PR Fish Bowl

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February 4, 2014

PR Agencies: Does Your Client’s Strategic Communications Plan Include a Social Media Policy?

social mediaWe’ve all seen examples of uncensored tweets, negative Facebook postings and disastrous Instagrams. From your friends, no problem, but from your client’s company accounts? That’s cause for alarm. One way to prevent such indiscretions is to create, maintain and enforce a strict social media policy as part of your overall PR plan.

A smart social media plan includes objectives, strategies, tactics and some type of calendarized schedule of deliverables just like a consumer or B2B PR plan, but with one noticeable and very important addition: a posting policy specific to your client’s business needs and corporate culture.

Assuming you have already covered the basics above, start by asking your client these important questions and build out a customized policy for each one to implement.

Which social networks will your client maintain a presence on? One size seldom fits all, and this is true for SM platforms. While it’s tempting to try to force fit every client onto every platform, it can backfire if the company sees little or no engagement from a network that makes no sense for them. For example, unless the company is very visually oriented and offers up interesting “DIY” interactions like recipes from Whole Foods or design tips from West Elm, Pinterest may not be ideal for them. Prepare a “pros and cons” list for each offering and make a strategic recommendation on what will perform best.

Who is authorized to post on your brand’s behalf? One company may benefit from several voices in different departments, which keeps posts fresh and stimulating; another may need the continuity of a singular, yet compelling POV. It is the agency’s job to present the best recommendation for the brand voice. Factor in your PR plan components as well as the company’s social history. Make sure everyone understands the ground rules.

What type of information can employees share? Assuming your client permits employee posting, an editorial calendar will help sort this out for most, but a company news event or external event impacting the industry can upend the day-to-day policy. Build in contingencies for such events and make sure there is a “pecking order” for responding to such news. Have some posts drafted in advance that can be tweaked to cover possible events such as a CEO stepping down or launch of a new product, but for the less predictable, such as a Grammy-winning producer wearing a hat that mimics your logo (Arby’s) be ready to punt!

How will you monitor conversations about your brand on social channels? The way one responds in 140 characters on Twitter will not necessarily be the same as the way one responds on Facebook, where a lengthy chat can ensue. For example, many companies have entirely separate “customer service” pages on Facebook to handle customer comments, freeing the main page to be more entertaining, engaging and fluid. A PR agency often takes responsibility for monitoring social media sites the same way staffers monitor news media each day. This way, they can provide recommendations and sample language in a timely fashion.

Who will respond to these conversations? Responding to conversations is sometimes more art than science. Situations that require responses in real time range from irate JetBlue travelers to other brands (as in Sunday’s Super Bowl), so a mix of content and customers service skills is required. The job of the communications strategist is to develop a game plan to make the interaction successful.

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