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PRSA Luncheon: Measuring PR Through Social Media

For public relations companies and PR professionals worldwide, getting the message out to the right people in the right networks is essential. These days, social media can be a key factor in that process. In the most recent Public Relations Society of America luncheon in Chicago, discussion revolved around the ways social media is used to promote a brand, measure impact and form relationships with a company’s top influencers.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming a staple in a PR pro’s arsenal, but deciphering social media’s role in promoting a brand can be tricky, said Johna Burke, senior vice president of marketing and communications for BurrellsLuce.

“With all types of media and measurement, it’s a matter of quantitative and qualitative,” she said. “If you talk about the amount of Tweets, ‘likes’ or ‘unlikes’ that you have, that’s only relative if it moves the needle of your business.”

The panel acknowledged that the ways to promote a message in today’s vast media landscape are numerous. Public relations professionals not only need to be up-to-date with the latest social media sites, but they are also expected to measure the effect of their campaigns on other influencers in the market.

Rodrigo Sierra, chief marketing officer of Johnson Publishing, said he uses various analytical tools, such as the new website, Topsy, to analyze his company’s influence.

“[It] gives you a sense of who’s out there, who’s tweeting and re-tweeting your messages,” he said. “You can even gauge their reactions, so you get a real sense of what people are saying about your brand.”

Topsy indexes and ranks results based on the most influential conversations people are having about a search term, topic or page. Other tools, such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights can also help a company or organization gauge the reach of their campaigns.

However, Burke cautioned that while analytical sites are useful, PR professionals need to thoroughly understand the content of what they are trying to measure.

“Tools are only as good as the information they are giving you,” Burke said. “Just like you can’t build a whole house with just a hammer, you do need different tools for what you’re trying to do. You need to understand what’s driving your business. What are the food, clothing and shelter of your business?”

The launch of Ebony magazine’s complete redesign this month is one example Sierra used to demonstrate his company’s approach.

“We were very careful to make sure that the story didn’t just go out to everyone,” he said. “We knew we wanted to work first with those outlets that had advertiser eyeballs looking at it. So we did a story with AdAge [magazine] which was tweeted and re-tweeted and blogged about.”

Sierra said the story was re-tweeted by influencers with only tens of followers, and also people with thousands of followers. Often times the number of Twitter followers an influencer has is not the indicator of who will be able to give it the most exposure, Burke said.

“The quantitative-only approach is very short sided,” she said. “It’s not a matter of the number of people there but who are those people? Just because somebody might have only 150 followers, if you look who are the key influential people who are writing about your industry, those are the people who have opted to be in that stream of communication.”

Overall, the panelists agreed that actively engaging with people within a specific industry is the key to creating long-lasting relationships in the social media stratosphere.

“I don’t think there is any magic equation,” Burke said. “I think you do need to be listening more than you’re talking. I would never recommend pitching anybody over Twitter, but I do recommend trying to build those relationships and making sure you understand the dynamics of media overall are changing.”


Contact Information


Johna Burke, senior vice president of marketing and communications
Johnson Publishing
820 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Rodrigo Sierra, chief marketing officer

About Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph is a features writer for Cision Blog, and is also the digital engagement manager for Cision’s marketing department. She’s a book nerd, Detroit sports enthusiast, lover of cats, lifelong Phil Collins fan, and budding snowboarder. Find her on Twitter @gmg912.

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