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How to add Social PR in your traditional PR portfolio?

I been asked by several close friends, with traditional PR experience, on giving them tips about how to incorporate Social PR into their traditional PR portfolio.

It seems more and more agencies and even in-house positions require new consultants who join them to be both knowledgeable in both dealing with traditional media and the social media space.

Before I continue, a fellow twitter shared this analogy about social media that I felt it is important to share.

There is this story about a king asking a group of blind men to feel different parts of an elephant and described that to the king. However, each blind men was only allowed to touch just one part of the elephant.

There are many versions to the story but let me use the Buddhist version.

From Wikipedia,

"When the blind men had each felt a part of the elephant, the king went to each of them and said to each: 'Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?'[2]

The six blind men assert the elephant is either like a pot (the blind man who felt the elephants' head), winnowing basket (ear), ploughshare (tusk), plough (trunk), granary (body), pillar (foot), mortar (back), pestle (tail) or brush (tip of the tail).

The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what an elephant really is like, and this delights the king. The Buddha ends the story of the king and compares the six blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views: "Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing.... In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus." The Buddha then speaks the following verse:

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.[2]


It is, therefore, important to know that there isn’t this magic bullet for adding the Social PR element into the traditional PR practice as Social Media is more than just engaging bloggers.

Here is how you can start.

1. Be a story teller (aka be a content creator)

Having worked in a PR agency, I see that many of those in the traditional PR space either help their client create the right messaging for the brand, or are just messengers, or both.

Once the message has been delivered and accepted, it is left to the journalists to create that story for their medium.

In the social media space, you also need to be a content creator.

Take for example, when you invite bloggers to an event, I often noticed that PR agencies again become the message pusher and wait for the story to appear on the blog.

What I did for my event was I took photos of bloggers engaging the event and blogged about it too. I shared these photos in Facebook and tagged the invited bloggers accordingly.

That is just one example of creating content so you can share with both the bloggers and their audience.

Creating content should not just be confined to taking photos. How about creating video case studies?

Creating content isn’t as easy as it seems, even starting out can be hard. You will get the hang of it after a few hard knocks.

2. Learn how Google works

To be in Social PR, you also need to know how Google works.

Have you ever asked yourself how is it that a particular website appears as the first result of your Google search result?

There are many variables to that equation, but it is important to at least know a few.

By knowing how Google works, you can suggest some tactics to help your client’s website improve a few levels up Google search results.

The other aspect of Google is the Google Search Marketing. In layman terms, this means Google Adwords.

Unfortunately many treat Google Adwords just like any other banner display ad. This is a wrong way of using Google Adwords.

As Google Adwords charge by per click, you want that click to be more just one more unique hit to your website.

This means landing the visitor to a site where you can at least get some data off the visitor.

3. Show no fear to Web2.0 sites or technology

There are many Web2.0 sites and many to come. You need to take the first time and at least try some of the popular ones.

Take Twitter as an example. Many traditional PR folks have asked me what Twitter is. I said its like SMS for the Internet.

This is followed by why would be people be interested in the mundane stuff that you do. I guess it is because individuals are just interested in what other individuals are doing at the same time.

I also get asked how I can find the time to tweet. I reply saying its 140 characters and type simple stuff out. I use RSS feeds, via Hootsuite, to tweet any updates I put on my blog. I bookmarked sites I read via and, again, via Hootsuite, updates the tweet with my bookmarked site.

The questioning goes on. However, when I asked them, so when are you going to register so I can follow you, the reply is that they will think about it.

Guess I won’t be following them in the near future.

As you can see, there are many aspects of social media and it is not just about engaging bloggers.


Isabelle said…
lulz, using the elephant analogy to this entry is funny.

I think it's all about understanding your space. People are getting too caught up on the 'fancy' tools of digital PR and fail to reconcile that with the fundamentals of PR.
Aaron Koh said…
1.30am comment.. Guess you are a night owl.

There was this news article that wrote the twitter is now "more popular" than blogs.

Somebody asked me if they should move their digital strategy to focus on twitter.

You are right, just using the latest tools out there isn't going to get you to achieve your objectives.

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