3 Tips for Using Social Media as a Public Relations Tool

Coveting that dream job?  Preparation is key.  Here are four tips to crush your next job interview. 

You may have been in the PR field long enough to remember pre-digital PR, when it was a more straightforward discipline. Now, social media has found its way into nearly all corporate communications, seemingly turning traditional media into a thing of the past. Although traditional media is still important, when the two are paired together, something even more powerful is created.

Getting started with social media

Having an understanding of social media, SEO and digital content creation is essential for maximizing the success of PR campaigns. However, the 2016 Digital PR and Communications report by the Public Relations and Communications Association found that 53 percent of agency staff said they required more training in digital/social media.

In contrast, their 2016 annual report found that digital and social media was one of the top five duties amongst PR professionals. Having basic digital skills is no longer simply an asset in PR, but is increasingly a requirement.

Social media is changing the future of PR whether we like it or not. This is why having the skills required to meet new challenges the medium provides has never been more important.  The following three tips will help you maximize your social media strategy and integrate the medium with your traditional PR practices

Fully integrate social media with traditional PR
In an increasingly social world, social media is inextricably intertwined with nearly everything, public relations included. Amy Howell, PR expert and author of Women in High Gear, warns against thinking that PR and social media are separate entities. “Social media does not replace traditional media,” she says, “traditional media is still very important when paired with social media, it’s even more powerful.”

Nearly 65 percent of all PR departments are responsible for the social media presence of their companies. This means that the integration of traditional and digital media is not just a philosophical debate, it is a reality for much of the PR world.

Sebastian Meyer, Social Media Manager for the BYU Universe, says that keeping up to date on social media technologies and frequently measuring the effectiveness of digital and traditional tactics to communicate your message can give you the best control of your PR message. Using this method, you can leverage social media into something profitable.

Hyper-localized PR messaging
When targeting an audience on Facebook, you can use multiple parameters to define your audience, like behavior, education, interests and connections. However, Facebook also allows you to target by zip code area, along with other traditional parameters, like gender and age. Twitter and Google offer similar targeting options as well.

Before the mass-adoption of social media, targeting with such precision was not possible. This level of precision allows for more sophisticated and efficient PR campaigns. You can now leverage segmentation tools on social media platforms as a tactic within a PR campaign. Facebook makes it especially easy to understand your audience through their audience profile analytics, which is available to anyone with a Facebook Ads account. The feature allows you to search a demographic, and Facebook will produce specific features of your public to help you better reach them.

Hyper-localized PR messaging can be especially helpful when planning an event for a client. Advertisements can be made through social media to target people directly in the area or other audiences who could have an interest in attending.

Utilize social media analytics.
By nature, social media platforms lend themselves well to data analytics. Not only do most platforms come with their own analytical tools, such as Twitter Analytics and Facebook Analytics, but there is also a wide range of third-party tools available, such as Sproutsocial and Hootsuite. These are ideal for monitoring progress.

The analytic-friendly nature of social media will translate across to PR, which will become even more data-driven, as PR firms use data analytics to inform future campaigns and improve current ones.

By using data analytics tool, PR professionals can create more successful campaigns. During Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, a heavy focus was placed on data analytics. This helped determine how campaign messages were resonating with different audiences.

The use of social media analytics is also heavily linked to hyper-localized messaging. In the Obama campaign, data was successfully gathered through Facebook, which allowed the delivery of messages to micro-targeted audiences.

Put it into practice
While social media is changing the way we practice PR, it doesn’t have to make it more difficult. In fact, social media, when paired with traditional media, opens up new opportunities to reach audiences and disseminate messages.

So, put these tips into practice and see how strategic social media use can become the best complement to traditional PR.

Written by Madison Austin

How to Engage Millennials Through Cause Marketing

Connect your company with social issues and you can connect with even the most entitled audiences

Trying to engage with millennials can feel like trying to join a high school clique. The tight-knit group of slightly cynical young adults can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to convince. An AdWeek study reveals that millennials are more skeptical than their older peers about cause-related marketing, believing it is inauthentic. Don’t let this skepticism fool you: they care deeply about social topics and are loyal to the brands that drive social change.

What’s the answer? Cause marketing. Cause marketing is a mutually beneficial collaboration between a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization. By teaming up and communicating a mutual mission, for-profit corporations can improve their reputation and image with all stakeholders including customers, investors, and community members.

According to the same AdWeek study, millennials are more likely than other generations to seek out brands that align with causes they care about. It also shows that millennials and members of Gen Z are willing to spend time researching brands, pay more for products or sacrifice quality of products if the brand aligns with a social cause they care about. Experts at Cone Communications, the leading cause marketing communications firm in the US, found that nearly 90 percent of Americans will purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Cause marketing is more than a great tool for engaging with millennials, it is an opportunity to redefine your company. Carol Cone, the “Mother of Cause Marketing,” told PRSA members that companies who bring societal issues into the core of their mission and operations are seeing an average 10 percent growth in revenue. This growth happens to the degree that the company makes social values its “true north” in operations and marketing.

For example, Unilever has become famous for its cause marketing efforts including the Dove campaign for Real Beauty

The campaign focuses on helping all women feel beautiful and celebrating their differences in body type, skin color, etc. The national attention of this campaign has pushed Unilever toward the top of LinkedIn’s list of most attractive companies for which to work.

You can leverage the millennial interest in social issues and build social value in your company by following these steps to develop your own cause marketing campaign.

  1.  Be authentic by finding a cause you care about

The first step to building a cause marketing campaign for your company is to find a cause! Consider the industry you work in, the resources your company uses and the social issues related to those operations. For example, if you work in the technology industry, consider how your company’s expertise in programming, web development or technological engineering could be used to serve your community. Your employees could help teach after school coding programs at low-income schools or set up an educational program to help students in underprivileged areas learn skills to prepare them for work at your company.

Also consider what social issues you are personally interested in and what kinds of projects you’d be thrilled to work on. Chat with other employees to learn what issues are important to them personally. Passion is important when connecting your company with a cause. Your employees’ genuine interest in the cause will shine through when it comes time to share your story.

  1. Connect with an organization doing good

When you’ve found a cause to support, look for other organizations working on that cause. Likely, these established organizations will already be working on community projects or activism projects that you can donate to or support with man power. Look for an organization that is making a significant and sustainable difference in the issue area it is dealing with. Look beyond simple opportunities for donation. You can search local non-profit directories or search through Skoll Foundation and Ashoka websites to find vetted organizations that are having real impact on social issues. If you don’t find an organization or foundation that fits with your business, consider starting your own.

  1. Craft your story

­After you’ve found and connected with the right cause and are rolling out programs to support the cause, you’re ready to start a campaign. Write your story based on why your company decided to connect with this cause specifically and what you’re doing to help. Tell the story from the perspective of an employee, a person who has been helped by your efforts or the company at large. Traditional public relations tactics come into play in this step. Tell your company’s social impact story in creative ways through different channels. Not only will your company benefit through increased online engagement and revenue, but you will also feel good about building social value in your company.

For example, tell the story of a kid at the after-school program who found a real passion for programming and how your employee became her professional mentor. Or, find an employee whose productivity dramatically improved since spending time after work mentoring kids at a local high school. Stories will practically write themselves when your company and employees start engaging in social programs.

While you may be looking primarily to increase online engagement with millennials, your efforts to build a cause marketing campaign will transform your company from the inside out. Help your company build a cause marketing project and campaign. You’ll finally learn to take mom’s advice from high school: Just be the best “you” you can be and people will love you.

Written by Lauren Thomas

How to Use the Instagram Hashtag #Update to Your Advantage

Guy in a boat with a travel bag

Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags, and brands are delivering trendy hashtags directly to their follower’s feeds. Are you going to join the movement?

Before this month, there were two ways to use hashtags on Instagram. The first was to search for a specific tag on Instagram (#anthropologie, #BYU, etc) and see what people were saying about those topics. The second was to click a hashtag used on someone’s post and other posts with the same tag. Hashtags weren’t being properly utilized for the uniting force they could be, and so, Instagram made a change.

Thanks to the new update, users can now choose to see pictures with the hashtags they’re interested in directly on their feed. It’s like following a specific account dedicated to your favorite things.

For example, if you’re a big foodie, following the hashtag #onthetable could give you some great dinner inspiration. Or, if you’re all about basketball, following the hashtag for your favorite NBA team could brighten up your feed. People are also using hashtags to spread awareness (1.6 million pictures using #womensmarch), get a glimpse at some of their favorite places (13 million pictures using #manhattan), or just make a trendy hashtag for their group of friends.

But, as a PR professional, I’m sure you’re asking, “How can I use this for my brand?” Fortunately, the answer is “Any way you want!” But we’ll give you a few examples of how businesses are using it now.

SuperMoon Bakehouse in New York City isn’t known for its pastries, though we’ve heard those are tasty. The shop itself is a treat, attracting locals, tourists, bloggers, and families alike with its glass symmetry, colorful desserts, and tightly packed rows of iridescent boxes that create the perfect photo backdrop. Their fancy boxes with rainbow sheen read, “#ChewYorkCity” and“#BiteMeNYC” on the sides, giving their consumers a clear call to action: post a picture and use our hashtags. 

Herschel Supply Co., a brand dedicated to backpacks and travel totes, began using #welltraveled as part of a campaign they ran. They updated their Instagram weekly with photos of their duffels in action all over the world using their signature tag. The people of Instagram loved it, and everyone started using their hashtag, and there are now more than 1.5 million photos with #welltraveled as a descriptor. Talk about some amazing social media marketing!

The use of hashtags promoted a feeling of community around a brand and its products. But the brand had to do the work first. How will you help your consumers use and follow your hashtag? Will you print it on a box like SuperMoon Bakery, or use it regularly on your feed like Herschel, or make t-shirts with it, or post a picture of a giant cake with your hashtag written on it in neon frosting? No matter what you do, make a big, bold statement with it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your consumers to follow your hashtag.

According to Matthew Ogle, the creative brain behind this change on Instagram, “Hashtags are our atomic unit for interest on Instagram.” Ogle used to work for Spotify, where he curated the Discovery Weekly playlist. He introduced an algorithm on Spotify that put personalized music for each individual listener (which there are over 140 million of) in a playlist for them each week. Ogle has taken that innovative energy and brought it into this new Instagram update.

So, go brainstorm a creative way to use the atomic unit for interest on the ‘gram! There’s no time like the present to create your brand’s key hashtag and start promoting it. Your followers are waiting for the community you’re about to build for them, thanks to Instagram’s new follow feature for the hashtag.

Written by Regan Crandall

Engage Your Clients in Real-Time

Y Digital Lab
Y Digital Lab

Imagine all of your clients gathered in one place at an event. What if you could engage with everyone there? I don’t mean going around the room talking to hundreds of people, but instead, engaging them in real-time through social media.

HYP3R, according to its website, is a geoscocial platform that puts coordinates on an area and allows you to engage and interact with all the social media accounts within the area. Learn more details about the company here.

Let me break it down simply for you.

I worked on a project for a Fortune 500 company and for the event it was sponsoring. The company wanted to interact with its fans at the event. Since being at the event in person talking to everyone is virtually impossible, I was a part of a hired team responsible for interacting with attendees via social media.

We used HYP3R to set the geofencing around the event, which gathered all of the social accounts posting within the area. All of the posts on Instagram were pulled into the HYP3R site, where we could access them and engage in real time.

Throughout the entire event, we engaged fans on their pictures by commenting and liking. We also gave away prizes through social media.

The entire project improved the company’s engagement by 200 percent, according to statistics from Y Digital Agency, a student-run PR agency at Brigham Young University.

Fans at the event loved it.

They were noticed.

They were heard.

They were loved.

The experience brought one of their favorite brands to life. Because that brand was interacting with THEM.

Three Simple Steps to Start Using HYP3R

I’m going to break it down into three simple steps to get started with HYP3R and real-time engagement.

Select the event
Identifying which event you want to engage with people is important. The event you choose needs to be an event where a lot of people will be in attendance and who will be posting pictures frequently.

Examples can be professional sporting events, concerts, races or galas.

All of these events will have thousands of people keeping their Instagrams updated.

Select a team
Make sure you are well-staffed to engage in real time. A lot of diligent work is required because the posts will start flooding in at the event.

You’ll want to be responding frequently and attentively to ensure you’re interacting with as many accounts as possible.

Begin HYP3R use
You will need to open an account with HYP3R, but once you do, the opportunities are endless. Not only can you geofence an event to pull all of the posts in that area, but the posts will be pulled to one place on your HYP3R account. You can scroll through them and not have to scramble around to find the posts.

Analytics are also a genius part of HYP3R. You’ll be able to see the stats of engagement rates, top responses, etc. The numbers don’t lie. Your engagements rates will go through the roof.

First-hand experience with HYP3R

Stephanie Smith, a public relations student at Brigham Young University, has worked on many projects for clients using HYP3R and states:

“It is an innovative and effective way to engage with people,” Stephanie said. “It allows a brand to come to life. Instead of drinking a Coke at a basketball game, what if Coca Cola commented on your Instagram post at that game. And even better, what if Coca Cola commented telling you to go to the nearest concession stand and get a free Coke on them? That is how we use HYP3R. We bring brands to life, which ultimately brings loyalty from customers to the brands.”

Engaging in real time is the latest way to build a brand. Forget publishing a news release in the newspaper. If you want your client to get noticed, interact with its customers and fans on social media.

People can have so much more than simply drinking a Coke.

Written by Genny Hickman

Interviews: The difference between “crushing it” and being crushed

Coveting that dream job?  Preparation is key.  Here are four tips to crush your next job interview.

“You’re hired!”  These are the two words every college student wants most to hear. Landing the right job after graduation can make all the difference in your career; but even the most polished resume, carefully crafted cover letter, well-connected LinkedIn network and sharpest JCrew blazer aren’t enough to get you there—unless you can sell yourself in person.  Here are four tips to help you crush your next interview.

Prepare Your Pitch
Preparation is key to your interview.  Everyone knows that it’s important to be on time and dress professionally—but it’s just as important to prepare your content as it is to prepare your appearance.

Professor Leslie Kawai, who teaches business communications at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, counsels students to know their personal elevator pitch.  “When you get in the elevator with someone, you should be able to tell them your name and three distinctive traits of yours,” she says.  “For example, you should be able to say, ‘My name is so and so, and I possess x, y, and z traits.’”   The ability to pitch yourself quickly and distinctively helps employers get an idea of who you are and remember your characteristics.

Get Psyched Up, Not Psyched Out
Another technique Kawai teaches her students is the exercise of “power poses,” a psychological technique coined by social psychologist Amy Cuddy at the TEDGlobal 2012 conference.  In Cuddy’s TED Talk “Your Body Language Shapes who you are,” Cuddy teaches that standing in a posture of confidence, even when you don’t feel confident, can boost feelings of power and impact your chance for success.  Posing with your arms up and shoulders back, even for thirty seconds, can boost your feelings of confidence.  Combine this powerful technique with positive words of encouragement and affirmation to psych yourself up for the interview!  Mental enthusiasm radiates outward. 

Edit Your Social Media Presence
Polishing your online presence is another form of overlooked preparation.  Keith Lue, Internship & Career Services Coordinator in the School of Communications, says that managing your personal brand online is critical.  “Most employers would check your social media before they would ever invite you to interview,” he said.

Students often don’t realize how much power their social profiles have in the eyes of employers and recruiters.  Examine your social profiles—what kind of message does your Twitter feed send to your potential boss?   Consider trading in your party photos to reflect a more professional online presence.  A simple headshot in your profile picture will make a much better first impression than a photo of you at a party or even a stock photo.  Double check your privacy settings and look through your profiles with a critical eye to ensure that employers see you as someone who could potentially fit into their organization.

Do Your Homework
A well-prepared interviewee won’t only answer questions, but will also research information about the organization ahead of time to have questions to ask.

Shannon Baird, a senior in BYU’s public relations program, said, “Every time I interview I try to ask a lot of questions to show my genuine interest in the company. One of my favorite questions to ask is if the person interviewing me enjoys working for that company and would recommend it to others. It always catches the interviewer off guard and puts me at a more personal level with him or her.”  Careful research helps you formulate great questions.

Researching the company in advance will also help you go the second mile.  If you research the organization thoroughly, you can identify problems within the organization that you are equipped to solve. Your findings will show the employer that you care about the organization, you take the initiative and that you’re a problem-solver.  By investing time into the organization even before you interview, you’ll put yourself ahead of the other candidates for the position.

At the end of the day, preparation pays off.  A good interview validates everything on your resume, so let yourself shine!

After all, you’re so much more than a piece of paper.  Go get that job.

Written by Lindsey Trendler

BYU’s “best day ever” with Snapchat sensation Shonduras

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eneration Z is obsessed with Snapchat—a mobile app that allows users to send pictures and videos to friends that self-destruct after a specific amount of time. Since Snapchat was released five years ago in 2012, it has accumulated 150 million daily active users globally. One of those users has taken the app to the next level, becoming one of the first people to make money off his intricate Snapchat art.

Snapchat personality

Shaun McBride, better known as Shonduras, is a social media storyteller, professional fun-haver and Snapchat sensation. The social media icon built his following by turning his snapchats into creative masterpieces using his finger as a drawing tool (see photo)His success quickly spread from Snapchat to other social media platforms, and he then launched a social media consulting business. His list of clients includes brands like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. He’s currently on a mission to make every day “the best day ever”, with over 620 days documented on his YouTube channel.

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Shonduras recently spent a “best day ever” at BYU, as the keynote speaker of the Y Digital Agency’s launch event. Along with him, the BYU School of Communications students enjoyed their own best day ever thanks to his infectious energy and equally influential tips for success. 

The newest My Little Pony featuring rainbow hair grandma from Shonduras’ flight. Photo via Shonduras Snapchat

Stories worth sharing

Nick Glover is a junior in the public relations program, and spent the spring and summer working on various client accounts in the Y Digital Agency. Glover loved how Shonduras emphasized that everyone has stories worth sharing – they just need to find a creative way to tell them. Shonduras illustrated this message through reliving the story of his brand partnership with Inside-Out Doritos. To promote the brand, he filmed himself snowboarding inside his house. Talk about outside the box.

Work smarter not harder

Abigail Keenan, a senior in the news media program, is an up and coming photographer widely known around campus for her Insta brand. Her biggest takeaway was the importance of understanding the people you’re working with, and how this allows you to work smarter instead of harder. Shonduras did just that when he created a jewelry boutique on Facebook. Jewelry was a niche market he didn’t have much experience in, so he asked for suggestions for product names from his target audience. Similarly, Keenan has a goal to better understand her audience as she sets out to turn her side hustle into a career.

Any idea can be made interesting

“What may be uninteresting to you might be fascinating to someone else,” said James Perry, a senior in the public relations program. He loved how Shonduras explained this concept through the example of a dairy farmer’s vlog. To some, the daily life of a farmer might be boring, but to others, like Shonduras, its intriguing. Does the farmer milk cows all day or does he play with his other animals? Just as Shonduras proves, any life or idea can truly be made interesting through a little hard work and creativity.

“If you only follow the trends, your life is going to be boring” said Shonduras.

Written by Claire Sonksen

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