Social media – and for this post’s purpose, online monitoring – requires us to take a fresh approach to what we think of as PR best practices. By adding a layer of technology to what we already know works, we can be even more effective in our jobs. We talk a lot about online monitoring in terms of reputation management and even customer service, but it’s also a secret ingredient to better media relations.
Back in the day, I remember scouring print media, looking for new trends that you could pitch – either a local trend that we could elevate to a national story, or national trends that we could localize. But, by the time the stories are printed, they’re already somewhat dated, so these media pitching opportunities came with a short shelf life. Thanks to the immediacy of social media, combined with smart monitoring, PR people can spot trends before they’ve surfaced to the mainstream – and then use these nuggets of gold to create new media outreach opportunities.
I was recently asked to present on a PR Newswire webinar, where I shared a few examples to illustrate how listening can strengthen media relations. Whether you’re using a freemium tool like Hootsuite, or one of the more robust monitoring platforms, you can create keyword searches to dig for content relevant to your brand. (My presentation focused on Twitter, but the concept is applicable across the web.)
Example 1: One of my clients is Madison Electric Products – an 85-year-old manufacturer of electrical products based in Cleveland, OH. At the beginning of the recession, they did some self-evaluating and realized they needed a better way to develop and bring new products to the market. They also realized that the best ideas would come from the people in the field – not a bunch of suits in a boardroom. So, a few years ago, they launched the Sparks Innovation Center, the industry’s first crowdsourced approach to product development. The idea was simple: Anyone could submit an idea for a product they think is needed in the industry. Madison’s team evaluates each submission and then works with the inventor to bring their idea to fruition. As a result of this major product development shift, we also shifted our brand positioning and value proposition, honing in on one core concept: “Innovation that Works.” Our focus was all about small businesses partnering to innovate new products and smarter ways to do business. So, we had a few variations on these keywords plugged into Twitter (which you can see in my slides).
We saw a lot of things in the search – some helpful, some not so much. But, one day, a study from from GE popped up that predicted collaboration among small businesses would be the driving force of innovation in the 21st century. Well, hello! That’s the cornerstone of the Sparks Innovation Center and exactly what Madison was implementing. If we didn’t have keyword searches, we wouldn’t have seen that within minutes of being released — or at all! But, because we discovered it before it got a lot of play in the media, we were ably to piggyback onto the study. Using GE’s research as the hook, I put together a pitch to a local business reporter, explaining that we could offer a local angle to a national trend.
As a result, we ended up with a high-profile story in Crain’s. This underscores the importance of proactively monitoring keywords (beyond @ replies and mentions of company and products). Certainly, the first step in monitoring is tracking what people are saying about your company, its products, the leadership team and your competitors. But, that’s just the basics … barely scratching the surface. When you take a broader approach, and actively listen to topic-driven conversations, that’s when you stumble upon incredibly helpful results and context.
Example 2: Monitoring can also help you discover time-sensitive opportunities. Twitter lists are incredibly useful here. Do you use Twitter lists? I think this is one of the most underutilized features that Twitter offers. In my own Twitter account, I have all kinds of private lists – from “Twitter friends” and clients and prospects … to media we’re working with or want to work with. Lists help me make sure that I don’t miss updates from the people who are most important to me – from a personal and professional standpoint.
In terms of media relations, we create Twitter lists to “stalk” – and I mean that in the nicest possible way – key reporters. I have media lists – like local media or CNN reporters/producers – as well as more specific lists, like tech media. In the old days, it was much harder to build and maintain relationships with reporters, especially those at national outlets. Social media gives us incredible access to reporters, previously much harder to reach.
How does that translate into media coverage? Last year, actually around this same time, a CNN tech reporter tweeted that she was looking for must-have Black Friday apps. Our client, Zaarly, was a perfect fit. Because this reporter was on a list we closely monitor, we saw her tweet and responded within 15 minutes. As a result, Zaarly ended up on CNN.com and American Morning. Not bad for a little stalking, right?
Example 3: Actively listening to social media can also help you improve your content marketing to tangible business outcomes. VenueSeen, the first management and campaigns tool that taps into the Instagram API, is one of my clients. For the launch, we were targeting brand marketers in key niches: sports, retail and restaurants – through media outreach, content marketing and social media. Each of these strategies were improved because we listened first and then did our outreach and content development. For the launch, we did a lot of online research as we were building the media and blogger lists. We wanted to be sure we honed in on the exact right contact at each media outlet. That worked really well, laying a very solid foundation for the next stage, “show don’t tell.” The idea was to “show” the power of the platform by pulling and sharing content that we knew was likely to be widely shared via social media. VenueSeen created a couple of infographics that tied into big sporting events – the opening of the baseball season and the Olympics. We knew these were two events would generate extremely high online chatter and even more interesting photos at various venues.
The infographics were picked up by national sites, including Mashable and ESPN. This drove a huge spike in web traffic and new leads, many of which have converted into customers. The clips were just the beginning though. While a lot of PR people see the a media placement as the end goal, I think we need to see the clip as just the beginning. By monitoring for people discussing the article and related topics online, brands can find natural, meaningful ways to engage in conversation and expand their community development efforts. In this case, because we used keyword searches to identify people discussing the infographics, we were able to spark conversations with brand marketers in our key verticals. As a result, the content pieces became powerful lead generation tools that converted into new customers.
The big takeaway? PR tactics, including content marketing or social media, should be combined with active listening to accelerate the sales cycle and drive better business outcomes.
Your turn. How are you using active listening to boost media relations? Let me know on Twitter or share in the comments below …