The notion of “content” has taken on new meaning in the age of social media. Public relations used to be limited in many people’s minds to media relations. But today, social media has given us all a platform for becoming part of broader conversations and creating dialogues that previously were not possible. In fact, the contribution of interesting content has become a virtual currency to broader recognition today.
This requires communications professionals to consider content in a different light. It’s not a 180-degree turn though, it’s a slight skewing of the angle. After all, content creation has always been the job of PR – a press release is actually supposed to be written just like a news story so that it can easily be repackaged as one. Ironically, those guidelines were developed (and proliferated through the AP Style guide) many years ago, but they are more important today than ever as bloggers simply repackage press releases as news stories.
Before the advent of real-time communications and social media, PR’s job was also to be a conduit for expert’s perspectives on the news to the reporters who cared about them. We had to identify issues of relevance and connect the experts to the masses. These same principles apply today as we look to help our clients create the content so critical to their visibility with target customers and partners. What’s changed is the pace and the channel – virtually anyone can connect with key influencers on social media.
So what does it take to break through all of this conversation? We tell our clients that they should still broadcast their messages when it’s appropriate, but that they must also contribute to the dialogue and join the conversations that matter in their industries. Remember though, that contributing does not mean posting your press releases on your blog. You need to add something useful – a perspective, data, case study, video – anything that adds context, background or interest.
The good news is that this content does not have to be created from scratch – it can be found within virtually any organization. Here is where you can start to look:
1. Mine your data. What data do you have internally that could reveal something no one else knows about your industry? One year, we worked with a mobile voice recognition company and we asked them to look at the top 10 most common voice-powered Web searches. We didn’t know what we’d find, but the results showed that on mobile, people search for destinations such as “Facebook.com.” When we looked at Google’s most popular desktop search terms, we saw a big difference. On the desktop, people search for topics such as “Michael Jackson.” We wrote a press release and got a bunch of coverage during the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s.
2. Read the news. Do your executives have an opinion about what is going on in the news? If so, get it out there on your blog, through Twitter and directly to reporters who are covering the topic. Just make sure your executive has the background to make him or her an expert. And if that fails, make sure they have something controversial to say – controversy almost always breeds interest.
3. Listen to your customers. What trends are taking place within your customers’ organizations? One of our clients offers disaster recovery and business continuity software and after hurricane Katrina, we discovered a number of customers who had used the software, and also had amazing stories about how they helped their businesses continue operations in the midst of the terrible disaster. We pulled these stories together into advice for other companies as they prepare their corporate disaster recovery plans.
Once you find this content, the next job is packaging it and timing it appropriately to make an impact (see our post on how to blow a press release). This topic could fill a number of additional blog posts, but the key to creating conversations is fostering a two-way dialogue. The starting point can be a press release, blog post, video, Tweet or Facebook status. It’s what you do with it afterward that creates the conversation.