PR: making the web less scary

Sometimes the internet can be a scary place. A lot of this stems from the sheer size of it – literally billions of web pages, blogs, Twitter comments and Facebook posts. In the old days pr was simple enough: there was radio, television and the print media. Formulate a coherent message, choose the medium and decide the balance between advertising and public relations. Easy enough. (By the way, don’t be fooled into thinking these old communications channels have gone away!)

So when it comes to developing an effective social media strategy one of the first questions you have to ask is: where do I start?

A recent CIPR webinar I participated in around public affairs and social media offered some reassuring thoughts for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the web.

Delivered by pr, social affairs and corporate communications specialist Stuart Bruce the webinar offered a powerful analysis on the impact social media is having on all aspects of public affairs. Whether it’s businesses looking to protect their reputations or policy makers looking to develop effective initiatives the world of social media is transforming the way we operate.

Bruce’s take was refreshing and reassuring: a lot of what’s out there on the internet doesn’t matter, he concludes. The trick is identifying what does matter and focusing your attention on that.

“You have to shrink the space down and focus on the bits that matter to you,” says Bruce. “Monitor those that can have the biggest impact on your business.”

In a crisis management situation or if your corporate reputation is at risk you have to show you’re doing something, that you have an action plan in place and are taking steps to promote your stance on an issue.

Stuart cited the ‘Dell Hell’ customer service fiasco which hit the computer giant recently and which threatened to become a public relations disaster. The approach to crisis management in the age of social media was to rank the conversations which were taking place and decide which were worth taking action on.

“It’s about deciding what’s worth taking action on – and which are the things you don’t want to take action on or which things may be counterproductive to do so,” adds Bruce.

That’s a fine art surely and isn’t something which can be done by a computer alone. Monitoring social media, and responding to it, is a nuanced, subjective, and delicate task. All of which puts pr and communications professionals in a great position to deliver in this area.

Making sure your point of view is the one that’s understood first is essential, argues Bruce. And at the heart of it all has to be great content that’s emotive and personal but also targeted and relevant. There, not so scary after all is it?

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