Let's not discard PR and Traditional Media Just Yet
An interesting post in Mashable summarized a presentation by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Augie Ray on peer influence and word of mouth marketing. The analysts summarized a research report they released on April 20 called "Peer Influence Analysis," which offered recommendations about how companies need to determine how to best reach the channels for their messages -- everyone from the social broadcasters (top bloggers), to the peers they know offline and therefore trust, to the mass influencers who make the majority of impressions about products online.
The post quoted analyst Ray as saying that "Social broadcasters tend to hate traditional PR and press releases, so . . . the secret to dealing with them is to build relationships." Reading this, I thought, "here we go; another anti-PR rant." My suspicions were confirmed when I saw this comment to the post:
"Right on target -- when it comes to getting your brand/message across the Social Media, the first thing you do is get rid of the PR folks . . . PR is not better than having an 'auto reply or update' bot for your product."
Wanting to dig a little further and determine if this truly was a PR-bashing study, I read the Forrester report in its entirety. Not to keep you in suspense, I discovered it is not bashing PR at all. Its primary point is very clear: "The way to achieve scale in social environments is to understand the influencers in your industry and then design programs to activate that influence." Forrester offers its clients a Peer Influence Analysis service to help them with this. They demonstrated this targeting of the mass influencers using the consumer electronics industry as an example.
One of their recommendations regarding reaching these consumer electronics influencers was to launch a PR campaign to news sites because "online news and information sites are Mass Mavens' second most popular research source before making a large purchase. . . "
The final recommendations of the research report were as follows:
- Make sure you are spending the time to target your influencers before launching marketing programs
- Do not focus only on the famous social broadcasters (the ones who hate PR, remember?)
- Use traditional media's ability to influence the influencers
- Don't rule out Twitter, but don't necessarily rule it in.
This last recommendation was based on the research's finding that Twitter came in a distant third (10%) in the measure of share of influence impressions, well behind Facebook (62%) and MySpace (18%). Only LinkedIn (6%) and other social networks (3%) ranked lower.
It's an interesting study that confirms the importance of strategy before action when it comes to social media marketing programs. The strategy includes smart targeting, savvy PR and use of traditional and non-traditional media, as appropriate, to reach and influence your targeted customers.