With more than 400 million users monthly, Instagram can be a powerful tool in a PR campaign — as we previously noted here. With 68 percent of users saying they engage with brands on Instagram, big brands, small businesses, and influencers alike have embraced the social media platform, producing content that professional communicators can learn much from. Here are some PR lessons we gleaned from some of our favorite Instagrammers.
Find creative ways to make the standard announcement. Store openings, fundraising rounds, new product launches — consumers and businesses have come to expect these, but our Instagram feed shows us they don’t have to be a yawn. Take Nordstrom: it tapped Instagram’s popularity by launching an annual sale with a 14,000-square-foot image designed to look like an Instagram screen shot of one of its dresses — viewable on the rooftop of its flagship Seattle store. Yes, real news and announcements merit media coverage on their own, but creative storytelling tactics can make a bigger splash and leave a more lasting impression.
Appeal to the imagination. Whether you’re speaking to millennials, chief marketing officers or stay-at-home moms, everyone wants to be surprised and delighted in ways that spark the imagination. We see this in brands like Solestruck, which takes a shoe-selling platform to new levels by sharing unexpected juxtapositions and bright pops of colors in its feed. Maybe it’s a media event in the middle of winter that transports attendees to warmer places, or a product that has implications for how the world will be different in the future. If your PR campaign triggers thoughts and associations with places we don’t normally go, you’re likely to win new fans and keep loyal followers.
Be true to your brand. We draw this lesson from the queen of Instagram (among other things), Taylor Swift, the world’s most followed Instagrammer with 64 million followers. Equal parts glamour girl and girl next door, Swift uses a combination of cat videos and world tour shots to reflect her persona — both the pop star we all want to be, and the ordinary girl we believe we are. For PR programs, whether the moment calls for media pitches or creative extensions, it’s best to make sure ideas, language, and core messages are authentic. An incongruous message or delivery only raises suspicion that something is amiss, or is just a media ploy.
Don’t underestimate the power of words. Here’s one to show we have a sense of humor: in the Instagram feed of Wafflenugget, the irresistible Bernese mountain dog with more than 38,000 followers, it’s the captions and suggested dialogue that bring this “influencer” to life. Words matter, and the phrases and descriptions in your PR pitches or press releases — even on the phone, informally — can have lasting impressions and ramifications. We remember instances when words spoken off the cuff were quoted in an article, underscoring the importance of choosing words wisely and not going off script.
When possible, mix media. Food blogger Julie’s Kitchen shares artful collages made of fresh ingredients (sourced from local farmers markets) on her Instagram feed and sells the prints online. It’s the perfect example of how different mediums converge. Does your media push translate into a foray into another medium? Simple sharing on social media is an obvious one, but what about turning the content from your in-depth interview into a Twitter chat? Or making your spokesperson available not only to be interviewed by the press, but by a crowdsourced group on Reddit, as we recently did for a creative client? Repurposing material for different mediums is a great way to reach different audiences and maintain buzz.
With Instagram now in its sixth year, it continues to evolve and grow in popularity, and there’s no shortage of inspiration of ideas we can learn from it.