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For centuries, businesses have used different methods of communication to connect with potential customers. Social media platforms are among the latest options that companies have to connect to their target audiences. Having been around for less than or just about two decades, it would be easy to think that social media platforms have little in common with other disciplines, such as public relations (PR).
Take a closer look, though, and it becomes clear that PR and social media communications complement each other and have the potential to strengthen the impact of both. By choosing an integrated approach, brands can strengthen audience engagement and amplify brand exposure.
Understanding the synergy between public relations and social media
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Compare that to social media, and it soon becomes clear how much the two disciplines overlap.
Both are centered around strategic communications processes, with planned messages directed at specific audiences. Both disciplines also aim to benefit both businesses and potential clients at the same time. In the case of PR, audiences benefit by learning more about a brand; brands benefit by building trust.
On social media, both sides benefit from direct, unfiltered access to the other party. In addition, brands and audiences also enjoy greater control over the time and the exact content that is published.
Combining the two methods allows brands to increase the audiences reached by their messages and amplify messages across different channels. The goal is to leverage respective strengths while overcoming potential weaknesses.
Brand teams have several options to integrate their PR and social media strategies for their respective benefit. If your brand has a successful PR strategy, consider adapting it for your chosen social media platforms.
The details of this adaptation will vary depending on the nature of your business and your PR and social media goals. In many cases, your brand team will be able to craft compelling social media content from storytelling-based PR activity. You may also consider running a social media contest to coincide with a product launch to increase the reach of your brand messaging.
Here is a closer look at individual tactics:
1. Enhancing brand messaging and storytelling
When your team aligns the messages it shares with the public across public relations campaigns, press releases and social media content, those messages are amplified. Audiences will notice consistent brand communications across different channels, clarifying what the business stands for.
The same principle applies to storytelling. Learning about a company’s history, key people like founders, and the story behind products and services brings a brand to life. Storytelling has been at the heart of PR strategies for decades, and social media platforms provide more direct outlets.
2. Amplifying PR success through social media
Social media platforms allow brands to amplify PR successes by sharing newspaper, broadcast and online media stories the brand was mentioned in. This is an effective way of increasing the audience of a brand’s PR without losing the added credibility of having been published through a third party.
Sharing links to or images of press mentions or media interviews works well in this context. Brands should also leverage industry awards or similar recognitions for both PR and social media.
3. Collaborating with influencers
Influencers can effectively combine the directness of social media marketing with the credibility of messages filtered by a third party. Selecting the right influencers and developing lasting relationships can go a long way toward increasing a brand’s reach and ultimately driving sales and business growth.
For years, Nike has leveraged athletes successfully as influencers to build its brand reputation within the sporting community and among the general public.
4. Engaging with the audience
Direct audience engagement is perhaps social media’s most significant advantage over public relations. Social media allows brands to engage directly with their audiences.
Brand teams have a chance to respond to audience comments without delay. They can also initiate direct conversations without the formality of running market research focus groups, for example. Airbnb has used this approach to ask customers on Twitter what they would improve on the platform.
This type of direct engagement helps build a community around a brand and facilitates a more casual approach to communication when appropriate. Starbucks uses this tactic successfully on Meta’s Facebook by responding to customer comments with emojis.
Another benefit of social media is access to user-generated content. Sharing consumer product reviews and other content generated by verified customers can vastly increase a brand’s credibility and consumer trust.
Like all strategic marketing activity, integrated PR and social media efforts should be measured to check their effectiveness in terms of reach, audience engagement, website traffic and other key metrics.
Integrating PR and social media allows brands to benefit from the strengths of both while using one to cover the potential weaknesses of the other. Social media’s direct communications between brands and consumers complement PR’s potential to increase brand trust to develop long-term customer loyalty.