I’m so pleased this week to interview one of my personal superheroes, Shonali Burke.
She’s a “social PR” strategist who was named to PRWeek’s first “top 40 Under 40” list, the first list of 25 Women That Rock Social Media; and who founded and continues to curate the popular #measurePR hashtag and Twitter chat. She’s the owner of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.
Shonali is going to be offering a free mini-training to share some of her secret sauce, so I thought it would be great to have her answer some teaser questions here at Successful Blog. We could all use some help with PR, right?
How do you define “social PR”?
The classic definition of PR is the discipline that “builds and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between and organization and its publics” – that’s the *real* P in PR, not the imposter, “publicity.” Now, for decades publicity was the best way to get attention, and that awareness was the springboard for inquiries, additional marketing, sales, etc.
But if you’re actually going to build relationships with your “publics” – your audiences – you’re going to have to find ways to consistently engage with them. Social technologies allow you to do that in a way we never could before; it’s remarkable. I mean, just last week my website went down, and I was able to get BlueHost’s attention more quickly on Twitter than through their live chat!
So “social PR” harnesses the power of social technologies and platforms to help organizations build these relationships with their publics. This translates into a lot of online community-building, which is hard work (as you know), but the results can be incredible. Because if you can motivate your communities to start telling your story for you, isn’t that far more believable than you harping on it yourself?
What are some key mistakes that people make when trying to do social PR on their own?
First, I think a lot of companies (large and small) don’t realize they can’t just create social media accounts and blast information out at people. A press release will do that just fine. So there’s a lack of understanding of what it takes to have a regular conversation online. I find that a bit strange because they’re just fine talking to you offline!
Second, not actually listening to what people are saying, either about them, or their competitors, or their space. If you don’t do that, I don’t see how you can set a benchmark and ultimately gauge the success or failure of your campaigns and work.
Third, they’ll silo the various areas of communication as if they’re stocking their granaries for the winter. Social PR is by its very nature fluid and integrated (as business communications should be). While you must absolutely have some structure, you also need flexibility, because the mediums you’re working in are changing all the time.
At what point does a small business owner need to call in a pro for PR?
The minute she can afford it. Truly, though I know you probably think I’m biased. But honestly – I’m wearing my own small business owner hat as I say this.
Unless you run a PR shop of some sort, your business is not PR. Your business is selling widgets, or distributing refrigerators, or knitting shark blankets, or selling online community software. Even if you have a knack for communications, and many many business owners do, ultimately any time you’re *not* spending on activities that grow your business is money you’re throwing down the drain.
Unless you’re exceptionally handy, you wouldn’t try to learn how to install a new roof on your home just so you could replace it in 30 years. So why would you not hire a PR pro to do what they do well, so that you can focus on what you do well?
How do you best leverage community to help spread the word about your product or service?
I heard a three-word mantra a long time ago that I often use: Educate, Cultivate, Motivate. This is how organizations *should* approach it; but most of the time they instead jump straight to Sell. That just doesn’t work.
You have to spend time becoming a part of a community, listening, engaging, curating, sharing. Do for everyone else before you ask them to do for you. Then, when you have enough community “change” in your bank, you can make your ask – but not before.
What’s your favorite social listening tool that won’t break the bank?
Talkwalker Alerts. I would have said Google Alerts, but they’re pretty unreliable these days, which is disappointing.
What sparked you to create this course?
The best part of my job is when I’m able to help clients, students, people who attend my workshops, see what a joy social PR is. When that light goes off in their eye, that’s what makes my heart sing.
I got tired of seeing so many, many smart folk flounder when it comes to smart social PR strategy & implementation; not because they’re not smart, but because they don’t have the right coach to guide them.
I’m ultimately a teacher at heart. So I figured taking this online was the best way to share my joy with as many people as possible, and give back to an industry that has given so very much to me.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Shonali!
Click here to sign up for Shonali’s free mini training course, The Social PR Launchpad: Unleash Your Inner Social PR Superhero.
Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee