PR Essays- Social skills

SPONSORED FEATURE - The brands that will thrive understand the best way in which to use digital and social media is to behave with the warmth, humour and friendliness of the people behind the brand

The new age of marketing isn't about social media. It's about social manners - and brands need a new kind of pub-lic relations to thrive.

Across a diverse client list,  teams at H&K keep getting asked the same question: ‘How should my brand behave in digital and social media?'

In answering this question, there is one truth that cuts across variables - namely, that brands should use digital platforms in the same ways, and with the same open heart, that people do. It is a simple secret, but complex to execute.

Here's why. Most companies (and marketing departments), are not used to having public conversations with people. Private conversations via the R&D department are valuable, but don't build social skills. Customer service is often isolated from marketing. Testing copy in focus groups doesn't translate in the twitterverse.

Semantics aside, brands seeking an emotional connection with their target audiences must practise public relations in all aspects of communication.
And ‘practise' is very much an active verb.

Take the unpleasant Domino's staff prank video that emerged in April, or last year's ‘Motrin moms' blogstorm over a US painkiller ad. There but for the grace of God goes many a major brand. Smart brands must practise the art of conversation before needing those skills in a PR crisis. In real life, the best defence is a not a strong offence. It is a trusted relationship.

So how do we build lasting relationships with audiences and influencers? There are two ways (pun intended). Be honest. And bring something of value.

Cinderella-like, we feel daunted, yet are desperate to go to the social-media ball. But this is a ‘come as you are' party. A better character for us might be Pinocchio, who dreamed of becoming a real boy. Because if brands and big companies can learn to behave with the warmth, humour and friendliness of the real people inside them, social-marketing skills will come much more naturally.

Earned media has always been social media. Paid and traditional media plat-forms are important, but encourage brands to simply talk about themselves. PR thinking helps brands offer something of value to earn a place at the online watering hole or offline water cooler. Best practice is simply best behaviour.

Here are some real-life tips that work as well as in brand marketing.

Listen first. People have always talked about the brands and products they love or loathe. The amazing thing is that we can now listen in real time, as these conversations happen in public. At H&K, we help our clients discover the free online tools,
as well as using sophisticated listening platforms, to track
and analyse brand sentiment.
Be open and truly interested
in what people have to say, even when they are not talking about you. That is harder than it sounds for most of us, as we
are passionately devoted to promoting our brands.

Think before you speak. There are many examples of brand
faux pas in social-media spaces, mirroring human foibles. If you don't want those student party pictures on Flickr, don't post them. Better still, don't get drunk. The brand version of reputation protection is to have
a written social media strategy and guidelines.

Be hands-on. We run Digital PR Acceleration training for clients, as a quick way to get the senior people to experience web 2.0 tools as consumers do. We are also big Yammer fans. As a microblogging platform, it is a great tool for connecting staff across offices in an informal way, while organically learning best behaviour in a private online community. Hierarchy matters less than contribution.

Share. Try some internal crowd-sourcing or fun events to bring your tribe together. For H&K's Green Day initiative, we are hold-ing our first ‘Freecycle bazaar'. WPP Digital holds the Stream Unconference, where everyone must lead a talk or workshop.

Embrace beta. Here is one secret you probably won't hear from your agency. There is no such thing as a social-media expert. Digital is not a channel. Better to view it as a river. By the time you think you understand the Twitter phenomenon, along comes Foursquare. You're fine with Facebook, but have never tried FriendFeed. So my job is to keep up with the tech platforms, but my ongoing field of study is human nature. In that way, I can help clients use technology to become ever-more real

The new age of marketing isn't about social media. It's about social manners - and brands need a new kind of pub-lic relations to thrive.

Across a diverse client list,  teams at H&K keep getting asked the same question: ‘How should my brand behave in digital and social media?'

In answering this question, there is one truth that cuts across variables - namely, that brands should use digital platforms in the same ways, and with the same open heart, that people do. It is a simple secret, but complex to execute.

Here's why. Most companies (and marketing departments), are not used to having public conversations with people. Private conversations via the R&D department are valuable, but don't build social skills. Customer service is often isolated from marketing. Testing copy in focus groups doesn't translate in the twitterverse.

Semantics aside, brands seeking an emotional connection with their target audiences must practise public relations in all aspects of communication.
And ‘practise' is very much an active verb.

Take the unpleasant Domino's staff prank video that emerged in April, or last year's ‘Motrin moms' blogstorm over a US painkiller ad. There but for the grace of God goes many a major brand. Smart brands must practise the art of conversation before needing those skills in a PR crisis. In real life, the best defence is a not a strong offence. It is a trusted relationship.

So how do we build lasting relationships with audiences and influencers? There are two ways (pun intended). Be honest. And bring something of value.

Cinderella-like, we feel daunted, yet are desperate to go to the social-media ball. But this is a ‘come as you are' party. A better character for us might be Pinocchio, who dreamed of becoming a real boy. Because if brands and big companies can learn to behave with the warmth, humour and friendliness of the real people inside them, social-marketing skills will come much more naturally.

Earned media has always been social media. Paid and traditional media plat-forms are important, but encourage brands to simply talk about themselves. PR thinking helps brands offer something of value to earn a place at the online watering hole or offline water cooler. Best practice is simply best behaviour.

Here are some real-life tips that work as well as in brand marketing.

Listen first. People have always talked about the brands and products they love or loathe. The amazing thing is that we can now listen in real time, as these conversations happen in public. At H&K, we help our clients discover the free online tools,
as well as using sophisticated listening platforms, to track
and analyse brand sentiment.
Be open and truly interested
in what people have to say, even when they are not talking about you. That is harder than it sounds for most of us, as we
are passionately devoted to promoting our brands.

Think before you speak. There are many examples of brand
faux pas in social-media spaces, mirroring human foibles. If you don't want those student party pictures on Flickr, don't post them. Better still, don't get drunk. The brand version of reputation protection is to have
a written social media strategy and guidelines.

Be hands-on. We run Digital PR Acceleration training for clients, as a quick way to get the senior people to experience web 2.0 tools as consumers do. We are also big Yammer fans. As a microblogging platform, it is a great tool for connecting staff across offices in an informal way, while organically learning best behaviour in a private online community. Hierarchy matters less than contribution.

Share. Try some internal crowd-sourcing or fun events to bring your tribe together. For H&K's Green Day initiative, we are hold-ing our first ‘Freecycle bazaar'. WPP Digital holds the Stream Unconference, where everyone must lead a talk or workshop.

Embrace beta. Here is one secret you probably won't hear from your agency. There is no such thing as a social-media expert. Digital is not a channel. Better to view it as a river. By the time you think you understand the Twitter phenomenon, along comes Foursquare. You're fine with Facebook, but have never tried FriendFeed. So my job is to keep up with the tech platforms, but my ongoing field of study is human nature. In that way, I can help clients use technology to become ever-more real

The new age of marketing isn't about social media. It's about social manners - and brands need a new kind of pub-lic relations to thrive.

Across a diverse client list,  teams at H&K keep getting asked the same question: ‘How should my brand behave in digital and social media?'

In answering this question, there is one truth that cuts across variables - namely, that brands should use digital platforms in the same ways, and with the same open heart, that people do. It is a simple secret, but complex to execute.

Here's why. Most companies (and marketing departments), are not used to having public conversations with people. Private conversations via the R&D department are valuable, but don't build social skills. Customer service is often isolated from marketing. Testing copy in focus groups doesn't translate in the twitterverse.

Semantics aside, brands seeking an emotional connection with their target audiences must practise public relations in all aspects of communication.
And ‘practise' is very much an active verb.

Take the unpleasant Domino's staff prank video that emerged in April, or last year's ‘Motrin moms' blogstorm over a US painkiller ad. There but for the grace of God goes many a major brand. Smart brands must practise the art of conversation before needing those skills in a PR crisis. In real life, the best defence is a not a strong offence. It is a trusted relationship.

So how do we build lasting relationships with audiences and influencers? There are two ways (pun intended). Be honest. And bring something of value.

Cinderella-like, we feel daunted, yet are desperate to go to the social-media ball. But this is a ‘come as you are' party. A better character for us might be Pinocchio, who dreamed of becoming a real boy. Because if brands and big companies can learn to behave with the warmth, humour and friendliness of the real people inside them, social-marketing skills will come much more naturally.

Earned media has always been social media. Paid and traditional media plat-forms are important, but encourage brands to simply talk about themselves. PR thinking helps brands offer something of value to earn a place at the online watering hole or offline water cooler. Best practice is simply best behaviour.

Here are some real-life tips that work as well as in brand marketing.

Listen first. People have always talked about the brands and products they love or loathe. The amazing thing is that we can now listen in real time, as these conversations happen in public. At H&K, we help our clients discover the free online tools,
as well as using sophisticated listening platforms, to track
and analyse brand sentiment.
Be open and truly interested
in what people have to say, even when they are not talking about you. That is harder than it sounds for most of us, as we
are passionately devoted to promoting our brands.

Think before you speak. There are many examples of brand
faux pas in social-media spaces, mirroring human foibles. If you don't want those student party pictures on Flickr, don't post them. Better still, don't get drunk. The brand version of reputation protection is to have
a written social media strategy and guidelines.

Be hands-on. We run Digital PR Acceleration training for clients, as a quick way to get the senior people to experience web 2.0 tools as consumers do. We are also big Yammer fans. As a microblogging platform, it is a great tool for connecting staff across offices in an informal way, while organically learning best behaviour in a private online community. Hierarchy matters less than contribution.

Share. Try some internal crowd-sourcing or fun events to bring your tribe together. For H&K's Green Day initiative, we are hold-ing our first ‘Freecycle bazaar'. WPP Digital holds the Stream Unconference, where everyone must lead a talk or workshop.

Embrace beta. Here is one secret you probably won't hear from your agency. There is no such thing as a social-media expert. Digital is not a channel. Better to view it as a river. By the time you think you understand the Twitter phenomenon, along comes Foursquare. You're fine with Facebook, but have never tried FriendFeed. So my job is to keep up with the tech platforms, but my ongoing field of study is human nature. In that way, I can help clients use technology to become ever-more real

The new age of marketing isn't about social media. It's about social manners - and brands need a new kind of pub-lic relations to thrive.

Across a diverse client list,  teams at H&K keep getting asked the same question: ‘How should my brand behave in digital and social media?'

In answering this question, there is one truth that cuts across variables - namely, that brands should use digital platforms in the same ways, and with the same open heart, that people do. It is a simple secret, but complex to execute.

Here's why. Most companies (and marketing departments), are not used to having public conversations with people. Private conversations via the R&D department are valuable, but don't build social skills. Customer service is often isolated from marketing. Testing copy in focus groups doesn't translate in the twitterverse.

Semantics aside, brands seeking an emotional connection with their target audiences must practise public relations in all aspects of communication.
And ‘practise' is very much an active verb.

Take the unpleasant Domino's staff prank video that emerged in April, or last year's ‘Motrin moms' blogstorm over a US painkiller ad. There but for the grace of God goes many a major brand. Smart brands must practise the art of conversation before needing those skills in a PR crisis. In real life, the best defence is a not a strong offence. It is a trusted relationship.

So how do we build lasting relationships with audiences and influencers? There are two ways (pun intended). Be honest. And bring something of value.

Cinderella-like, we feel daunted, yet are desperate to go to the social-media ball. But this is a ‘come as you are' party. A better character for us might be Pinocchio, who dreamed of becoming a real boy. Because if brands and big companies can learn to behave with the warmth, humour and friendliness of the real people inside them, social-marketing skills will come much more naturally.

Earned media has always been social media. Paid and traditional media plat-forms are important, but encourage brands to simply talk about themselves. PR thinking helps brands offer something of value to earn a place at the online watering hole or offline water cooler. Best practice is simply best behaviour.

Here are some real-life tips that work as well as in brand marketing.

Listen first. People have always talked about the brands and products they love or loathe. The amazing thing is that we can now listen in real time, as these conversations happen in public. At H&K, we help our clients discover the free online tools,
as well as using sophisticated listening platforms, to track
and analyse brand sentiment.
Be open and truly interested
in what people have to say, even when they are not talking about you. That is harder than it sounds for most of us, as we
are passionately devoted to promoting our brands.

Think before you speak. There are many examples of brand
faux pas in social-media spaces, mirroring human foibles. If you don't want those student party pictures on Flickr, don't post them. Better still, don't get drunk. The brand version of reputation protection is to have
a written social media strategy and guidelines.

Be hands-on. We run Digital PR Acceleration training for clients, as a quick way to get the senior people to experience web 2.0 tools as consumers do. We are also big Yammer fans. As a microblogging platform, it is a great tool for connecting staff across offices in an informal way, while organically learning best behaviour in a private online community. Hierarchy matters less than contribution.

Share. Try some internal crowd-sourcing or fun events to bring your tribe together. For H&K's Green Day initiative, we are hold-ing our first ‘Freecycle bazaar'. WPP Digital holds the Stream Unconference, where everyone must lead a talk or workshop.

Embrace beta. Here is one secret you probably won't hear from your agency. There is no such thing as a social-media expert. Digital is not a channel. Better to view it as a river. By the time you think you understand the Twitter phenomenon, along comes Foursquare. You're fine with Facebook, but have never tried FriendFeed. So my job is to keep up with the tech platforms, but my ongoing field of study is human nature. In that way, I can help clients use technology to become ever-more real

Candace Kuss is director of planning and interactive strategy for Hill & Knowlton.

Find out more about Hill & Knowlton here.

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