The panelists for the Marketing Profs B2B Forum session, It’s Not Your Mother’s PR, covered both theory (traditional public relations vs. PR 2.0) and practice (case studies from three diverse industries about social media integration with B2B public relations), highlighting what is the perfect marriage of social media and B2B PR.
Beth Harte, Serengeti Communications
Many people believe media relations is all there is to PR. While it is still an important element, it is just one of seven areas of PR, which also include advertising, publicity, public affairs (government and community), issues management/crisis communications, lobbying and investor relations. Social media affects the way PR is practiced in each of these areas. For example, a crisis can happen overnight on the internet, so companies need to monitor constantly what people are saying about them online. Additionally, while the Securities and Exchange Commission does prohibit companies from talking about certain subjects, companies are not outright banned from participating in online conversations with their investors. This is especially important now, because employees, customers and investors are often the same people.
Public relations is about building two-way mutual relationships between publics and your company. It touches nearly every part of a business: marketing, sales, customer service, etc. Spin no longer works. Shouting no longer works. You must listen to what your publics have to say, because they want and expect to be heard. The louder you yell, the more defensive and the less genuine you sound.
Deirdre Breakenridge, PFS Marketwyse
Deirdre’s client, International Recovery Group, is a repossession company that deals with ultra-high-end collateral: yachts, jets, helicopters, etc. The company needed to overcome the rough, negative image of the repo man. Its challenge was to raise its brand image while engaging with its prospects.
Deirdre advocates for a hybrid view of social media integration with PR: take the best of traditional PR tools and blend them with social tools. IRG’s strategy:
- Listen first: Search communities for keywords and conversations related to your brand to discover where to engage.
- Share and repurpose everything: Take radio/TV interviews to YouTube, interactive newsrooms and video blogs. Share articles on blogs and Twitter.
- Track: Deirdre used free tools such as Collecta, Technorati, BackType, Social Mention, Techrigy and TweetBeep.
- Measure: Track the number of times keywords are used, spikes in conversations, topics influencers are talking about. Deirdre recommended Addictomatic.
Other tools Deirdre recommended:
- TweetDeck, which allows updating to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as filtering influencers’ conversations into columns for easy tracking.
- Listorious, Twinfluence and Technorati for finding and following influencers.
- PitchEngine for creating social media releases. Social media releases are highly interactive news releases hosted on a blog platform with sharing tools included. (The social media releases offered by the wire services are not the same, although they do have nice sharing capabilities.)
- Wordle to analyze influencers’ feeds to make sure they are still the right people to follow.
Terri D. Andrews, RSM McGladrey
RSM McGladrey is the fifth largest accounting firm in the U.S. (right after Big Four). One of the firm’s biggest challenges is brand awareness. Its social media activities include maintaining separate blogs for each of its four lines of business and engaging with prospects using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Integration will be the firm’s next challenge; for example, as more employees want to get involved in social media, the firm needs to set policies and guidelines so people know what kind of commitment they are making. RSM will develop a network of registered social media users so information can be shared very quickly with different networks associated with their business lines. Another challenge will be to enhance engagement by getting more thought leaders involved and fostering two-way dialogues. Finally, RSM is still figuring out the best ways to measure results and implement appropriate enhancements.
RSM has been using the following metrics for ROI:
- Blogs: total visits to date, number of unique visitors, proportion of new vs. returning visitors
- Twitter: number of tweets, number of followers, overall ranking on Twitter Grader, percentage of website visits resulting from tweets
As a final point, Terri emphasized that ROI is about more than hard numbers and shared this idea she learned from another social media conference (source unknown – please speak up if you are the original author!):
ROI = Relationships + Opportunity + Involvement
Donna Tocci, Ingersoll Rand
My key takeaway from this session came from Donna’s presentation.
Public relations is all about relationships – that has not changed. You may not be able to get away with as much spin as you used to, but the fundamentals are still the same: do your research, find appropriate contacts, cultivate relationships and always be relevant. What you currently know will work in the new PR.
This was exciting for me to hear as a marketing communications professional, because these fundamentals apply equally to social media as a business tool as they do to public relations. Donna’s words express for me how perfect the marriage of public relations and social media is.
Ingersoll Rand’s challenge was how to create a community out of a $13 billion diversified industrial company with more than 60,000 employees. Donna focused on two areas: internal sharing and external sharing.
- If you don’t have a social media policy, create one now. It will help keep employees and the company out of trouble.
- Ingersoll Rand converted its internal employee news alerts to a blog format so employees could comment, ask questions and answer one another’s questions. Employees built natural communities around shared interests.
- The company created a portal for employees to converse and collaborate. Employees share photos of Ingersoll Rand products in the marketplace, interact on discussion boards and contribute to wikis and blogs.
- For employees who want to get involved in social media, there is a resource site with the company’s social media policy, blogs, links to content to share and more. It helps employees to help the company.
- Ingersoll Rand’s recruiting site includes sharing tools such as a job widget that people can add to their blogs or Facebook.
- A challenge with the company’s corporate social media is keeping branding the same across platforms. It is critical to use the same logo/avatar and name whether on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. so people can find your brand easily.
- Donna suggested showing one video per day on YouTube about what’s happening at your company.
- If your company is already a trusted source of information, you can direct the media or other publics to your Twitter stream or YouTube channel instead of offering interviews (especially during a crisis or other high profile event). This can also help avoid misquotes.
- Use social media to increase the number of positive customer service experiences people have with your brand, especially to correct negative experiences. Have trained customer service professionals respond to questions on your Facebook fan site, for example.
How did you determine what metrics were appropriate?
Terri: RSM worked with an agency that helped them determine whether they are using the right measurements. They will re-evaluate at the one-year mark.
How are you tying impressions to business metrics?
Terri: RSM’s public relations department receives media calls that originated from Twitter and Facebook, so she knows there is ROI; however, the company is still trying to figure out whether increases in traffic are resulting in conversions.
Beth: Write measurable objectives. Think ahead about how to measure each tactic and what tools to use.
Deirdre: IRG ties each social object (video, white paper, etc.) back to a bid sheet on the company website. They measure how many bids are tied to remarketed collateral.
What is Ingersoll Rand doing differently in different countries?
Donna: Most of the world uses mostly the same tools. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are all blocked in China, and the company is still figuring out how to handle that. The most important videos are embedded in the company intranet so employees can see them. YoQoo, China’s YouTube clone, is updated by Ingersoll Rand’s Chinese communications team. In Europe, the company uses Bebo. In India, an audio form of Twitter is just launching, although it remains to be seen whether it will take off.
Beth: You can’t confine social media to the U.S. It’s important to educate yourself about other cultures to avoid potentially damaging miscommunications.
How do you handle the blurred lines between personal and professional use of Facebook?
Donna: There are thousands of Ingersoll Rand employees on Facebook. For the most part, she leaves personal streams alone (unless there is a serious problem). Every person involved in social media on behalf of the business is trained. For many businesses, following the code of conduct and social media policy is enough.
Beth: Always remember that nothing is secure, professionally or personally, and be very careful about the type of information you reveal about yourself (and especially your whereabouts) on social media platforms (e.g, Foursquare).
How does your PR team use social media to tell your company’s story? Share your experience in the comments.
Cheri Gaudet is a marketing communications professional. Follow her on Twitter @CheriGaudet.