needs.
Schedule regular check-ins to assess how things are going, what can be fine-tuned, and any latest developments on social channels. Social media changes quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of the latest and greatest, and keep everyone in the loop.
Getting your executives involved with social media can be a powerful way to change your organization’s approach to PR and create stronger, more productive relationships with the media. For this approach to be truly impactful, PR’s role is to be a strategic resource and enabler in the process.