“No sensible business person can ignore the marketing and promotional opportunities provided by Internet technology” is the sage advice in Entrepreneur magazine’s “Public Relations Made Easy.” The rise of this electronic influence, particularly within the last two years, can be attributed to the so-called social media, which offers two benefits, according to publicist and author David Carriere. “On the one hand,” he wrote, “they offer content and the opportunity to place and position a product for editors to cover and review; and on the other hand, they also allow the average reader the opportunity to post comments and to actually contribute to the content.”
LinkedIn, Google and Yahoo are just starting points, but it’s obvious that PR’s growing embrace of the social media parallels the seemingly unstoppable growth and influence of Twitter and Facebook, both originally viewed as nothing more than social networking among young people. Not any more. Now these, along with the ubiquitous blogs, have already proven themselves to be inexpensive PR tools as demonstrated in a Wall Street Journal report published last September. The article examined how small businesses found Twitter to be very effective communication sources for everything from supply notices to crises. One example was an Indianapolis hardware store owner who “tweets” customer service information.
Sydney Ayers, the chair of PRSA’s Counselor Academy, sees Twitter and other social media as valuable and inexpensive marketing, especially during the down economy. Ayers noted the difficulties faced by companies that stopped all PR and advertising in the wake of the 9/11 attacks only to find themselves falling “in a hole” as society returned to normal. “That’s the lesson – it’s a better and less expensive way to keep brand awareness and visibility out there,” Ayers said, cautioning, however, that social media should be seen as a “true communication strategy” and not simply an “add-on tactic.”
In fact, social media along with corporate blogs, webinars and even podcasts are other useful PR approaches that go beyond the established media to help generate leads in a time of limited budgets.