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Your New PR Department Might Be Out of Your Control
By: Ted Curtin
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Your PR staff is connected. They number in the millions (that’ll look good on your resume). Oh, and they’re WAY underpaid (good for your bottom line too)! That’s right; meet your new PR department – a la Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to name a few.

Before comments start pouring in, let me say that I have quite a few friends both in established media roles as well as on the PR agency side. They are incredibly professional, dedicated, and extremely talented. This in no way suggests that social media can or should replace your established PR departments and strategies.  

The advent and proliferation of social media “publishers” adds tremendous potential reach to your existing PR strategies. If your internal team and agency are coordinated with your brand’s purpose and proactive in their efforts to communicate with the new media, you can create a virtual army of public relations advocates sharing in your cause and caring about your success.

Southwest Airlines
recently did just that when one of their Boeing 737 airplanes on route from Denver to Chicago slid off the end of the runway during poor weather conditions at Midway airport. Even before Southwest had full information, their communications team posted news about the incident to their Facebook and Twitter feeds, informing their followers that they were aware of an event and ensuring that they would provide more details as soon as they were available. Simply the announcement of potentially bad news and an assurance to follow up drew over 125 “likes” in a matter of hours.

Southwest’s proactive approach in this instance covers three basic rules of PR.

1. The best defense is a good offense – just ask any Hockey fan following the NHL playoffs! Even seasoned PR pros will readily admit that being on the defensive is never a good place to be. You always want to be proactive when dealing with sensitive issues. The less you need to react, the more you can move the story forward.

2. If you don’t take control, someone else will – guaranteed.  Once you gain control of the message, you can drive or at least guide the story. That affords you the opportunity to stay on point and retain a messaging advantage to help you build support among your followers.

3. Shared ownership builds advocacy. Most followers have a genuine interest in your organization. That level of investment creates shared interest in your brand’s success. The ability to publicly acknowledge your followers for their support is another key aspect that social media brings to the PR mix. That simple act of sharing the caring can galvanize existing advocates while encouraging others to be equally supportive as well.

So we’ll simply call them an extended PR asset. Your brand’s network of followers is tremendously valuable and incredibly affordable, but this asset can quickly turn into a very costly liability if you don’t continue to appreciate their efforts with praise, acknowledgement, up-front information and before everything else...good value and great service!

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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