Social Media Strategies A P r o p o s a l f o r t h e P R S A N C C The Marketing and Public Relations Committee Prepared by Mary Fletcher Jones with the assistance of Samantha Maslaney Introduction: Social Media Marketing The conservative Washington, DC area business sector is not known for its early adoption of the social media trends within the multi-billion dollar interactive marketing industry. However, the results associated with social media marketing are well known. How did Starbucks decide to promote its good corporate citizenship status? Through a podcast series. What did Nintendo do market Wii? They created a MySpace page. Why are Webkinz are so popular? Because they come with their own, custom- designed social network. What did Doritos do to create an unforgettable Super Bowl commercial? They hosted a contest for the best, user-generated online video. The amateur commercial was produced for a budget of twelve dollars, and was named the best ad of 2007 by USA Today, generating millions in earned media. The decision to employ cost-effective social media marketing is a “no-brainer” decision for many businesses and nonprofit organizations. Acceptance of Social Media Among DC Communicators The first question to consider when employing a new marketing strategy is whether it will appeal to target audiences. To determine the potential acceptance level of social media applications among PRSA-NCC members, the Marketing Committee reviewed the online content of ten local groups, including PRSA-NCC (see chart). Of the organizations reviewed, the DC Ad Club uses the greatest number of social media utilities, while IPRA uses the fewest. DC Ad Club is the sole organization to incorporate video in its blog. DC Ad Club also features a weekly poll on its homepage, which is an easy way to encourage and receive member feedback. Almost all of the organizations send an e-mail newsletter to their members. The Committee believes social media strategies would be well accepted by the technologically savvy members of the PRSA- NCC. Supporting Board Goals Through Social Media Marketing The second factor to consider about a proposed new marketing strategy is whether the strategy will support the organization’s goals. The Marketing and Public Relations Committee has been tasked with meeting three objectives in 2008. These include 1. Launch activities to attract and retain chapter members. 2. Increase media coverage about PRSA-NCC, its chapter leadership, and its activities. 3. Develop partnerships with other communications organizations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area Creating and implementing a social media strategy will help meet these objectives. The benefits associated with social media marketing include enhanced awareness for an organization and its goals through improved SEO for the website and other online content. Social media helps impart a personalized and friendly tone to PRSA-NCC, which will help attract and retain members. Finally, adapting these social media techniques will allow the Chapter to nimbly cross-promote itself and its activities with other communications organizations. Importantly, while social media marketing requires planning and effort, it is very inexpensive. Email marketing is widely used and is an effective marketing tool for PRSA-NCC, but because email communications will increasingly face the challenge of SPAM blockers as ISPs become more aggressive about blocking commercial email to their users, the Committee advocates for the use of media marketing (in addition to email) to communicate news and promote events. Typical Objections About Social Media Marketing When social media marketing tactics are discussed, several objections tend to be raised. The most common objections and the Committees solutions are listed below. Objection 1: Making our information available on social media sites (such as blogs) will cannibalize the exclusive content we offer our members. With the free availability of informative content on the Web, all membership organizations are struggling with the challenge of creating value for its members’ dollars. The fact is, however, that members can and will find alternative free content on the Internet. The SEO benefits and public awareness value of making online content, such as podcasts and blogs, freely available to the public outweighs the modest financial gains provided by keeping the content exclusive to members. Objection 2: Someone will say something negative about PRSA-NCC and it will “live” on the web. In weighing this risk, it is important to consider that the PRSA-NCC is a well-organized organization of enthusiastic supporters, and that the benefits of making social media applications available to members far outweigh the impact of a few negative comments or reviews. Blogs, for example, work best when they are unmoderated and self-policing by its contributors. The chances are that most comments will be positive or neutral, and that other commenters will address any truly unsupported and unreasonable comments. In addition, dissatisfied comments present an opportunity rather than a threat. Negative opinions that would otherwise be expressed offline are brought into the open, where the organization can address them (either online or offline). Objection 3: Someone will post advertising/self-promoting content, or libelous, insulting, or defamatory content. An unmoderated blog or other social media content site should post a TOS (Terms of Service) that explains that these kinds of comments will be deleted. The most probable challenge is posts from those promoting business services. If this is done in a way that is irrelevant or distracting, that user can be warned or even blocked from the site. Objection 4: Someone will post SPAM. One reason why most leading companies are using social media sites with great success is that social media sites (such as WordPress) employ SPAM-blockers and other utilities that prevent SPAM from being posted. Objection 5: It will take too much time. It takes very little time to set up social media sites and they are virtually self-maintaining afterwards. Users will also provide content (comments, photos, and videos). Announcing events on Facebook and a blog are additional efforts, but these efforts also promote revenue-generating attendance and memberships. The Case For A PRSA-NCC Blog Nearly every journalist blogs, or read blogs. News media such as CNN, USA Today, and the Washington Post allow its audiences to submit comments, news stories, photos, and video. Many communicators who belong to the PRSA-NCC publish their own blogs on public relations topics (e.g., the Fletcher Prince Blog, the Capital Buzz). Blogs are one of the best ways to increase the SEO of the PRSA- NCC website and achieve increased visibility for the chapter and its leadership. Blogs also present an easy and free way to promote PRSA-NCC events, publish polls, and share photos and video. The Marketing Committee believes that a blog would be well-supported by the membership, and recommends that the PRSA-NCC publish a branded WordPress blog with unmoderated content focused on public relations-related topics. The blog should be linked to the PRSA-NCC website. The Case for A PRSA-NCC Facebook Page The leading social networks -- Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn -- are all excellent social media sites for the PRSA-NCC. The Marketing Committee particularly recommends creating a Facebook page for the Chapter. Face book’s user base grew 162% last year, compared to MySpace’s 5% growth. Other local DC organizations are on Facebook, and having a page on Facebook will permit PRSA-NCC to “befriend” other DC Communications organization and maximize cross-promotional opportunities. The ability to create “events” on Facebook will allow the PRSA-NCC to promote its revenue- generating programs to other groups, as well as PRSA-NCC’s individual “friends.” The Case for PRSA-NCC Online Video and You Tube Channel Video production and sharing is a compelling way to communicate key messages about PRSA-NCC. Posting short, informative, and entertaining video on a PRSA- NCC-branded YouTube “Channel” is an inexpensive and effective way to promote the chapter. It also provides a simple way to embed video on the PRSA-NCC site, or share with online newsletters, such as the Capitol Communicator. Embedding video in a blog increases SEO for the PRSA-NCC website, since it provide opportunities for backlinks, tagging, and social bookmarking. The Case for Photo Sharing Sites The Marketing and Public Relations Committee believes the PRSA-NCC website is its most important and visible communications tool, and that it requires the greatest investment of resources and effort from the Chapter. One important improvement to consider is enhancing the visual appeal of the PRSA-NCC website. Creating a positive emotional response and a distinct brand image on the home page is achieved with compelling copy that conveys key messages and member benefits, appealing photographic images, and professional graphic design intended for the chapter’s target audience. The committee recommends the following improvements: • Creating a professionally designed logo specific to the Chapter. • Creating a graphic design of the website that appeals to the chapter’s target audiences. • Making the Chapter “widget” Mac-accessible. • Presenting alt-tagged images and photos on the home page. • Associating a blog with the site. • Embedding video on the site. • Updating the photo gallery, using third party applications, if required (such as Slide or Flickr), including chapter logos and insignia. • Presenting a more prominent link to the photo gallery. Creating Chapter-branded pages on photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Slide will enable the chapter to easily and inexpensively feature and share photos on its website, the proposed blog, in email communications, and in other ways. The Case for a PRSA-NCC Podcast PRSA-NCC has already explored some aspects of podcasting by making podcast episodes available to members and non-members for a fee. However, the podcasts “live” only on the PRSA-NCC website. The Marketing Committee believes that the benefits of producing podcasts, and making podcasts publicly available at no cost, far outweigh the benefit of any minimal revenue that may be obtained by charging for the podcasts. One way that podcasts could support Board goals, for example, is to feature interviews with Chapter leaders, which would help raise their profiles and would promote awareness of Chapter goals. Typically, podcasts are free to listeners. If the PRSA-NCC podcasts were freely available, they could be posted on iTunes and other major podcast directories, greatly enhancing the image and reach of PRSA-NCC. Audiences could then easily download and share this content by email, or embed it on their websites and blogs. This is the true social media spirit of podcasting. If there is a fear that the making the content of the podcasts freely available would cannibalize future registrations for workshops and seminars, the podcasts could feature excerpted content, or be released six months to one year after the workshop or conference date. This is a typical solution employed by other conferences and organizations that wish to make their workshop content available by podcast.
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