PR and Social Networking – the good, the bad and the shortcuts

Today we welcome back our PR guru Paula Gardener who is giving us some tips on social networking. Paula is also one of our presenters at WPE ’10  so if you love her regular tips you’ll love her in person.

Paula Gardner - Do Your Own PR

Paula Gardner - Do Your Own PR

PR used to be simple. You wrote a monthly press release, maybe an article or two, kept on top of what was going on in the news and made sure you were poised to speak to radio stations if you were able to jump in with something relevant. Today, PR is changing fast. As we market ourselves we’re expected to embrace the likes of Twitter and Facebook. We’re also told we need to blog, and hang out on forums. PR and marketing a business has become a full time job in itself.

I often see clients who have started a blog, made an account on twitter and joined Facebook, but are wondering why it’s not working for them. I often say the same thing to them, and here’s that advice.

1. Focus
Be kind to yourself and chose one thing and commit to that.  You can’t Tweet all day, do a decent blog post three times a week and connect to every man and their dog on Facebook. You will have a nervous breakdown trying to do it. And the very few that do, look as though they
a. don’t have a life and spent all theirs online
b. don’t have any clients and are desperately trying everything that might work.

If you like writing – quality as well as quantity – then try blogging. It’s a great way to connect with your readers and show the human side of your business. If you’re great at humour then have a go at Twitter – the limited word count means that you’ll need to get your message over succinctly. If you value person to person contact, concentrate on forums.

2. Branding
Think of it as marketing a brand. It may be you, or it may be your business name, but be sure which one it is. I Tweet using my PR name @doyourownpr and this ties in with my business name and my website address. I do have a Facebook account, but that’s mainly personal and I keep them separate. Decide on one name and use it in everything.

3. Research
If you decide you’re going to blog, spend some time looking at other people’s blogs and work out what you like and don’t like. If it’s Twitter that’s more your thing, just join and follow other people for a while. Look at the people with lots of followers. What is it that they Tweet about that is so interesting? How can you offer the same value or entertainment?

4. Keep It Professional
Whilst a little personal detail is nice and gives an impression of you as a real person, we really don’t want to about what you had for breakfast or that your son has headlice. Don’t get carried away. Likewise, if you are using a social networking tool for business then keep it business-like. Don’t be afraid to say no to a friend request from Jason Kennedy from primary school who used to wipe his snot on your skirt. You can keep it friendly, saying something like “I’m sorry but this is for work colleagues and you’d find it incredibly boring”.

5. Offer value
Use forums to offer advice, Tweet your own expert opinions. Don’t be afraid to show what you know – be generous. Guarding your skills and knowledge for paying clients only is not going to attract new ones.

6. Don’t be Afraid to Sell
I’m not talking about pushy sales here, but you are after all, spending time on what should be a money making exercise. If you have a special offer on, Tweet about it, put it up on your blog and Facebook page. Don’t be too shy!

7. Persistence
Give it time. You are not going to build up 1000 twitter followers in a day. Think of this as a 6 month experiment.

And the how to:

The idea is that by sending an SMS, or visiting the Twitter website, you can send out an alert on what you are doing, or perhaps even thinking, right now. This goes out to your followers and the idea is to amass as many followers as possible. You can follow others too, although it’s a good idea to aim for having more followers than people you follow.

As I write this there are currently a number of very Twitter-savvy people who have followers in the thousands.

Barack Obama brought Twitter into his Presidential campaign, and both Stephen Fry and Jonathon Ross are well-known UK public Tweeters. I was even intrigued to find that my own sister, who works for Greenpeace in Beijing, has to Tweet about Greenpeace as part of her day to day activities.

Blog, short for web log, is basically nothing more than an online diary. People use it to record thoughts and events (which can range from political opinions to what they had for breakfast that day). But what we are interested in is using it as a promotional tool.

Blogging has another advantage. From an SEO (search engine optimisation) point, a blog is normally updated much more regularly than a website and so more likely to get higher rankings within the search engines. So you can think of a blog as a teaser, to get people to visit and then, hopefully, click through to your website.

You can set up a free blog at or, for a slightly more intuitive set-up charges a small monthly fee. These will normally be hosted at a different address to your website, although the top package on Typepad allows you to direct the blog to your business address so that the address looks like a normal website address.

I prefer to use this for personal networking, but you can set up a Group page on Facebook where you can post news about your business.

Join a forum where your clients are likely to hang out and join in with discussions, offer advice and be seen to be part of the community, making sure, if possible, that your website details are in your signature.

Come on, work with me!

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