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October 1, 2009
In Social Media, You’re Always ‘On’

In traditional media relations and public relations, we’re supposed to be invisible.

Working behind the scenes. Digging for news from clients or our employer. Calling, emailing and meeting with reporters and assignment managers to suggest stories and developing trustworthy relationships. Creating and coordinating events and photo shoots. Distributing stories. Writing news releases and speeches.

Essentially, that’s work that will be seen without our name attached.

But, in social media marketing, much of our efforts force us to come out from behind the curtain.

Transparency and authenticity are the expected norms within the social media arena. If you’re involved in blogger outreach, writing blogs posts for clients or your employer, tweeting, engaging members on discussion boards, or posting questions to a Facebook Page – then you’re very much in the public eye. Your name – or at least your client or employer – is attached to those actions.

At the same time, due to its one-on-one interaction, social media is inherently personal. People don’t want to be broadcast to. They can get that on TV, the radio or via the ads in the newspapers they read. In social media, the core of what we’re trying to achieve is about relationships. The level and type of relationships that drive everything else – including the final purchase.

PR pros do need to be authentic in social media because that truly is the best way to develop a level of trust with the audience you are trying to reach. However, in the process our personal and professional worlds tend to mesh in social media.

So, how do you keep the two separate and remain authentic? Here are some guidelines:
If you have a personal account on Twitter, include a (client) note or something similar whenever a tweet includes a client/employer mention or link.

If you are leaving comments on blogs on behalf of clients/employer, be sure it’s clear who you represent. Examples of doing that include simply using your professional email address or by adding a P.S. to your comment with something like you found the blog doing research for ABCXYZ Company. An exception is if you’re leaving a comment on a blog that you’re just researching and may not contact for your client/employer. In that case, be sure to at least use your name – do not leave an anonymous comment – so a connection can be made later IF you do approach that blogger later for whatever marketing purpose.

If you’re writing a blog post for a client/employer, sign it with your name. At the very least, if it’s a client’s blog, have a generic author like “Marketing” or “Admin” or “Editor.” It’s not ideal, but is good if many agency and communications personnel are authoring it – in addition to the client. The good corporate blogs have a separate page that lists the authors, and their associations.

If you’re participating on discussion boards, make sure your profile lists your profession. Depending on your reason for board participation, it could include information about your client/employer. It also would be good to include a disclaimer of something like you’re not there to harvest emails for any email spam (unless, of course, you will be doing that).

One final note, if you’re involved in social media in any way, sooner or later, your personal and professional lives will collide. It’s inevitable to some degree no matter how much you try to keep them separate.

In social media, you are always on the clock. All of my social media profiles were started with professional reasons in mind. However, they each have some personal aspects. That’s fine because that’s the social in social media.

The process of social media ultimately plays right into the role of public relations professionals: relationship building. Any solid relationship, where top of mind awareness is achieved – and needed into today’s marketplace – requires some level of human, personal and authentic interaction.

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Michael  Driehorst, president and founder of Diamond Communications, is a proven public relations professional who knows how to develop the right set of strategies and matching tactics to achieve communication objectives for the right target audience. After an early career as a newspaper journalist, Mike has worked in public relations and marketing communications since 1994. He has been active in social media marketing since 2005; read his blog.

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