Mindshare - MasterMind ideas from the strategists at Treacy Marketing Group

Keep the Conversation Going

Kellee Johnson is an adjunct professor of public relations at DePaul University. Follow Kellee on Twitter: @KelleeJohnson.

It’s a new way of life for public relations practitioners, and it is fast-paced. One-way communication was then; two-way, 24/7 dialogue is now.

Today, conversation is happening between stakeholders, not at them. What haven’t changed are the most crucial components of any public relations initiative: planning, building a narrative, and telling a compelling story.

Five traditional values of great public relations stand the test of time:

  • Know your audiences and where to reach them: the message is only as good as the medium.
  • Public relations is an art and a science; creatively story tell, build relationships, fact check, and measure results.
  • Build third-party credibility by using independent voices to talk on behalf of your organization.
  • Visualize public relations success before a campaign starts.
  • Remember, you can only change what you can measure, so know how you’ll measure success.

Public Relations Campaigns that Work

Successful campaigns are a strategic blend of earned, owned, and paid channels. Earned media is the ability to work with a reporter, producer or blogger to influence an organization’s or a client’s story. With paid or owned media (our websites and social networks) we control the messages, essentially conveying exactly what we want said and when we want to say it. Forrester Research offers a simple explanation of these primary communication channels.


Social public relations are a significant part of an integrated communications strategy and share components of owned, earned, and paid. For example, a blog post may include a link to an earned media story or a mention on Twitter; a promoted Tweet may link to a sponsored post as part of a paid media campaign.

Word-of-mouth marketing on owned social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more, help to build community. Although the hashtag has been imbued with super-human powers (I remember being amazed that within seconds I could aggregate all Twitter conversations around the world that mentioned my topic), it’s important to remember that social is just another channel.

Well-crafted integrated campaigns garner significant results. Consider these two examples:

1. A national online diagnostic clinic launched an e-commerce company using grassroots marketing, traditional, and social media. Results included:

  • Earned media value of $170,000;
  • Awareness in 50 states in 45 days;
  • SEO value of 800 million impressions;
  • Wall Street Journal and NBC affiliate news coverage;

Additionally, the building of communities on social media led to online sales in 32 states in two months. With the right mix of earned, paid, and owned media, the company formed new partnerships and accomplished its funding and subscriber goals.

2. An entrepreneurial, mobile technology company launched a four-month national campaign featuring traditional and social strategies that resulted in the company becoming a thought leader, and its CEO being recognized as a Crain’s Chicago Business Innovator. Its community of fans grew in three social networks, one of which experienced a 500 percent fan increase in nine months. Traditional public relations resulted in a $100,000 ad-dollar equivalency value, and new nationwide customers and relationships that influenced:

  • Sales;
  • New growth channels;
  • Employee recruitment;
  • Financing possibilities;
  • Award opportunities.

Social Journalists

Breaking news, sharing news tips, and pitching are commonplace on Twitter. I make it a point to follow 300+ journalists who share links to their stories and those of their colleagues, and who build relationships with readers while promoting their news outlet.

I offer my public relations students a two-week extra credit assignment to follow a journalist on Twitter. They must engage to get a follow back. If they are not successful, students take the old-fashioned route and call or email, although the Millennial generation finds email passé. Students ask journalists how they started using social and why they continue to do so. Results show that Millennial reporters know no other style of working and finding news sources. Editors often insist that writers use Twitter.

The Take-Aways

The public relations industry has shifted. Remember these five key points and you will be in the know.

  • We are storytellers, regardless of the channel.
  • Social media is another channel. It is not the story.
  • Brand leaders seek credibility through collaboration with third parties who will tell the brand story.
  • For best results, integrate public relations initiatives with the right mix of earned, owned, and paid media.
  • Owned and paid stories are now told at the 24/7 speed that journalists have applied for decades.

TMG is commemorating its 25th anniversary with a series of blog posts by leaders in our industry. The world is a very different place than it was when we opened for business in 1990. This series offers insight into business today and gives us all a measure of perspective as we ponder what’s next…