In a world full of noise, the amount of work a PR professional must deploy to help their company’s brand stand out may seem almost daunting.
How can you possibly fight with the likes of Apple and Nike and their legions of fans?
It’s not necessary to fight any brand out there, you just have to find your tribe.
You must find those people who believe in your brand and are willing to become its devoted fans.
The advent of social media has brought an unprecedented gift to all of us.
Communication is no longer a one-way street.
Now brands can connect and communicate directly with their audiences.
They can find out from the “source” what their audience thinks, expects, and wants from them.
No more guessing who read your news release or saw your ad in a publication.
The PR professional’s role is now more important than ever.
We can now connect with a brand’s target audience on a personal level.
We can listen to them and make them feel important just by being heard.
It’s up to us to create a bond between the brand and its audience and help build a community.
I would argue this is the best time in public relations’ history.
Building Engagement Around Your Company’s Brand
Everyone wants it, but not every brand knows how to interact with its target audience in a way that keeps them interested and motivates them to take action.
Not to mention, monitoring, and measuring that engagement.
Building engagement and communities around a brand is not an easy task.
Many brands have forgotten what social even means.
They erroneously think being on social media means spamming your audience with “me, me, me” messages.
Jason Mollica, adjunct professor at American University and President of JRM COMM, recently said:
If you truly want to make an impact on social networks, actually be social. Talk to your network and listen to what people are saying.
Yet, many brands fail to see what a fantastic gift social media is.
It can help you build a community around your mission.
It’s the fastest way to receive feedback on your products and services.
And it’s the best way to create legions of dedicated fans who will build loyalty around your brand.
That said, how do you build a community?
How do you monitor engagement on your brand’s social channels?
Where do you start?
Building Engagement Starts with Your Employees
As a PR professional, your mission is to build an army of loyal fans for your brand and it must start with your own internal brand advocates—employees.
Talk to people in each department about your brand’s values.
Listen to what they have to say. Learn what drives them.
Why are they passionate about the brand?
What do they like? What would they change?
How do they talk about the company outside of the office? How about in social media?
Research and find those fans inside your company because if you want to win the outside world, starting from within, with the people who best know the brand, is a must.
Your company’s employees, team members if you like, are an amazing source of information.
By listening to their opinions and putting them into practice, something wonderful will happen.
Their belief in the brand and its leadership team will grow stronger.
They’ll become advocates outside office hours.
They will passionately spread the message and bring others on board.
You now have the starting point you needed.
Listen to the Outside World
Now that brand ambassadors within your organization are spreading the word, it’s time to spread the message beyond your company walls.
How do you get prospects and your target audience interested in your brand and what it stands for?
Social media is a powerful tool if used wisely.
Listening on social media is key for its success in building a loyal, engaged following.
That’s why your work as a PR professional at this stage is crucial.
Listen to how people, competitors, and employees talk about your brand.
But, what should you be listening for and what do you do with that information?
What to Listen For
You should be aware when someone mentions your brand’s name, whether in a positive or negative way.
To do that, create alerts with your brand’s name, your CEO’s name, and board members’ names, if necessary.
Regularly search for your brand’s name on social media.
Look at the most recent results, but review older results as well.
Next, search your competition on social media.
How do people talk about them?
Are they present on social media at all? Do they respond?
If so, how? Are they friendly, helpful? Or do they lecture their readers?
All this information will help you make an informed decision on how to move forward with your brand’s communication and approach.
Now that you have the information, what do you do with it?
You know how your brand is viewed on social media, how your brand’s employees and prospects talk about it, and you also know what your competition is doing differently.
It’s time to set goals, the PR metrics needed to measure the success your goals and get to work.
You’re an expert in building engagement and relationships, put those skills to work.
Engage with people on a one-to-one basis, and also on a one-to-many basis.
Answer every comment, like, or share your brand receives on its social channels, but don’t stop there.
Actively search for the most engaged fans and talk to them, comment on their posts, send them direct messages to ask how you (your brand) can help them, what they would like to see more of, etc.
Take that feedback and discuss it with corresponding departments (e.g., marketing, customer service) inside your company.
Don’t shy away from negative comments.
Find out what’s behind them.
Are they unhappy with your company’s customer service?
Or maybe with a product they purchased?
Whatever it is, find out more and go the extra mile to solve the problem.
Move communication to private email (preferably), or direct messaging on their preferred social channel.
Keep them informed throughout the process, while coordinating with your internal team.
Directly engaging with your audience sends a very clear message: Your company cares about them.
They are important and matter to you.
People like to be heard, and as Gini Dietrich says:
People want to do business with people they like.
Investing in building engagement on your brand’s social media channels is investing in your community and loyal fans.
It’s an investment in your brand, period.
This was originally posted on Nasdaq MarketInsite – thought leadership blog.