I’ve spent my career explaining—and explaining again—the difference between advertising and PR. I’ve got the short answers down pat.
“We pay for advertising. We create and control the message and place ads where we want them. Advertising increases our visibility.”
“We do not pay for editorial coverage; we earn it through our PR efforts. PR helps us gain credibility.”
It’s helpful to blend advertising and PR into a communications plan, to utilize paid messages to get attention and earn editorial coverage to build reputation. Of course, the ability to do both (and do them well) often becomes a matter of budgeting, creative amperage and people power. I’ve seen so many potentially powerful campaigns wither because the money was tight, corporate was antsy about allowing a message to be shared, and the staff was already strained under normal workloads.
That’s why social media is such a compelling component in today’s message-making. Social media merges the abilities to be visible and credible. It can offer great frequency and reach of message like advertising, yet it can also allow messaging to integrate into the daily lives of audiences, like an extension of a quality PR campaign. However, because social media is so, well, social, it enables companies, personalities and brands to mix and mingle in deeper ways, to not just speak for themselves but to speak with the audience. One connection really does lead to another in social networking. Reach a few and you could ultimately reach thousands, all through the art of conversation.
Mind you, social media’s not a panacea for the aforementioned impediments. It still requires investment of time, energy and money. Social media is not a marketing microwave oven, a better, faster, cheaper means of telling and selling. It is a slow bake, but its potential reward and long term results make it well worth while. And over time, you can see the benefits of being both visible and credible swell into opportunity.
How can you be visible and credible in social media? Here are some ideas that’ll help your oven reach temperature.
Be a listener online. Join groups on LinkedIn, get a Twitter account and starting following others, and peg some blogs you can benefit from reading regularly.
Evolve from listening to contributing. Respond when people ask questions, Acknowledge things you like, and let your presence be known.
Create your own forums. If you see a need, create a group on LinkedIn or Facebook,or start lobbing questions to folks on Twitter. Engage others, not to pound them with your message but to hear and learn from them.
Create quality content. When generating original material, think like your audience and offer information and ideas of substance. You will be proud to draw attention—and be visible—when you know what you’re offering up is truly worthwhile and credible.
Be the stalwart. Imagine all the companies and brands cranking up their social media ovens right now. Imagine where they’ll be 6 months, a year from now. These things take time, and you’ll be incredible visible and credible when you’re still present, reliable and viable down the road. As others fade, you’ll be the one worth coming back to again and again.