by Chris Metinko, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/ San Francisco
While the advent of social media may seem to have just added another element to the hectic world of public relations, it also can be an invaluable tool in helping build relationships with journalists and prepare for a crisis.
“Journalists use Twitter as research,” said Josh Karpf, director of digital media for PepsiCo at PR News’ Digital PR Next Practices Summit, held last week in San Francisco and sponsored by Business Wire. “Reporters are following you. They are scouring for stories.”
Karpf said because journalists already are on social channels, it is a perfect place to connect with them and build relationships. It also is mandatory to closely follow what is being said about your brand on social media and defend your company’s reputation. He said every company should have a social media management tool — like HootSuite or TweetDeck — to follow those conversations.
“You must track your brand,” Karpf said. “If you’re not, you’re already behind.”
David Sommers, director of public affairs for Los Angeles County, agreed. He said organizations must embrace social media as a way to get their message across. Sommers said he understands this well, since it was only four years ago no L.A. County employee was allowed social media access at work.
“We have, historically, not been good at communications,” Sommers laughed.
Sommers said for an effective social media crisis strategy, an organization must:
- Have a social media management tool in place.
- Have a pre-made media list of reporters who cover them.
- Make hashtags for possible crises in advance.
- Have a plan if the organization’s website goes down.
Sommers added that it’s also important, when using social media, to look for spots where you can jump into a conversation.
“And be relevant,” Karpf added.
While building a social media strategy may be more doable for some brands than for others — PepsiCo has a whole team that follows its brand’s mentions on Twitter — Jake Gasaway, co-founder of Stitch Labs, said it is imperative to be smart with a company’s limited resources when using social channels.
Gasaway said it is important to identify what works best for your company — which turned out to be LinkedIn for Stitch Labs — and go from there. He added social channels also allow a chance to build a real rapport with reporters and use a human touch.
“Don’t forget to say ‘Thank You.’” Gasaway reminded the crowd.