Inside the Profession PR Training

Trolling for Social Media Strategy

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The importance of strategy, versus just “starting a Facebook page,” cannot be oversold. In order to “follow your community” wherever it may go, as Kami said in her presentation, you need a strategy that encompasses all of the social networks, present and future.

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(Pre-Conference Session) Build Winning Integrated Social Media Campaigns: Look at Real-world Case Studies With Applicable Strategies
Presented by Kami Watson Huyse

Social media can be a scary place. There are “trolls” out there, the kind of folks that like to stir up trouble online, and they’re not living under bridges. They’re on Twitter and Facebook, and they’re blogging about your organization.

But the online space is also ripe with opportunity if you’re prepared.

In the world of social media, public relations professionals have been recast as the ombudsmen for our organizations. We must represent the voice of our publics inside of the company and become advocates for the community, customers and fans of the brand.

To fully embrace this role, we must focus on the communications strategy behind the tactics, and build our organizations up internally just as we build our Facebook pages, Twitter profiles and corporate blogs externally.

The importance of strategy, versus just “starting a Facebook page,” cannot be oversold. In order to “follow your community” wherever it may go, as Kami said in her presentation, you need a strategy that encompasses all of the social networks, present and future.

A solid strategy ties your online presence together and allows you to move quickly into new tools and tactics when they emerge online because your overall plan still applies.

Within your own organization, social media also requires a more nimble team that can act instantly when a crisis appears. You should identify members of your organization who would make great online ambassadors and assemble a cross-departmental group who understands the space to handle crisis situations.

In an emerging field like social media, it’s sometimes difficult to get buy-in from all of the gatekeepers within your organization. Even a well-researched strategy and crisis communications team may not be enough to convince stakeholders that it’s a worthwhile effort.

But you can pick your battles. Start with listening and monitoring the conversations online while documenting where a blog, a YouTube video, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page might have allowed you to respond to a crisis, reach out to an unsatisfied customer or get your message out ahead of a negative media mention.

With these concrete examples, specific to your organization, stakeholders will see the value of pushing forward with a social media strategy. Documenting these opportunities and winning the small battles will eventually win the war.

That’s a good thing, too. A world ruled by trolls could get pretty ugly.

Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck MediaBy Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck Media, a public relations technology provider and social media practice specializing in online newsrooms with clients including Ford, The New York Times, Southwest Airlines and Baylor Health Care System. Connect with Jacob on LinkedIn and on Twitter @jacobsloan.

For coverage of the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, visit our Conference blog or follow the conversation on Twitter at hashtag #prsa09.

About the author

Jacob Sloan


  • We’ve come up with three major buckets of stuff that just about all organizations need to consider, whether they are ready to jump into the social media pool or not:

    1. Develop a social media policy. Your organization may not be ready, but Fred down in sales has already made a fan page on Facebook. Be prepared to make sure that whatever is done is done according to your organization’s guidelines.

    2. Obtain your namespace. Make sure you’ve got the social media site user names that match your organization’s name, if ITS NOT TOO LATE!

    3. (and this aligns with what you wrote) – LISTEN! Ok, how about “monitor”. Google Alerts is tracking Twitter now – but if you want more horsepower, spend the money on a tool like Radian6.

  • Incorporating social media for public relations relates as much to marketing. The Internet blurs the definition between PR, promotion, marketing, and publishing. As a design professional who creates “brands that you fan,” I have some additional suggestions for those integrating social media into communication campaigns:
    1. Use modular creativity. The brand needs to be flexible enough to adapt, carry through, and unify all the different forms of delivery.
    2. Building organization internally menas building a process that can be sustained: schedules, meansurements, momentum, and resources.
    3. Make sure one form feeds into and makes relevant the others with a cohesion or progression. What is the final goal? For my blog, it points to my articles, which point to my books that are for sale.
    4. Prioritize. Participate where your audience or prospects are most active. Rather than use social media, searches, etc., for personal interest, focus your time on what will help your business. Don’t become distracted or seduced.
    We are all still learning how to make business sense of these expanded vehicles. It is easy to waste time. And all of it is time consuming. Where are you taking time from? Unless used to enhance business, it can detract. Make sure to keep your focus.
    Liane Sebastian, designer, editor, author,

  • @dragonsearch:

    Those three are great steps to take, even if your organization isn’t engaging in social media yet. I’m glad you mentioned policy. Incorporating social media into your employee policies is a critical first step. If nothing else, adding a note or two about social media in the company policy reminds employees that the company policy applies online just as it does offline.

    @Liane Sebastian

    There are certainly marketing considerations when you begin a social media campaign. While, in most cases, public relations should “own” the program, it should not be without assistance from the other departments.

    That said, your final two suggestions could be less important to some organizations. If your goal in entering into social media is to enhance customer service, for example, it won’t be as critical to funnel fans and friends towards one particular domain. Sure, every organization wants to point customers to its own Web site, but you could be content interacting on one social media hub without pulling users to another location.

    And even though it is more efficient to concentrate on the social media networks your audience uses the most, organizations should not neglect experimenting with new and emerging networks. I believe you should constant be exploring and creating outposts on the latest platforms to stay ahead of the curve and stay fresh.

    As you said, time is always a factor, but investing in these new networks and new technologies can be time well spent.

  • I really appreciate the mention of strategy before “just making a Facebook page” emphasized in this post. There are so many times I’ve worked with clients and they have wanted to create social networking sites before they even thought about what they wanted to put online and who they were trying to reach.

    Even as a student I continuously recognize the need to perform background research and target messages to the right audiences.

    Over and over I learn to always think of strategies before implementing tactics. As I progress, the more and more I realize my professors and mentors were very right.

    Thanks for the post. It was a great ready and very helpful.

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