Why Most Public Relations Firms Aren’t Great Social Media & Blogging Experts

By Li Evans

As a online marketer with a public relations background I get pretty fired up about Public Relations companies who think that Social Media and Blogging are just something they can incorporate into their “publicity” offerings without any experience in the online world. I’ve done public relations before, and I know what goes into it, I know how to make the contacts, I know how to approach media outlets, and I know how to maintain the clients message. I’ve run successful public relations campaigns for clients that included press releases, media spots, events for the press and events for the community, so it isn’t like I come at this from an online marketer’s perspective that only online marketers should do this type of work.

There are some very experienced public relations companies out there that fully understand and grasp the effect that online media has on a company’s name, brand, products and reputation. They’ve been able to make the transition from working offline, to truly understanding and working with online media outlets, which has a very loose definition. However, these public relations firms are very few and far between, and usually swamped because there are so few of them.

Then you have Public Relations firms who “think” they get it. Who claim they understand bloggers. Who think because they just hired this college graduate who has a Facebook page, that they can spin that into being able to map out a social media strategy for a client. Who think that bloggers are just another place to mass email their client’s press release too.

The key here is “don’t believe the hype“. Public relations firms are great at “SPIN“! It’s their job, it’s what they do best. But, trusting in that spin, when it’s not really true can cost your dearly when it comes to your online reputation. This is the reason you really need to investigate a public relations company’s strategies’ when it comes to online marketing. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Look At Their Own Website: Is it all about them? Does it even work right? Is it all in Flash? How did you find them in the first place? All of this comes into play in a big way. If they cannot translate what they do offline into online success for themselves, why would you even want to deal with them? If all they can promote was that they won this PR award or that PR honor, and it has nothing to do with online marketing, what does that tell you? Here are some key things to look at.
    • Does the site work properly?
    • Are they optimized for the search engines?
    • Is their site done in all Flash?
    • Is there site image heavy?
    • Is it all about the awards they’ve won?
    • Do they even have a blog?
  • Look At Their Company Blog: This is one key indicator that a public relations company understands bloggers, the community and social media. If they don’t even have a blog, you might want to find another company to work with to handle your online marketing efforts in the blogging and social media space. If they do have a blog, look at it closely. A serious down deep look at their own blog.
    • How long as it been in existence?
    • What kind of content does it have?
    • Is the content just press releases?
    • How often do they blog?
    • How many subscribers does it have?
    • Do they allow comments?
    • Is there much discussion going on?
    • Do they use social media promotion (Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.)?
  • Ask To See How the Contact Bloggers: This could get a little tricky, however, a good public relations company just like in the above example, should have no problem with this. They should be showing you that they establish a relationship with a blogger first. If they start pulling out numbers of bloggers they can contact – run, run very far away. If they start spouting “we can contact XXX bloggers with your information”, or they even mutter, “we can distribute your press release…” when you mention blogging or bloggers to them, its time to close up that briefcase and end the meeting.
  • Ask To See Success Stories: Don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see SEVERAL successful results. Ask for general information about their strategy. A public relations company who knows they are successful and has a great strategy in place for working in this space will have no problem showing you exactly what they did for other clients. The key is to understanding that if their approach for each client is unique in social media and blogging. If the public relations company shows you the same strategy over and over again, it’s time to move on.
  • Ask About Their Strategy For You: If they start saying “We’ll take the standard approach” or “We’ve done this a thousand times before for other clients”, stop and hang up the phone. Every client is different when it comes to social media. If you are a textile company and they start talking about Digg, honestly, it’s time to start looking at a company who recognizes each client has to be dealt with individually, there’s no “mass marketing plan” for social media and blogging.
  • Ask for References & Do Research!: Ask for references from clients they’ve worked with in the past on online media promotions when using social media or blogging. Now, just don’t take that references word for it either! You can do the research, just go to any search engine, or look at that client’s website and you can likely see the results. The online results will speak for themselves as to how successful the public relations company is.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype that because they are a public relations company they can handle your online marketing. This is serious business, it’s your name or your brand. It’s something you cherish with pride. The last thing you need is a blogger being mass emailed about your event, when that blogger has asked several times to be taken off your public relations company’s mass spam list they send out every press release they write to. It really doesn’t bode well for your chances the blogger will ever pay attention – other than to write you and email letting you know your public relations company really doesn’t know what they are doing when it comes to online media. I know, I just did that this morning!

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2 thoughts on “Why Most Public Relations Firms Aren’t Great Social Media & Blogging Experts

  1. Hi:
    Having read your blog, I’m hoping you can help me in identifying (for a client of mine) a good PR and/or website developer who can jazz up their website, specifically in the career opportunities area. That is not what our firm does, but I’m trying to network and identify potential professionals for them.
    Thank you for any assistance you can provide!
    Gail Koff

  2. I’m looking to do a one off press release about my new site, but finding it very hard to find a company, service that i think will do the job well. The problem is they all say they are great.

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