As brands become more and more visible on social media, the role of PR pros who understand the digital landscape gains importance.
Hundreds of PR pros, marketers and community managers gathered to learn from experts at Ragan’s third annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World.
Though the lessons were numerous—Ragan.com will share Storify compilations and highlight the conference on Pinterest—here are four insights that PR pros can use to ramp up their social media outreach:
1. Tap into the power of your community.
“Everything we do is powered by people,” says Thomas Smith, social media director for Disney Parks and founder of the Disney Parks blog.
Smith and his team use blog content as a “litmus test” to learn what Disney’s audience wants, and passionate collaborators guest-blog for the magical brand. Tapping into community members’ stories and insights delivers a wealth of content, which only helps build the brand across social media.
“The more content we put out there, the more people are engaging with us,” Smith says.
— Just Jess (@JessBScott) February 20, 2015
Jeramie McPeek, VP of digital operations for the Phoenix Suns, says social media enables the NBA franchise’s fans to interact, share their thoughts and show team spirit.
“Everybody already has an opinion,” McPeek says. “You just need to ask for it.”
Tapping into your community will tell you not only the type of content your audience craves, but also where they live online. McPeek says a November contest for free Phoenix Suns tickets had more engagement on Snapchat than on any other platform, which revealed the importance of the mobile visual channel for future campaigns.
2. Get visual.
Karl Gude, a former infographics chief at Newsweek and the Associated Press and a current Michigan State University journalism professor, explained how infographics can take something important—but boring—such as raw data and transform it into a visual storyboard.
— David Johnson (@DavidRises) February 19, 2015
“Infographics can be great for understanding huge amounts of information,” Gude says. As more and more brand managers embrace infographics to get the point across, PR pros can key on certain tactics to make sure their visuals are successful.
For one, keep things simple so your audience is not overwhelmed.
“Don’t make people play through the crap of your imagination to get to the data,” Gude says. Techniques to ensure clarity include highlighting a dominant image, writing text for easy scanning, and breaking up content into attractively designed sections.
Though PR pros won’t necessarily have to learn various font types, color palettes or kerning (the spacing between characters), you should still know enough to pick the best person for the job and work with that expert accordingly.
Above all, Gude says, don’t let your CEO design the infographics. Play to your strengths, and let others do the same.
3. Become ‘content counselors’ to clients and partners.
Scott Warfield, senior director of social media and broadcast communications for NASCAR, highlighted the important role that PR pros play in educating and guiding clients, sponsors and employees in the practice of successful content marketing.
— Sarah Barnett (@SarahHSUS) February 19, 2015
Ultimately, fans want to engage with brands because they’re getting something of value, such as additional information, sneak peeks or a look at the people behind the brand.
Warfield says Kid Rock asked NASCAR to share news about his recent album. Knowing that wouldn’t resonate with the audience nearly as strongly as a well-crafted piece of content, Warfield suggested Rock let one of his songs become the backdrop for a video highlighting NASCAR and the artist’s headlining appearance at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. The video has received more than 600,000 views.
Employees, clients and partners will all tell stories—with NASCAR, each driver has a dedicated fan base—but by helping educate and guide content creation, brand managers can exert powerful influence on social media strategies and execution. Warfield says drivers now ask the team for advice when creating and sharing content.
Becoming that voice also helps boost your brand, because good quality will always triumph on social media. “You win in search when you create really great, relevant content,” says Ashley Brown, Spredfast’s VP of social strategy.
4. Be brave.
Brown says the brands that truly win on social media take chances and afford PR pros “license to provoke.”
— Sarah Barnett (@SarahHSUS) February 20, 2015
Pointing to the plethora of brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Oreo that stood for LGBT rights across social media, as well as Victoria’s Secret’s tweeted tribute to Maya Angelou, Brown says successful campaigns evoke powerful emotions and share things community members can truly get behind.
Brown says brand managers shouldn’t try to fit in when their brand was “born to stand out.” It may sound scary to many PR pros, but taking a risk with content and engagement can pay off by increasing loyalty and brand awareness.
“If you don’t stand for something, no one is going to stand with you,” Brown says.
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