I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept of “innovating best practices” lately. As my friend Keith Speers explains, best practices are simply effective strategies proven to work. In business, there are things we do simply because they know they work.
But, if technology has taught us anything, it’s this: Relying on “the way it’s always been done” is a surefire way to get left behind. In fact, the businesses that innovate “the way it’s always been done” are the ones who win. Maybe I’m such a believer in this concept because my clients are living proof that innovating best practices is good for business? Two quick examples:
- Madison Electric Products knew it needed to innovate their product development process, hence the Sparks Innovation Center, which has boosted new-product sales by 37%.
- Zaarly is developing the next iteration of ecommerce by introducing a mobile commerce marketplace.
As forward-thinking communicators, how can we apply this concept to our everyday work?
4 Opportunities to Innovate PR Best Practices
- Research: While focus groups, surveys and more traditional research methods aren’t going away, technology helps us ascertain perceptions, collect feedback and gain new insights. Surveys are getting social: Social Fresh is asking readers to take a short survey on Facebook advertising, and DoubleTree used promoted tweets and Facebook ads to drive traffic to a survey housed on their Facebook page. Mining hashtags, “spying” on competitors’ online interactions, or using Facebook Groups to organize informal focus groups also help savvy businesses gain valuable insights. Use technology to create establish new research opportunities.
- Relationships: A major component of public relations is building relationships — whether that’s with media, customers, industry analysts, investors or internal audiences … just to name a few. Social media opens a treasure trove of relationship-building opportunities. But, only if you invest the time in building those connections. For example, I can trace more than 80% of Geben’s business back to relationships that began via social media — and most of those go back to Twitter. What’s my secret? Twitter lists. For me, they’re invaluable. I’ve created private lists for media, clients/partners, prospects, “real life” friends and family, etc. That way, I don’t miss updates and opportunities for conversation with those key groups of people. Larger companies may want to invest in a social CRM-type service. If you believe in the importance of “offline” networking, why not translate that to online activities? Just find a system or a process that works for you.
- Measurement: My friend Chuck Hemann has lots to say on this topic. For starters, check out this measurement presentation, especially slide 22. In addition to measuring campaign outcomes, we should track the performance of content we post on social networks. If you’re not measuring individual pieces of content, how do you know what and when to post? Data can help us be more effective in other ways, too. Think back a few years: When you developed topics for speeches or bylined articles, how did you know what subject to cover? You want to cover subjects that will pique people’s interest, right? How about looking at your site’s Google Analytics to understand what topics drive the most traffic to your site? Or, what keywords are people using to find your site? That data offers valuable clues about the topics people are interested in, and the types of questions they have. Don’t ignore the data.
- Writing: Writing is a core tenant of public relations. Even in today’s digital world, if you can’t write, I think you’ll struggle to be a truly effective PR person. But, you have to update your writing skills. Traditional PR people still struggle to translate their writing across various mediums. Writing a press release or whitepaper is very different than how you’d craft a blog post, Facebook update, YouTube description or tweet. As you look to excel in today’s social world, you MUST understand how to adapt your writing across various channels. That doesn’t mean you should abandon traditional writing best practices; rather, look for opportunities to understand things like SEO, phrases to drive engagement, links as the currency of the web, and so on.
In PR, we need to nail the basics. Understand the fundamentals of PR, but seek opportunities to improve. “The ways it’s always done” isn’t enough. Shake things up. Disrupt the status quo. Innovate best practices. You might be amazed at what you create.
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