Many articles and blog posts advise people on what not to do when it comes to public relations, marketing and social media. Often complete with clickbait titles—”Five Biggest Social Media Fails,” “Four PR No No’s” or “Three Ways You’re Killing Your Brand”—these pieces may scare readers with thoughts of how they’ve failed or leave them wondering what they should do next.
With that in mind, here are nine tips for 2019 to keep your organization’s reputation on track and grow its visibility among its target audiences:
Aim for consistency. Nothing erodes trust like hearing news about a company in intermittent bursts, where a seemingly random schedule of published items are followed by irregular gaps of radio-silence or the haphazard appearance of social media posts –including those that look like they’ve come from different people within the organization (yikes!) – that leaves people wondering about a firm’s stability, level of organization and trustworthiness. If a business wants to issue a monthly newsletter, for instance, it should be done on a consistent basis to build brand awareness and confidence through a commitment to a set date, time and format for its monthly release. If a podcast is part of a firm’s 2019 plan, it would be important to outline a long-term plan for it, including booking guests well in advance of their scheduled appearance and having a set format that lets listeners know what they are in for. Customers appreciate knowing what to expect!
Lead the dialogue. Speaking and writing about an area of expertise helps others see company leaders as experts and positions a business as the go-to in its industry. Answering the questions of a target audience – such as speaking to the things that keep its C-suite executives up at night – is a surefire way to show how that company can be the solution to another firm’s problems. It also cultivates relationships in advance of closing any business deal.
Show face. Being visible and communicating H2H, human-to-human, earns the trust of people a business wants to connect with and fosters familiarity. Whether it’s by attending in-person events or utilizing video to have candid conversations with customers, nothing substitutes for personal connections. Think of how Gary Vaynerchuk speaks frankly and frequently with his followers, for example, and how shareable his content is or how “Girl, Wash Your Face” author Rachel Hollis uses down-to-earth social media conversations and posts to establish rapport.
Build goodwill, before you need it. A great reputation is something a company ought to cultivate on an ongoing basis. In fact, having a solid connection to the community makes an organization that much more credible, should it ever need to weather a storm. Sharing acts of corporate giving, internal promotions and award wins can do wonders in creating a positive sentiment around a company.
Invest in owned media. Brands that neglect the opportunity to create company-owned, curated content that is consistent in its messaging and look across platforms are missing out on a key opportunity. While social media should be a part of every company’s strategy, it’s vital to remember that the rules of the game can change at any time (think of Facebook’s frequent algorithm switches) and that having white papers, an arsenal of blog posts, images and videos and news portals means that no change of technology or pay-to-play model can take away the brand’s assets. So empowering!
Get smart about social. Zero-in on the most meaningful vehicles for your organization’s needs and get serious about instituting a consistent and meaningful strategy to use them. For business-to-business companies, LinkedIn is likely the must; for consumer-facing brands or those seeking to recruit a millennial, Gen Z or Gen X audience, Instagram is one to strongly consider. It is not necessary to spread content thin across all platforms, but, instead, choose a few that have the right audiences and then engage them thoughtfully. Build out a content calendar that draws followers in and moves them to action. This can be done independently, or by hiring an expert to strategize and/or execute on the firm’s behalf.
Vet and tap micro-influencers. Brand-influencer relationships are more than celebrity endorsements but have become niche internet personalities responsible for moving the needles for companies of all kinds. Mommy bloggers, well-respected business leaders and lifestyle social media stars exist in every community, region and industry and can be powerful in terms of changing minds, hearts and actions. Before engaging an influencer, however, examine the individual’s followers, engagements and tone, to see if there’s a way to cultivate the relationship, and ensure that the influencer is following Federal Trade Commission regulations so that all is on the legal up-and-up. For instance, if there’s a payment arrangement or products are gifted, posts need to be clearly labeled #ad or #sponsored for transparency.
Rethink ordinary events. It’s not every day a company has its 50th anniversary or groundbreaking, but many default to common ways to mark the occasion instead of creating stand-apart, curated events. Rethinking how you mark major news – or even if you can turn something seemingly small into a way bigger moment – can make all the difference in how well the event is received and lead to more widespread media coverage or increased attendance.
Measure as you market. Understanding an initiative’s level of success lets those involved know if a campaign is connecting with target audiences and whether the company is moving in the desired direction. Are you achieving an uptick in stories with a positive sentiment? Has your commitment to sharing your company’s news led to a spike in website traffic or new business? Have you seen a 20 percent increase in event attendance or 30 percent hike in sponsorships? Applying The Barcelona Principles, a set of standards developed by PR practitioners that defines the efficiency of PR campaigns by outcome, rather than output, is essential.
Following these tips, consistently and persistently, will give your organization a great start at building relationships with its target audiences, whether they are clients, customers, donors, volunteers or community members. Here’s to a good news-filled 2019!
Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications Ltd. (prwithimpact.com), an award-winning public relations agency based in the Hudson Valley and serving clients throughout the tristate area. Fanelli can be reached at 845-462-4979 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.