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New Media on Ulitzer

"The wisdom’s in the room. Make a concerted effort to learn from those around you,"
said Butch Ward from Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL, as he spoke with a crowd of public relations professionals at the January 2010 Social Media Café.  Butch and three fellow experts shared new ways of including social media tactics in our public relations practices.

The Poynter Institute describes itself as “a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders.” The Institute’s interest in how PR or “business communication” professionals practice exemplifies the social media requirement  to reach beyond the way we’ve always done things. As Butch reminded the audience, we are all learning together as we explore the new  social media sandbox. Fortunately for all of us, not everything is new and unfamiliar.

In fact, as we expand our minds to embrace new technology and new methods, the best of traditional public relations and marketing principles still apply.  Moreover, even new elements such as business blogging don’t need to be intimidating.

Here are 4 useful tips from the Social Media Café seminar that will make even reluctant marketing professionals comfortable about  jumping on board the social media train before it has left the station:

1. Research, planning, implementation, and evaluation: These fundamentals still apply to social media.

Don’t be tempted by the deceptive simplicity of going social. Some companies jump right in with little or no knowledge of why they want to be there. Don’t abandon the traditional wisdom of defining goals and calculating the plan. Before diving in, consider what you want to talk about and which social media connection can be the most beneficial. Are your customers already participating on this platform? Do you want to build your brand in a different market? Not all Social media sites serve the same purpose, and many are industry-specific. Companies will typically benefit more from a social media venture that fits them strategically. Social media is continuously evolving, and it can serve a multitude of purposes for a company; just don’t let the extent of your reasoning be “because everyone else is doing it.”

2. Blog posts don’t need to be long or fancy to be useful and popular. Just know your subject matter, and give people what they need to know.

Your business blog can provide timely and valuable insights to your customers about your industry, on current events, and on key market trends. Don’t be intimidated because plain and simple writing will work just fine when combined with the authenticity and transparency your customers demand. Your business will benefit from a blog because you give customers reasons to keep coming back. Providing a detailed, updated communications with your audience makes your company  both more approachable and more valuable to customers. Equally important is the fact that regular, relevant blog activity that attracts and keeps a regular following can boost your Google Web site ranking.

3. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million!

Practically from the moment the moving picture was invented, audiences were captivated. In recent years, YouTube has captured our attention with millions of users count on it for news, entertainment and seemingly countless cute kitty home movies (Doubt me? I dare you to search for “cute kitties” on YouTube.). Research by eMarketer shows that there is a HUGE audience watching online video. Now, it’s your turn to put video to work in attracting that vast universe. From promotional videos, how-tos, and testimonials to commercials and interviews with company officials, you’ll find dozens of opportunities to get your customers to pay much more attention to what you have to say (Here are 2 recent posts the may be helpful as you explore the possibilities: 10 Ways to Win with Online Video and 6 Secrets to Making Online Video Work for Small Business )

4. Talk about ethical decision making within a social media context before a crisis presents itself.

Pretending something will never become a problem is a bit like triple-dog daring Murphy’s Law.  Your limited time is better spent considering sticky social media situations in advance than to find yourself in a crisis without a plan.
A case in point: As both professional and personal participation grows in social media networking, there are ethical concerns on both the part of the employee and the company when it comes to social media and the freedom it allows. If unfavorable commentary about your company were broadcast through an employee’s personal site, would his or her job be at risk? Are employees already aware of the expectations? Have a plan. Be proactive and have these conversations about social media ethics with your employees and partners now.

Contributing presenters to the Florida Public Relations Association’s Social Media Café on January 22, 2010 at the Royal Palm Yacht Club in Fort Myers, FL included: Butch Ward of Poynter Institute, Michelle Catin of rbb Public Relations, Chris Griffith of Keller Williams Elite Realty, and Michelle K. Gardner of John Scott Daily Florida Institute of Government at the University of Central Florida. You can read more about the presentations at the blog: http://www.fpraswflchapter.blogspot.com/

More Stories By Kathleen Taylor

Kathleen Taylor, APR is the president of the Southwest Florida chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. She currently works as a public relations consultant for a variety of clients ranging from real estate to healthcare. When she’s not penning public relations prose at her computer, she’s discovered that logging miles in her running shoes provides great cardio and generates great ideas. You can follow Kathleen on Twitter @KatTayls, and learn more about her profession background at http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/taylorkathleen.

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