Pundits often have a nasty habit of wearing the grim reaper’s clothes; predicting the death of this and that to the profit of new “more effective communication approaches”. How many times have you read or heard that Public Relations was dead? Killed by the omnipresent and omnipotent social media. After all, we have to admit, it is a pretty tempting promise to bypass a third party (in our case the press) to reach out directly to your constituents. While I don’t disagree that social media is part of the communications landscape and that it has shaken up the PR profession, I would argue that, instead of killing the profession, it has made PR even more relevant. To quote America’s favorite marketing sweetheart Seth Godin: “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic”. And still, one of the best tools to build relationships is PR.
But over the years, for the PR professional, social media campaigns came to mean either of two things: managing a client’s social media (own media) or building hybrid marketing/communications campaigns. But the argument we want to make with this case study is that there can be different ways to utilize social media for a PR. Mainly utilizing social media as a means to create winning conditions for a traditional media campaign.
To illustrate how to harness social media in a different way, we want to present a case study about a campaign we successfully conducted in 2017.
We were approached by a health and fitness client who wanted to launch a product in a provincial market already saturated with similar offerings. The objective could not have been clearer: get visibility in traditional media. That was the only ROI accepted to ascertain the success of our PR campaign.
Before I enumerate the challenges facing our endeavor, let me restate the obvious. Challenges are to be welcomed and never feared. For challenges are actually an impetus to think more creatively. To find solutions by connecting different dots together.
In the case of our health and fitness product launch, here were our main challenges;
1-The local market is dominated by an extremely strong player who had recruited the help of many high-profile local influencers.
2-Traditional media in the province has very little space for health and fitness product news.
3-The client’s product only has a slight advantage over competitive brands.
To apply a cookie cutter strategy to our campaign would have been disastrous for the client. The obstacles were daunting enough to validate dedicating time to the search of novel ideas to tackle the challenge. From the get-go, it was clear that we needed to lay some sort of groundwork before doing a cold media outreach that we knew would not get traction. This is when we thought of using social media as a means and not an end. In other words, to use a salesman analogy, to use social media to turn a cold outreach to a warm one. This meant drawing up a pre-campaign.
Specifically, the strategy focused on:
1-Emphasizing the client’s differences,
2-Using colloquialism in dialogs with a targeted audience,
3-Leveraging social media to raise the level of awareness with reporters,
4-Have people and media experience the difference.
The process is actually simple and straightforward. It consists of two parts. One is creative, the other, more technical.
Finding the creative angle.
First, all member of the team needs to experience the product before the initial brainstorm.
The brainstorm consists of finding ideas on how to describe the product’s difference in writing and visually as it is customary on Facebook. The goal is not to stand out, but rather feed upon the social media style.
Build a targeted social media list.
This is the more technical part of the process. Here, you need to build a targeted list of reporters and lookalikes on social media. To do so, start by developing a shotgun email list of all media in a given geographical area. Use that list as a starting point to build a social media target list. In our case we used Facebook. You go to your Facebook business manager and select “Audiences” in “Assets”. Then click on create an audience and chose custom audience from customer file. Input your reporter’s list and Facebook will find the social handle of people on your email list. Out of maybe 1000 emails, Facebook might find 300 social handles. Once this list is built, use it as the basis to do a lookalike audience. Go back to “create Audience” and select this time “Lookalike Audience”. This whole process requires the use of Facebook business as opposed to the regular Facebook interface.
If you use the 5% lookalike audience you will easily be able to build a targeted list of hundreds of thousands of profiles to reach.
In this second step of the process, you have in effect built a targeted Facebook list to indirectly expose your message to the media of a particular geographical area. The goal is not to get social media ROI per say. The goal is to create targeted chatter within a community about a given subject.
Now that you have crafted your messaging and that you have your targeted Facebook list, next step is to deploy tactics that need to run for a month long to achieve what Facebook calls: “recall lift”. This is when someone’s exposure to a message is strong enough that it should be remembered for 2 days after exposure.
1- Craft 7 posts describing the client’s product and values. Have a maximum of 7 persons helping you out in posting your content on their Facebook wall. You should pace the posting once every two days.
2- Promote the 7 contents to your targeted Facebook list once every two days. Cap the exposure at once per day. Here you don’t need to spend a lot on daily promotions. 10$ per day will suffice.
3- After 15 days, analyze your results. Then pick the top 3 posts to push for the remaining days of the month.
4- The following month, reach out to a targeted list of reporters. Be specific. Just reach the relevant reporters based on their beats. Propose a trial of the client’s product.
When you are given a precise mandate as was the case with our health and fitness client, benchmarking is quite simple. Our client was looking for one thing: coverage in tier A and B traditional media. Giving anything else would have been in my mind “smoke and mirrors” to hide the failure of the campaign.
But internal benchmarking for the team meant two things:
1-How successful were we in exposing our client’s product to reporters
2-Was the messaging striking enough to generate a “recall lift”
The most simple and effective way to know was to ask directly the reporters in our follow-up calls. In our particular case, we had achieved 41% of reporters remembering reading about our client’s product.
We had envisioned success at 25 to 30% “recall lift”. In hindsight, generating 10% to 15% “recall lift” is a good benchmark. One that will definitely help you in your traditional media outreach.
To perform a pre-PR campaign on social networks, you will need three key people, but with three different skill sets. You will require the services of a social media specialists and PR professional.
A third person is necessary as a client manager.
The execution requires minimal investment from the client side, and it takes about 100 hours over the course of 6 weeks.
Was it perfect?
Someone said perfection is not of this world! I can’t recall who said it but I remember vividly my mother telling it to me numerous time!
If we had to redo it, we would definitely produce original visual assets instead of using official client’s assets. Since the campaign was based on disseminating information, in a colloquial manner, it would have been more convincing to use unaltered locally produced images.
And if we had a more substantial budget we would have asked more people to share our posts in our pre-PR campaign. This would have given our campaign a better chance of going viral and potentially have interested reporters reach out to us for information.
7 Best practices
— Use reporter’s databases to indirectly reach them as opposed to spamming every single one of them.
— Social media can be a PR professional ally if you use its powerful targeting features to warm-up your outreach.
— Images without logo work better if you are looking to opening up a dialogue about a brand.
— Make sure your initial list of reporters that you import on Facebook has at least 1000 emails. This will ensure a good sample size for Facebook to find social handles.
— Produce authentic images with people portrayed.
— Use a personal tone when writing.
— Always experience the client’s product before brainstorming.
At the end of our campaign, we were able to receive 14 press coverage for an MRP score of 3,5 million impressions.
We hope this case study, will convince PR professionals to leverage social media as a tool and not necessarily as a means to bypass media to reach directly the consumer.
5 steps to improve the success rate of your traditional PR campaign
Follow these 5 steps to use social media powerful targeting option to support your traditional PR campaign.
– Build a broad localized reporter’s list not based on beats,
– Input the list in Facebook to find the reporters social handle,
– Expand your target with lookalikes,
– Create content for a month-long campaign,
– Promote your content to your target list.
After completion of the month-long campaign, start a very targeted outreach to relevant reporters based on their beats. If your social media “pre-campaign” content was relevant and your targeting precise, you will have improved greatly reporter’s interest in your pitch.