September 18, 2011
Let Uniqueness, Users and Usefulness PR Your Online Campaigns
“Let’s hire an intern or recent college grad to do our social media!”
For small and medium sized businesses this seems like a smart and cost-effective idea, mainly because many believe that social media is a necessary evil that the younger crowd “gets.” But, this plan goes in the wrong direction since social media is rapidly becoming the number one PR tool for businesses, and as such, requires a smart and effective PR strategy that focuses on the uniqueness, users and usefulness of the company.
The Case of “Love Simple”
Let’s take a look at the story of a small film whose own use of the three “U’s” translates successfully to a small/mid-sized business. “Love Simple,” a small, low budget film appeared at several festivals, received a nice review in the industry trade Variety, and then after rejections by film distributors to pick-up the film, it was about to run out of gas, until a social media campaign stepped in!
Every business has a unique aspect; however, sometimes the uniqueness is not overtly evident. For example, most claim to be the “best software solution” or the “best service in town,” but these are tired marketing slogans that do not highlight uniqueness. Perhaps there’s one small, niche element that sets these apart? For example, the software’s myriad offerings might include something trend-setting (a tax office management software that includes a differentiating client portal), or for service, maybe it’s an element of that service (the only bank in town that is open on Saturdays). In other words, don’t try to “sell” the whole package, but find that one morsel that might be unique!
For “Love Simple” that uniqueness was only evident after a PR/social media team examined the film and discovered that the lead actress portrayed a lupus patient. After the team investigated, it was determined that this portrayal was indeed the first of its kind in the film industry; thus, the filmmakers were presented an opportunity to virally reach an audience that the film would most resonate with – lupus survivors and their family and friends. Once the uniqueness aspect had been identified, then it was time to translate that to Facebook postings, and blogger/media outreach.
Too often, social media activity for many businesses consists of simply posting links to articles and videos that might relate to that business on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Likewise, PR activity is usually defined as the antiquated preparation of a press release that is arbitrarily distributed to the masses, or posted, again to Facebook and Twitter pages. How does any of this haphazard strategy stand a chance of personally connecting, or even being seen and/or read by the end-user?
First, relying on traditional media to promote a commercial product or service is not going to happen, because 99% of press releases or announcements just aren’t newsworthy, particularly to thinning newspapers and magazines; thus, the only and surest alternative is to engage social media bloggers and online influencers — but not by sending them press releases!
After you’ve determined your uniqueness factor, the next step is to studiously research relevant blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of those who would be directly affected, or interested in, the unique niche that you’ve selected. Take “Love Simple.” Rather than go the traditional route of having real world movie reporters and critics write about the film, the marketing strategy was tweaked to offer blogs and websites that covered lupus the opportunity to review the film. This strategy would enable the film’s core audience or end user (lupus survivors and their family and friends) the ability to hear about “the product” directly from someone they follow, relate to or get their information from. When the respective bloggers reviewed the film, links to the bloggers’ sites were placed on the film’s Facebook page, which helped highlight the review of the film and promote the blogger (a mutually beneficial trade-off since bloggers need PR too). Further, the link to the review was tweeted, always with the hash-tag #lupus so that those interested in lupus could learn about the latest review or news for the film.
Finally, press releases about activities around the film were rarely sent to bloggers; rather, carefully calibrated and customized personal pitches were tailored to each blogger, online writer and influencer. Indeed, it’s a time consuming strategy, but personalization pays off!
The kind reviews and blogger, Twitter and Facebook posts were useful in spreading word about the film. Further, the posts and tweets were useful in personally connecting to the “product” & to the end-user in a meaningful way; thus, the final component is making your product or service useful to a worthy and related cause or non-profit program.
Most businesses do support local and national organizations and charities, and while they’re noble gestures, the message the partnership sends might not parallel the unique niche or mission statement of the company. Case in point: a health and beauty spa touted its support of a women’s abuse shelter – a worthy cause; however, it might be more useful to support a local non-profit Yoga center that provides free services to those with physical and mental health conditions that require special attention – the niche message of healing, a staple of both Yoga and the spa, is supported through this endeavor.
For “Love Simple,” the useful cause program was, well, simple. The film works with both the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and the Lupus Research Institute by donating a portion of the proceeds from its iTunes and DVD sales. Again, the cause supports the unique lupus message of the film, and helps raise awareness and funds for the organizations. The organizations in turn, help promote the film on their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, particularly on special fundraiser initiatives revolving around special days (World Lupus Day) and programs (benefit screenings). Thus, the cause program is useful both to the film and the organizations. Further, lupus bloggers and online influencers are more receptive to products or services that are helping a cause they write and care about.
“U’s” Get It!
“Love Simple’s” social media campaign was a winner. The film’s successful social media campaign garnered nearly 700 quality Facebook fans, and almost as many Twitter followers (The old axiom “quality is better than quantity” holds true with Facebook fans and Twitter followers, but that’s a story for another time!). The film continues to be reviewed in scores of blogs worldwide, and as a result of the attention, “Love Simple” was prominently featured in a variety of publications including The Lupus Magazine, Ability Magazine, and on movie, women’s health, chronic illness and lupus blogs and websites around the globe. Subsequently, the film was able to sign that once elusive international distribution deal with a Hollywood agency.
Developing an impactful social media strategy involves supporting it with a thoughtful PR approach, something that interns or recent college grads might not be able to comprehend and implement. Other small and mid-sized businesses (and your competitors) increasingly recognize the strength and cost effectiveness of assigning their social media campaigns not to a neophyte, but to a strategic thinker. Moreover, they “get it,” realizing that social media, when handled properly and smartly, will put your business on the right road to PR success.
John Casey, a former public and media relations executive for Toys “R” Us, Sears and Kmart, is currently director of freshfluff: spread good stuff!, a PR/social media agency in New York. Read about freshfluff’s successful PR/social media campaign for a Michigan tax business in the latest issue of Taxpro Journal.