By Alyssa Hammond, Publicity Club of New England

In teaching my upper elective course, The Business of Social Media, at Bentley University, my students are charged with working on team corporate immersion projects – essentially they become social media PR strategists for their corporate or organizational partners they are teamed up with for the 14 week semester. Their primary objective is to assist their “clients” with developing their social media presence and content and a social media PR strategic plan based on the client’s needs and objectives. This is a great exercise for them, not only because they must implement what they are learning in class but they are required to work with clients much like an agency would, and experience the somewhat rocky road that may present itself when the client’s expectations are unrealistic when it comes to content, reach and approach. Here are some of the things that we discuss and they learn about in order to navigate the somewhat rough waters of social media PR with their clients:

1)      Identify Your Community/Buyer: Who is part of your client’s online community? What are their goals? Your product or service is secondary to what your client’s community needs or wants. If you can’t or don’t appeal to the community’s sensibilities and culture, they will not be responsive to you and your attempts to engage in conversation with them online. You need to not only walk their walk, but talk their talk – know their lingo, their etiquette,  their culture.

2)      Get To Know Them: So how do we get their 411? Read their publications, blogs and websites. Interview them.  Identify and research their influencers. Who is competing for their attention on line? The key is listening – if you listen to them, you can get all of this intel and more which can be critical to the success of your social media strategy. Content needs to be targeted to specific buyers, but one size doesn’t fit all – you most likely will have various sub communities living in different social media platforms that make up the whole.

3)      Embrace Your Citizen Journalists: Who is already talking about you, to you and to your community? Bloggers, podcasters and video bloggers are your best allies when trying to connect with your community because they have already established a credibility and rapport with them. If you embrace them, inviting them to have a meaningful dialogue with you and providing them with content and news before it is given to the rest of the world, it can go a long way in getting your message out to your community if it is backed and supported by their social media “gurus.”

4)      Be Clear, Simple and Articulate: The more you overelaborate your message, the more likely people won’t believe you because you sound like you are trying to sell something. Public Relations is just that –relating to the public, but in an organic way. People will find your message more sincere and credible if you are simple and authentic in your approach.

5)      Remember, People Don’t Care About Products/Services, they care about THEMSELVES: You should be using social media to solve their problems, not push your solutions – there’s a difference. Remember that your community only cares about themselves so if you can communicate with them in a way that you acknowledge their pain and then try to ease it, they will engage and connect with you more readily

6)      Don’t Talk Smack: Negativity doesn’t sell; it just makes you look petty and pandering.  Stay above the fray when you are criticized.  Do not be reactive but responsive but in a way that shows that you care about your customers and their problems to create a positive engagement. 

Alyssa S. Hammond, JD (@AyssaHammond) is an Adjunct Lecturer in the Information Design & Corporate Communications Department at Bentley University. To learn more, visit Bentley’s Career sites on Facebook and Twitter.

[This content originally posted on the Publicity Club of New England blog on November 21, 2013]