Ladies and Gentlemen – the Imagine blog has our first guest blogger. I’m happy to introduce you to:
Lindsey is a social media consultant, instructor, and enthusiast who hails from Chicago. She is currently residing in Houston where she believes it’s way too hot to function on a daily basis. Lindsay is the author behind “The Chatter,” where she posts her observations in the world of online media. Lindsay is currently in between jobs but you can learn more about her onLinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter – @ElFury.
Enough of introductions, watch your driving, hide your cell phone from the stewardess and recharge your iPad for a great blog post from Lindsay.
How I accidentally became a PR specialist: a social media tale
Full disclosure: I’m not good at writing press releases. I consider myself a pretty decent writer, having won some journalism awards in high school and later writing articles in college, so this is a pretty sore subject for me.
When I was studying strategic communications in college, public relations was my least favorite unit. It was those stupid press releases. More often than not, I would get caught up in dizzying rhetoric until I couldn’t even remember the original purpose of the piece. All that my public relations education taught me was to cross “PR Specialist” off my potential careers list.
But then I became a social media manager for a Fortune 200 company, and suddenly, I had to become VERY good at managing the public.
Every day that I logged on to our company’s Facebook and Twitter pages was like another day in a battle zone. As my old boss used to say, we were juggling kittens: patching up a bruised ego here, mediating an argument there, answering tough questions all the time. I had to become intimately aware of our online public, anticipate their responses, and understand the opportunities they presented.
When my green employer partnered with a controversial soft drink and food corporation for Earth Day, my PR skills were definitely put to the test. Our Facebook page is well known for having passionate, sometimes rabid, green followers. People weren’t so thrilled about our new business venture. I had to respond with answers that not only represented our brand and could mitigate intense conversations, but I had to come up with them FAST. I felt like I was playing some high stakes game of Duck Hunter.
Our public relations fire on Earth Day revealed some interesting truths. While I was at the event in New York where we were announcing the partnership, our brand manager was back at the home office helping me respond to Facebook feedback. This brand manager is one of the best I’ve ever met; his attention to detail is amazing. He is able to envision a brand’s direction so perfectly. But big picture thinking and crafted thought are the opposite of what you need in the social media arena. It would take him twice as long to write a response to an angry follower than it would for me so I ended up jumping in and managing the conversations myself.
He and I had a good laugh about it later, but it showed us why he’s the brand manager and I was the brand evangelist. We both had the same messaging in mind, but the way we share that message is entirely different. He’s painstaking and thorough. I’m conversational and immediate. These are great qualities for a social media manager, but it’s those same qualities that make it so hard for me to write a good press release.
I’ve since left that company and have been on the prowl for work. I have seen many ads for social media professionals, and I think that most employers don’t put enough emphasis on the need for someone who has strong public relations skills (actually, I don’t think enough companies put emphasis on social media as a PR tool in general, but I digress). In order to be successful as “the voice” of a company, companies need to find someone who:
- Understands the brand inside and out, so creating quick responses comes naturally
- Is devoted to knowing the social media public and can interact with them in a meaningful way
- Is able to monitor sentiment and respond appropriately. A lot of times, this means that this person needs to have a very level, cool head
- Writes powerfully, but briefly
- Works well under pressure
- Is knowledgeable of other social networks and groups that can help expand the brand’s message, and, more importantly, can pitch to these groups through social media
How does your company handle public relations on your social networks? What fires have you had to put out online? And more importantly, who handles these types of situations for you? I’d love to hear more stories from the front line!