Will Traditional, Social Media Blend?

As a veteran PR counselor specializing in the creative marketing services space, I avidly track the evolution of media channels, especially the growing challenge that "social media" poses to "traditional media" for marketplace dominance.

When working to develop leadership positions for emerging companies, an understanding of which media will most profoundly impact one's reputation and positively influence prospective clients is key. So a radical shift in the media landscape poses new challenges to practitioners as they develop media relations campaigns designed to elevate clients to industry spokes-company status.

The Big PR Question

The big PR question of the day is how to design and target programs in such a challenging communications environment. Should one focus on social media first, or exclusively stick with traditional media and its recognized "credibility" factor, or strive to balance the two? In almost all cases, I would recommend a blend.

According to new research by Ad-ology Research, small business owners say the benefits of social networking are lead generation, keeping up with the industry, and monitoring the online conversation about their business. "Social media optimization" -- how to maximize the impact of social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube -- in that rank order) is obviously a key communications/marketing concern.



Ad-ology's study continues, reporting that SBOs get the social media message and hope to engage customers in new ways in 2010. Twenty-eight percent say they plan to spend more on online video in 2010, up 75% over last year; 25% say they will increase their social networking spend; 21% plan to commit more resources to mobile advertising. However, e-mail marketing continues to be the most popular online tool for small businesses -- and why not, since it reaches the targeted individual directly.

But before you commit the bulk of your marketing spend and investment of executive time to social media, consider a few facts. The impact of social media is still largely unmeasured, and the ecology is potentially dangerous to reputation or budget -- witness the fall from grace of MySpace and Friendster. Since social media is the uncensored "people's media," agencies that make a living off their creative intellectual capital must carefully navigate these turbulent waters without throwing up mud storms of criticism from critics and competitors.

Blending Media Approaches

The most productive PR path, in my humble opinion, is still a blended approach to social and traditional media. In fact, traditional media coverage in atoms and ink publications, or digital hybrids like MarketingDaily, provides the material to drive social media campaigns -- i.e., one needs something to Tweet about, to post on Facebook and LinkedIn and to email. We have found that a synergistic use of social and traditional media is highly productive. In fact, the most effective reputation-building campaigns begin with coverage in traditional media, move into social media channels and go viral across the blogosphere and Tweetmemes.

Here's a quick overview of a typical scenario.

Reach out to traditional media on- and off-line, including blogs, with story ideas and columns. When an article, feature story, review or bylined column is published, maximize its exposure by quickly Tweeting the link and posting it across your social networks. Enlist your inner circle to comment on the article, rate it and link it to the Diggs, Stumbled and Delicios of the online world.

Move on the email marketing. First, be sure that your marketing database is updated and in an easily manageable application. Then design an email template, with company logo and all links and contact points included. On publication day, which is rarely a surprise, write some snappy, insightful (and short) copy highlighting the key points and embed the link to the article.

Internal distribution Share the column with your staff. Print some hard copies to hang in the john and leave in the reception area. Ask the staff to spread the word.

The company Web site Post an abstract to the article in the Company News section, with the embedded link. Post it to the Company Blog. Answer any comments that are posted.

Email Signatures Distribute the news to your daily contact network through the valuable and underutilized signature white space. Simply embed a version of your Tweet copy with a hyperlink after your name.

Business Cards To come full circle, it may be time to reprint your business cards with the addition of your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media URLs.

Surely there are many more ways to spread reputation-building news throughout the social media space and into the search engines and directories. What's most important is the recognition that both "old" and "new" media can play productive roles in elevating a company's standing and generating business leads in 2010.

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