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The new rules of engagement

This is article is the second of a two-part series with Ryan Zuk on social media and the impact on public relations.

Since the beginning of the buying and selling of goods, marketers, organizations and communicators have been trying to figure out how to most effectively reach their audience. For decades it was the one-way street of advertising then organizations began to realize the power of mainstream media and public relations.

Though traditional forms of media are still powerful, many are cutting back coverage and have been losing relevancy with certain audiences. Does this transformation of mainstream media shrink the number of opportunities for organizations to share their message? Will social media and other online outlets present greater opportunities?

“The Web gives an audience of enormous proportions, which is made up of many niche groups that communicators can identify, research, target and communicate (collaborate) with,” said Ryan Zuk, APR. “We may for instance reach a smaller audience on a traditional online media placement yet, with social networking, social bookmarking etc., and since traditional media is incorporating social aspects too, the ability to share the original piece further out to the world can amplify the message.”

Online outlets are becoming more trusted and relevant messengers, and simultaneously proving to be more influential. They afford communicators the opportunity reach highly targeted audiences in a space they have opted to be a part of, resulting in deeper relationships and brand loyalty.

“Even before a good media placement potentially spreads across the social Web, many product and service messages that reach a smaller but more targeted audience are likely to generate more meaningful results,” Zuk said. “The maturity of social networking within niche audiences will help further prove this out.”

Through social media, communicators also have the opportunity to become content creators or their own news hubs.

“There is certainly an opportunity now to cover ourselves, so to speak – creating hubs for your organizations and clients is certainly wise if you’re not already doing this,” Zuk said. “Maybe it’s a blog for some, an online newsroom for others, or perhaps an online customer community functioning as the central information hub. I do think there is good reason to post our information both to our own social hubs as well as in outside forums accordingly. Each forum benefits from acknowledging, supporting and promoting the other.”

As valuable as social media is, it does come with a few important caveats, one of which is contributing to the conversation in an informative and relevant way rather than pushing a one-sided sales pitch. Communicators new to social media should go in with a plan.

“I suggest outlining and prioritizing your goals, initially focusing on the top one or two,” Zuk said. “What is your value proposition? Who needs to hear it and what action do you want them to take? What is your dream headline and in what publication or blog? Start with reasonable objectives and build an online presence that targets this audience and the media that covers it with sharp, original content. Be sure to bridge virtual with reality too. Meeting people face to face at conferences, networking events and lunches, etc. still has the most impact in my opinion. Creating your presence and getting it circulating is the main thing. Awareness creates opportunities.”

Ryan Zuk can be reached on Twitter: @ryanzuk or via his blog: Zuk also authors a monthly Digital Dialogue column for PRSA Tactics.

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