Brenda Christensen of Stellar Public Relations has been in the publicity business for over 25 years and has seen a lot of changes. The biggest change however, has been in the ways she gets her job done.
“I remember when so much of what we did was writing by hand, sending by fax and making phone calls,” says Christensen. “Then I was giving seminars on how to use e-mail and put press kits online securely. Now it’s like the, ‘Land of Milk and Honey’ with all the great tools available to help me get my job done.”
Perhaps one of the biggest changes Christensen has seen recently was the introduction of social media. Used primarily as a tool by many to publicize both themselves and their clients, she has found social media to be especially useful for creating, deepening and enriching her relationships with media contacts such as reporters, editors and industry analysts.
Social media and public relations
Online social media sites such as MySpace and Facebook were built as places to build and maintain personal relationships and yet, from the start, businesses have been trying to find a way leverage those platforms to reach their target markets using a business-to-consumer (B2C) approach.
Savvy professionals such as Christensen however, saw another opportunity; one which uses the same social media platforms to forge professional relationships which transcend the older models of either picking up the phone and calling or dropping an e-mail every now and then.
“Almost everyone I know in media and public relations is active on Facebook,” says Christensen. “When you ‘Friend’ someone, you get much more than a way to send them messages. You gain access to their interests and have access to facts such as which tradeshows they are planning to attend and what they are looking to write about next.”
In fact, this kind of access recently turned into a big opportunity for one of Christensen’s clients.
While attending a tradeshow, she was checking her Facebook updates on her phone. One immediately caught her eye.
“A pretty important reporter had just updated his status to say that he was at the same show, ” Christensen recalls. “I immediately commented on his status and invited him to meet with my client at their booth. He swung by almost immediately and it resulted in some great exposure for their company and products.”
The personal touch is still key
Though Facebook has completely replaced the Rolodex which used to sit on Christensen’s desk and is in a large part the way she communicates with her contacts, she warns that you still need to pay attention to personal preferences.
“When e-mail first came on the scene,” says Christensen, “all of my contacts would say, ‘Don’t contact me via e-mail; call me instead’. Now that social media has arrived, they say, ‘Don’t contact me via social media; e-mail me instead’. It’s like back to the future, but you need to respect your contacts and that means listening and respecting the ways they like to work.”
Christensen went on to note that, “Most of my contacts prefer to find sources online, but then take the conversation offline. That’s because once a conversation happens on a social network, the article they are researching has already been written and published, at least in part.”
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