Five Ways To Use Instagram For PR Programs

Visual images often have an emotional punch that text lacks — a worthwhile consideration for anyone developing a compelling PR campaign. To understand the power of visual communication in our business, look at the meteoric rise of Instagram. Since the photo-sharing app is based entirely on pictures, certain limitations apply, naturally. But with its more than 200 million users, Instagram offers plenty of potential as a public relations tool. Here are five ways to incorporate Instagram into your PR practices.

Share the more casual side of your brand. Instagram is all about authenticity, fun, and engagement. The professional headshot might work well for the company website, but Instagram can capture the lighter, human side of your brand — the moments people connect with. (The boss in her Halloween costume, perhaps?)

Make announcements creatively. Use Instagram to push out gorgeous shots of new products, an upcoming event, or fun media pieces. And remember to write great captions: include basic information, inspiration, and anything else helpful for followers to know. Add hashtags as you would on Twitter, to increase “searchability” and add to your following.

Research with it. Google lets us ask any question or research any individual and get dozens of answers in 10 seconds flat. But Instagram, as a mobile application (and not a web-based one) often flies under the radar of Internet searches. It’s worth searching through the volumes of captions, hashtags, and location identifiers on Instagram to find information relevant to your products or services. For example, a new restaurant can do a search to identify foodie-types in the neighborhood (based on location tags), who often share photos of their dining experiences, and follow them on Instagram to build clientele.

Crowdsource ideas. Jamie Oliver brilliantly mined his 2.3 million followers on Instagram to help decide which foods to include in his latest book, “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food.” It was brilliant not only because it was a smart way to come up with lots of ideas and determine (unscientifically) which foods were most popular, but also because it engaged and empowered his followers, a big coup for any brand trying to build loyalty and support.

Crisis communications. The old phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” applies here. Especially during sensitive moments, images tend to carry more weight and poignancy. Case in point: after Jill Abramson’s ouster from the New York Times, the picture her daughter posted on Instagram — of Abramson in boxing gloves —  became the telling image of the whole saga.

5 Habits Of Highly Successful (PR) People

The New Year is a good time for PR professionals to shed some old habits and adopt new ones, but what separates the PR amateurs from the experts? Here are some habits – old and new – for the most successful PR agency people we know.

They stretch.  Specialization can be an agency attribute and a strong professional advantage, but one of the joys of agency life is the variety of clients one may be called upon to counsel. An outlier client or extracurricular project can be a wonderful exercise for a senior professional or an inspiring challenge for a novice. The true PR masters don’t just visit a company website or learn some perfunctory lingo, they interview subject-matter experts, plunge into analyst reports, and basically go beyond page three of a Google search. Stretching, after all, helps keep muscles toned.

They consume a varied (content) diet.  The more we read, the better we write, period. What improves writing craft isn’t just skimming headlines or social posts, but breaking into different genres. We like literary or film criticism (no one provides better visual descriptions than a critic.) And never neglect op-eds, which are excellent for advocacy, not to mention economy of language, or biographies, which usually feature top-notch storytelling. For those who are too text-oriented, a diet of image-based content for a month will produce a wonderful change in perspective.

They do something scary. Once the client-agency relationship is solid and secure, a bit of calculated risk-taking with a creative idea or new direction can open doors. Sometimes the idea is so good that one’s “PR gut” kicks in and going for it pays off. We convinced a client to conduct an online petition to champion a major U.S. government policy change. We knew we would never receive the signatures necessary to take our case up the government chain but felt the strategy helped position the client as an advocate for a worthy (and newsworthy) cause. However, the client feared some kind of press blowback for a petition that didn’t draw millions of signatures. None materialized, and in fact media covered the effort in creative and positive ways.

They build a “Board of Experts.” “A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know,” said the late Laurence J. Peter. Truly savvy PR people never let show what they don’t know, because we’re always learning. The smart strategy is to find and “collect” subject matter experts from all sectors to fill in knowledge gaps. These experts become invaluable when developing questions for a potential client in a new industry, coming up with a fresh topic for content, or approaching unfamiliar media.

They step it up. In a retainer relationship, the meter is always running, and an agency is only as good as their most recent accomplishment. When a client stalls on feedback or editing or approval, it’s easy to move on to the next project and feel “off the hook.” But PR stars consider patience overrated; after all, clients hire us in part because we’re not immersed in the corporate bureaucracy and our bias is toward action. Pull out fresh tactics, pull in a colleague, or push forward and make something happen in 2015.

12 Ways To Spot A PR Agency Person

Professional stereotypes are annoying, as outlined in my post about PR cliches that just won’t die. The tropes of the fast-talking, image-making  press agent or the people-pleasing party girl are ones that most PR consultants reject, yet there are some common ways that PR agency and corporate communicators think. Occupational hazard? Or are certain personality types attracted to the biz?

Most of my peers in public relations have very little in common with PR people in TV and movies, but there are certain traits that differentiate someone who is hands-on in our business.

You can’t watch or read news like a normal person. You’re analyzing how well brand messages were delivered and figuring who might have helped place the story or segment.

You take mental notes and create sound bites when watching any interview. It’s all useful material for prepping clients or critiquing responses.

You analyze all angles of any public reputation meltdown. It’s about professional interest, but there may be a bit of schadenfreude thrown in. We can’t get enough of the latest PR crisis — at least those that aren’t happening to our own clients.

A friend asks advice and you outline a strategy and next steps in verbal bullet points. This, when maybe all she wanted was a restaurant suggestion.

You work best against a deadline. The more killing, the better.

You want to media-train casual acquaintances. And you sometimes have to hold back from suggesting that strangers use the inverted triangle to shape responses to questions.

You’re a constant consumer of media and content, from long-tail blogs to slideshares. And you’re obsessed with comparing different media takes on a breaking news event.

You edit everything. Then you edit your edits.

You’re always looking for trends. Trends = a story, and a story is still our focus, whether earned, owned, or paid.

You’re always looking for things that buck the trends.  Let’s face it, the one-in-a-million shot beats even the most interesting trend story.

You have a visceral response when you spot a TV news van on the street even when it has nothing to do with anything.

You connect the dots from one meeting to the next, and all clients programs, even seemingly disparate ones, are relevant to one another! This is the hallmark of a career agency person.