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.
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.
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:
- The Journalist’s Guide to Facebook – Mashable
- How Journalists Can Use Facebook – SaveTheMedia
- Facebook: What’s In It for Journalists? – PoynterOnline
- Journalists Use Facebook to Find Sources and Promote Stories – About.com
- How Should Journalists Use Facebook? – Knight Center for Journalism
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)