To kick off her remarks to an audience of PR and communications pros at Ragan Communications’ PR and Social Media Summit in Chicago, Arment Dietrich CEO Gini Dietrich had a question: “When your parents ask you what you do for a living, what do you say?”
She got a ton of answers back, including getting into the newspaper, building relationships, creating content, reputation management, crisis communications, and even travel.
That alone proved her point that PR pros wear a lot more hats now than they did just a few years ago, when their job was to work with journalists who often stayed at the same media outlets for years.
What PR professionals are not, Dietrich said, is what so many people like to call them: “spin doctors.” That’s why she dropped the abbreviation “PR” out of her company description and “the conversation completely changed.”
“Technology has completely changed the way we do our jobs,” she said. “We have to learn new skills.”
Dietrich expounded on four of those skills:
1. Hyper-targeted media and blogger relations
“Bloggers and PR professionals do not get along,” Dietrich said.
And why not? Blame it on mass emails. Those are simply spam, she said.
“We’re all busy people,” Dietrich said, but taking the time to send a few targeted, researched pitches works 100 percent of the time. It’s better to email 10 bloggers and get 10 posts than email 1,000 and get none, she said.
It’s all about understanding a blogger’s goals, she added. Every blog has an “about” page. PR pros have to read those, then read the blog to make sure what you’re pitching fits the audience. It’s extra work, but it’s worth it.
PR pros also should know they don’t control the story, just as when they pitch to a newspaper. The writer owns it. However, lots of blogs accept guest posts, she noted.
2. Content marketing and search optimization
Do a Google search for “managing an online crisis,” and the top three results point to an article Dietrich wrote on the topic. Dietrich made that happen in a few ways. For one, she included the key phrase “managing an online crisis” in the text three or four times.
More important, she posted it to Google+. That’s the place to boost your search results, she said.
“Make sure you use your key phrase in your post or your description on Google+,” Dietrich said. You can even Google your key phrase a few hours after the article is posted to see how it’s working, she added.
Beyond that, you can use other content options—white papers, e-books, webinars, blogs, etc. —to attain emails that you can share with your sales department, tying what you do directly in with sales. E-books are a good way to tell if clients are serious, too. Send them a link to an e-book and monitor their reading. If they’re not reading, or they stop when they get to a section about pricing, they’re probably not interested.
3. Issues and crisis management
When Applebee’s fired a waitress who had tweeted a picture of a non-tipping customer’s receipt, the company was following its policy of not revealing customer names publicly. Instead of saying that frankly, however, the person who ran the company’s Facebook account copied-and-pasted a statement to reply to complaints.
“We have to be thinking about these kinds of things,” Dietrich said. “This is going to be a bigger, bigger part of your job as digital media continues to grow.”
That means having a crisis plan in place. It means counseling executives to go public on an issue before it becomes a crisis. You have to watch for red flags while distinguishing a troll from someone with a genuine gripe. If you can, become empowered to speak on behalf of the company via social media.
Most of all, she advised, let cooler heads prevail.
Tons of executives haven’t bought into social media. When Dietrich asked the audience whether their company executives were hesitant about it, most of the hands in the room went up. She then described a client that wants to be one of the “great companies of all time” but doesn’t want to be on Facebook.
That’s why you need metrics. Not just impression counts, either, which Dietrich said mean nothing. You have to track your content back to sales. “We become an investment instead of an expense,” she said.
Dietrich offered this formula: Team salaries + benefits x desired ROI ratio = goal.
If you can show your boss you’re earning your keep and making a measurable ROI, you can become that investment, she said. How? Include product links in your blog posts. Try using white papers.
Also, be creative. PR pros can’t keep thinking of themselves as non-creative types, Dietrich said.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.