Premium or Unleaded? A Guide to Good, Old-fashioned PR in a Social Media World

By Amanda Williams, Account Executive, Branigan Communications,

It’s 5 p.m. and 10 below on a Wednesday evening. You bundle up, leave the office and start the car. You exit the parking lot and your gas light turns on. Undeterred, you head to your local station, pull up to the pump and turn the ignition off. You roll down the window and call out, “Fill ‘er up, please,” to the station attendant. “Premium or unleaded?” he asks.

Those were the days of unparalleled customer service. It’s a rarity in today’s fast-paced world. It’s also becoming increasingly extinct in the PR industry. Between tweeting and friending, texting and e-mailing, PR has evolved from a snail-mail pace to a buzzing social media sprint. Who has the time to waste on good, old-fashioned PR techniques and exceptional client service? The answer should be you.

To create a successful marketing campaign today, the traditional rules of full-service PR still apply, even amidst a myriad of Web-based communication vehicles. To help you manage industry trends without sacrificing your solid PR groundwork, I’ve provided a guide to five established best practices.

  1. Build Relationships: It’s easy to get caught up in texting or tweeting to communicate your message to friends or media. But these methods don’t always deliver the impact or personality needed to convey ideas appropriately. Taking the time to build relationships by picking up the phone or meeting in person will help you form a connection and trust with your client or target journalist. Listening and providing insightful feedback will position you as a trustworthy, dependable source for future projects.
  2. Become a Stellar Writer: Great writing seems to have taken a back seat to speedy information delivery. While there’s a benefit to getting your message across in a timely manner, there’s no substitute for well-written press materials. Carefully written strategic plans, news releases and e-mails using proper grammar and AP Style will convey your professionalism and attention to detail.
  3. Give your Clients Rock Star Service: It may seem like a given to provide your clients with great customer service but it takes intuition, patience and persistence to truly excel in this area. There are two key best practices to provide valuable customer service: one, listen to your clients’ needs; and two, follow through. Doing these two things underscores your commitment to providing the client with the kind of service that they thought was reserved for a 1950’s diner or gas station.
  4. Try Proactive Media Relations: If you’re using e-mail as the sole way to communicate with the media, you’re on a slippery slope. Though you may use e-mail for initial outreach, I cannot stress the importance of persistent follow-up phone calls. Following up is a great way to be proactive and set you apart from the clutter that inundates inboxes.
  5. Track your Successes: Even the most thorough strategic PR plans won’t amount to anything if they cannot be reconciled against the original business objectives. If your campaign does not move the bottom line the way it was intended, then it’s not an effective use of time and resources. Measuring the results of your PR efforts will help you determine what activity worked and what didn’t so you can make more informed decisions moving forward.

Though the landscape of the PR industry has changed, the foundation remains the same. Solid, traditional PR practices are at the heart of any new social media campaign and should remain the basis for all PR-focused marketing activity. When faced with hitting the send button on your next e-mail transaction, consider the difference a phone call or handshake would make. And when your client tells you to “fill ‘er up,” you can confidently smile and reply with, “premium or unleaded?”


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