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Facebook for Public Relations

Should you use Facebook for PR? This has been one of the more popular post suggestions from Journalistics readers. The answer really depends on your definition of “PR” specific to the question.

I’m going to assume that most people are asking about using Facebook for media relations, so I’ll start there. I see Facebook as a powerful tool for promoting organizations, leading community outreach programs, or building affinity for brands – so I’ll hit on those as well.

Facebook for Outbound Media Relations

I tend to keep things pretty personal on my Facebook profile, so I have some bias here. I can’t imagine an instance when I would reach out to a journalist for the first time through Facebook. However, a good number of my Facebook friends happen to work as journalists or bloggers, so I might reach out to them through Facebook – provided I have an existing relationship.

Facebook is best used for media relations outreach when you have an existing (preferably personal) relationship with a journalist or blogger. If this is your first time reaching out to the journalist, use a different medium – such as phone, email (the most preferred channel by journalists), Twitter or LinkedIn. I prefer this order of priority.

If you also have a lot of personal relationships with journalists, Facebook can be an excellent medium for brainstorming story angles with your media (or PR) friends. Beyond that, I’d steer clear of any formal media outreach through Facebook.

Facebook for Inbound Media Relations

While I recommend against proactive pitching and “first time” pitches, Facebook can be an excellent way for you to promote yourself to journalists and bloggers looking for your expertise. If you want to use Facebook for professional use, update your profile accordingly. Provide information on your organization and your role, along with the clients you represent and the types of stories you can serve as source for.

You should also regularly share information about your work through your status updates, and you just might find that journalists and bloggers will reach out to you for stories. This approach to inbound media relations is becoming more effective as more journalists and bloggers use social networks to research sources for stories.

More than 70 percent of journalists use social networks to assist with reporting, so it’s more important than ever that your organization have some presence on sites like Facebook – particularly if you have an active media relations program.

While I’ll touch on the benefits of Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages throughout this post, you should also consider sharing your news, story ideas and other relevant company information through these channels. Consider these sites mini versions of your online newsroom. You never know which journalists or bloggers will discover you on Facebook.

Facebook for Promoting Your Organization

Facebook Groups are an excellent way to manage membership relationships for a group or organization. If you’re just starting a group, or looking for a more cost-effective tool for managing communications to your members, posting an events calendar, or providing additional networking benefits for your members, Facebook Groups is an excellent option – and it falls in the “PR” category.

If you work as part of a corporate communications team, you might consider starting your own Facebook Group around a particular industry topic – particularly if there are no groups in your local area. For example, let’s say you work in non-profit PR and you want a group dedicated to topics of importance to non-profit PR professionals, you could start one.

Similarly, if you’re a startup entrepreneur, you could start a group to help entrepreneurs connect and exchange ideas. Of course, before you start one, search to make sure one doesn’t exist already in your area.

There are a lot of reasons Facebook Groups can be a powerful tool for marketing and growing your group. For starters, it’s free. There are more than 350 million active Facebook users around the world, so chances are pretty good there are other users with similar interests who would be willing to join your group.

Other services like MeetUp, Upcoming and EventBrite provide some similar (and some alternative) options – depending on your needs, you may want to check out other options.

Facebook for Community Outreach

Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages are both great applications for cause marketing efforts. If you currently work in cause marketing, I’d be surprised if you weren’t already using Facebook to mobilize support for your cause, and share more information on how individuals can get more involved.

For a great example of a Facebook Page used for community outreach, check out the American Red Cross Page. This Page has more than 150,000 fans and serves as a vital channel for communicating with the organization’s most active supporters. This is an especially timely example, as the American Red Cross is posting regular updates on its efforts surrounding The Haiti relief effort.

Of course, you don’t have to be a non-profit to use Facebook for community outreach. There are thousands of local groups and organizations that use Facebook to expand their reach and support in your community. I currently live in a suburb of Atlanta and am actively involved with several local groups dedicated to causes in my local community.

Don’t overlook these easy-to-use and free tools for building stronger relationships around your causes. The best part of Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages is they are integrated components of the world’s largest social network – you can quickly garner support for your cause in a fraction of the time it would take to create a website and execute a marketing campaign.

Facebook for Building Brand Affiinity

Facebook Pages (a.k.a. “Fan Pages”) is one of the most brilliant ideas to come out of the Facebook camp. Create a page around your organization, product, service, group, artist, etc. and manage all your marketing through this channel. You’d be hard pressed to find a brand without a Facebook Page these days. If you have a brand, you need a Facebook Page.

Can you think of a better investment (remember, it’s free) to organize your most loyal consumers around your brand? If you regularly share information with – and interact with – your fans through a Facebook Page, you’ll learn more about your organization, products and services than through any other channel.

Rather than ramble on about my ideas, here are three great Facebook Pages from brands I like:

Facebook Pages are powerful tools for building affinity with your consumers, providing a direct link between them and your brand.

A word of caution: Pages can also serve as the epicenter for complaints when you mess up. This is one of the top reasons organizations choose to stay away from social media. Don’t make this mistake. If your consumers are unhappy about something, use your Facebook Page as a place to talk about it with them. Make things right, and build stronger relationships.

Along this line, you’ll want to monitor what’s being said about you in Facebook (and all other social channels). Don’t be surprised if happy (or unhappy) customers create their own pages about you. Don’t send a “cease and desist” letter from legal – engage with your audiences and let them know you’re listening and care (hopefully you do).

The Bottom Line on Facebook for PR

No longer can you rely on your website, press releases or blanket pitches as your PR power tools. Everyone is overwhelmed with information. You’re better off reaching audiences where they are most likely to respond (social networks like Facebook are ideal for this), or where they will be looking for your information when the timing is right.

Facebook is only one of many social media channels you should consider part of your PR arsenal these days. Hopefully these suggestions provide some information you can use to begin exploring more PR opportunities through Facebook.

Additional Resources:

Journalists are learning to use Facebook too. Just look at some of the following resources related to how journalists can use Facebook – if anything, this should reinforce the need for having a Facebook presence for your organization:

How do you use Facebook for PR? Should you use Facebook for PR? What additional advice would you provide for PR professionals looking to use Facebook?

(Image Credit: Facebook Headquarters by Shazari)

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • http://www.twofourseven.co.uk Julio Romo

    A very well put piece on PR and social media.

    The fact is that social media is changing journalism, press and publishing. A recent statistic from the research conducted by the Oxford University’s Reuters Institute For The Study Of Journalism confirms that ““Facebook was six times bigger than CNN.” This fact sourced from Alexa.com.

    Facebook and other social media platforms are great for reaching out to your audience. But the way in which you have a conversation with them must be developed from a traditional PR perspective.

    Let’s also remember that many newsrooms are investing in social media and UGC teams whose job is to crowdsource and data-mash information available online, which can create and/or confirm a positive or negative story about a company or brand.

    The chit-chat that we used to have in small communities in bars is now available for all to see online.

    It is an interesting time for PR and for Journalism. Companies need to realise this and use Facebook, Twitter and others with solid PR heads.

  • http://www.kristinaallenpr.com Kristina Allen

    Excellent post as usual, and I couldn’t agree more with your point that Facebook should only be used for media relations if there is an existing relationship between the journalist and yourself.

    One of the journalists I interviewed for my Gen Y Journ series said she has received a few great story ideas via FB from existing contacts (http://bit.ly/5CyZxV), and another said that being pitched via social media may mean the pitch gets disregarded as spam, or lost amid the many @ replies he receives each day (http://bit.ly/8aa49L). Obviously the later story deals more with Twitter than Facebook, but I think it sends a similar message: pitching via SM is something that works great if the journalist is familiar with you, but can be fruitless if he or she isn’t.

  • http://www.bradmarley.com Brad

    Great post.

    I think there needs to be a line drawn in terms of how you operate your Facebook page. I tend to stay away from doing anything PR-related on my Facebook page because I keep it pretty personal and my friends and family don’t want to read what I’m doing at work. But there are those who I am friends with who use their page as a way to publicize what they’re doing for their clients. To each their own, I guess.

    Starting a fan page for yourself or your blog is a good way to let those in who want to read what you’re working on, and let those stay away who don’t want that information clogging up their News Feed.

    Personally, I stick to other tools — like Twitter — to get in touch with reporters.

  • http://www.CoachOfSuccess.com Mark McCulloch

    Great blog, design and layout is perfect

    I love reading about Facebook and your style of writing along with your information is not only second to none but it is also so very easy to understand

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Jeremy- There are tons of uses for Facebook for marketing and PR, nice breakdown.

    Like you I am wary of some, as I keep my Facebook account pretty limited to personal friends and family. I am part of a few professional groups, like Journalistics, and a few media outlet pages, as that is sometimes where an editor will post an inquiry regarding a story they are developing. For specific pitches and networking, I reach out to journalists in different ways, more directly for specific stories.

    It’s more than outbound and in; it’s sideways and cross ways and all different directions. So you’re right that a website and blog are not enough; the brand needs to develop across multiple channels. Using Facebook pages for community and fan base development are fine, but you need to be careful when promoting the company or brand. Too much one-sided content, not enough fan interaction and it’s all advertising, not what the FB fans want to see. FWIW.

  • http://www.hwb.co.za Martin Slabbert

    Very good article, and I agree with the sentiments expressed by others when it comes to using Facebook. I too have many friends in the media and news industry, who follow me on Facebook.

    The key issue is that they were friends in “real life” with me before we started being FB or twitter friends. I therefore have a personal rapport with them and can use these social media avenues to pitch stories.

    For anyone else, I wouldn’t dream of using it – direct approach is best.

  • http://mikeboehmer57.wordpress.com/ Mike Boehmer

    Excellent post! In January 2009, I set up both a Group and Page for the Hamilton County (Ohio) Department of Job and Family Services in Cincinnati. They are both important components in our communication program. We post on them daily. The Page has more than 300 fans. Also, I set up a Page for my church, New Thought Unity Center, a few months back, and it has more than 200 fans. And, now, I’m helping administer the Cincinnati PRSA Group, which we plan to transfer to a Page this spring. Long story short, I agree with all that you say in the article — it’s a component in most PR strategies, one that allows you to connect with strategic audiences where they are. And there’s no need to fear critical comments. Just respond to them in a caring way, if you get any.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com Jay Baer

    Great post. Really nice work here. I love that you’re thinking about the Facebook platform in a broader context. I particularly appreciate the inbound media relations angle, as so few companies have any info or resources for press on their FB fan pages.

    • Jeremy Porter

      Thanks for the kind comment Jay. I’ve actually been quietly following a lot of your posts for some time now, so I take this as a huge compliment. Let me know if you have any suggestions – you’ve got more experience at this blogging thing. :-)

  • http://emeapressoffice.oracle.com Steve Walker

    Excellent and sound advice, Jeremy – I also like the calm and sensible tone which steers clear of the hype and hoop-la that social media so often get surrounded by.

    However, there’s one aspect that you haven’t covered, and it would be interesting to get your and other people’s thoughts, and it’s this: measurement.

    Conventional media channels all admit of some degree of measurement of the reach and/or effectiveness of PR activities. And there are lots of web analytic tools to help with analysing what’s going on in many channels, but not in Facebook, in my experience. So how do you measure the effectiveness of a specific Facebook initiative? What metrics would you put in place and how would you understand in anything other than an anecdotal way the quality of your interaction through it (the dreaded “engagement”, I guess)?

    • Jeremy Porter

      This is a fantastic question Steve. I have to be honest, I don’t have the answer off the top of my head – but, I know it is possible to track analytics within Facebook. And apparently you can tap into social graph information – but this may be limited to advertisers. Let me dig into this one a bit. I know more sophisticated social media tools track this sort of thing (but I can’t afford access to those).

      There are some basic approaches you can use to gauge effectiveness of Facebook. For example, a shortened, trackable URL is one way to measure clicks from Facebook (use a different URL for Facebook). Analytics solutions like Google Analytics report on traffic referred from sites (like Twitter or Facebook for example).

      For me, I look at Facebook as more of a community tool. So important metrics for me would be things like growth of audience, activity of audience (average comments per post, clicks on links, responses to polls, etc.), and referral traffic from the site (if I’m trying to drive traffic elsewhere). Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.weroqq.com Shukmei

    Great post Jeremy! I use FB more for personal banter, but it’s a great tool for me to keep in touch and brainstorm with writers/bloggers that I already have existing relationships with. I’m hesitant to add on media professionals that I hardly know. Groups and fan pages are definitely a better alternative for professional networking on FB, that way you can keep your personal world separate from your professional world.

  • Ellen Porter

    Personally, I do not see Facebook’s best use as media relations. The Facebook users in this firm are posting releases on our pages, myself included. It gives our circles of people a different way to learn information, outside of media. The owner of the company is posting all releases, because he has people in his circle of friends that can benefit from all of them. I am being more selective, because other than mutual friends, not everyone in my circle can use all of the information.

    The only journalist on my Facebook can’t use any of it, because she is a friend of family who lives thousands of miles away. I reach journalists who can use the info by email and phone.

  • http://twitter.com/harvatin Staci

    I am glad that you made the distinction between PR and media relations. PR is so much more than media relations and sometimes people need to be reminded of that.

    • Jeremy Porter

      I couldn’t agree more. That’s one of my pet peeves too.

  • http://www.gianninimpr.com Gaetan Giannini

    I write about and teach public relations for a living and this is one of the best posts on using Facebook in PR that I’ve seen. I agree that it can have a great impact on the way we conduct media relations, but can also work in other areas like using events as PR and in creating thought leaders. Thanks Jeremy! (www.gianninimpr.com )

    • Jeremy Porter

      Wow, thanks for the huge compliment. Feel free to drop me other suggestions for topics your students are always asking about. If I can help shed light on the topic, I’d be happy to do so. Thanks for the note!

      • http://www.gianninimpr.com Gaetan Giannini

        I teach and have written a textbook that focuses on teaching PR to marketing and business students (it is also used in some comm. & journalism programs), and I’d like to get your input on the text and its application. Would you be willing to take a look at it and give me some feedback for the next edition and supporting material? If you’d like to do this, please email with your mailing address. (You can find out a little at http://www.gianninimpr.com or on Amazon.

        Thanks,
        G

  • http://software-for-small-business.com Pat @ Software for Small Business

    I’ve put up a Facebook page some months ago. I haven’t updated it – or even completed it yet. The main excuse is the lack of time – but the main reason is the lack of a clear reason to concentrate on it. I’m currently spending that time on two blogs and the maintenance of two websites (this is aside from the actual work!). Many of my clients have the same issues.

    Jeremy, do you think that Facebook offers a clear advantage over brochure sites, bloggs, twitter streams, etc., in any specific area or is just another element in the mix?

    • http://www.globalentservices.com/marketing-communication.html Kathryn Johnson

      Pat,

      Creating and maintaining several social media sites can be overwhelming and extremely time consuming for most small business owners. Finding professional help can be the answer. Small businesses helping other small businesses is the key to budget wise increased marketing exposure. Freelance marketing is your answer. Low overhead means better rates for your company. Check out the services we can provide for you so you can concentrate on the business at hand. Go to http://www.globalentservices.com/marketing-communication.html. I’m sure I could help you increase your search engine rankings.

      Kathryn Johnson
      Freelance Marketing Communications
      Global Entertainment Services

    • Jeremy Porter

      This is one of the most common issues I hear around social media circles. A lot of organizations jump on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., because they think that gives them a complete social media strategy. The truth is, Facebook could be horrible for some businesses, while other options could be much better.

      The trick is figuring out what you want to accomplish first, nailing down your messaging, strategy, etc., then finding the right way to engage. It’s not a one and done. Once you commit to a social channel, it’s for a long time. If you don’t feed it, it dies.

      My personal preference is to start with a blog. If you produce content for the blog on a regular basis (even if it’s only a couple of posts per month), you’ll see the value. You’ll also learn a lot about what your audience is most interested in. This will guide you down the road in other areas. If you find you don’t have the time or content to share on Facebook, maybe that’s not the best channel for you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • http://www.gianninimpr.com Gaetan Giannini

        A could not agree more. I find Facebook and the like to be a store front or meeting place where your content is distributed. The content usually exists elsewhere. Twitter and things like my new favorite, http://www.ping.fm, are tools for announcing the existence of the content or conversation-not the content or conversations themselves.

  • Laura Hay

    Thank you for this wonderful blog post. I’m writing a research paper on public relations and social media and this post was extremely helpful in explaining why Facebook is an important vehicle for PR. I cited you many times, especially your final comments. It also taught me something I haven’t learned in four years of undergraduate study!

    Thank you!

    • Jelena Sajovic

      I’m doing my final thesis in PR and social networks! Can we get in touch?

      Jelena

      sajovic.jelena@gmail.com

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  • Ken Cybulska

    Very powerful and timely message and observations. I’m looking to recruit a PR person – Student / Intern / Professional Journalist / Blogger to come partner up with me with to support and build my Internet Start-up. My company is incorporated.

    I could use some insider advice for an overview of the PR World.

    Please contact me at Kennethcybulska@yahoo.com or [Twitter] @KENCYBNYC

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  • http://husenudaipuri@yahoo.com HUSEN UDAIPURI

    I am Master of Journalism & Mass communication. I am also Secretary of Progressive journalist forum of Udaipur Unit,Rajasthan,India.

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