I gave a presentation to a group of students at McNeese State University. The topic of my presentation was “social media and your personal PR plan.” I was speaking to a room full of students and professionals representing industries like engineering, accounting and marketing, among others. My goal wasn’t to scare the students, but we all felt it was important for them to know that while social media can be wonderful for both companies and individuals, it’s important to know what you’re doing and how to use it appropriately.
Below is an outline of the presentation I gave. Have questions? Leave them in the comments.
What is PR?
The “official definition of public relations, according to the Public Relations Society of America, is that “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” That’s true, but it’s fancy and vague, too.
Let’s start with what PR is not. It’s not what Samantha Jones does on “Sex and the City.” It’s not what you see on “Mad Men.” It’s not a last-ditch effort when something bad happens. And it’s not a bunch of spin-doctors hawking terrible products. It is strategic. It’s varied. It’s about communication. And it can work for you.
- As you read through this blog post, consider three things:
- It’s about your reputation.
- It’s about relationships.
- Brands aren’t just for companies. They’re for people, too.
What’s considered “social media?”
Social media is really anything that connects you with someone else over the Internet. Examples include Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, message boards (i.e. Reddit), Snapchat and Google+. Of course that list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.
How can your online activity affect you?
Consider the girl who got fired from her job before she even started because she tweeted something pretty inappropriate the day before. That happened. Read about it here (and know there’s some language in the story).
What about John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, who had his message board history investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission? That happened, too.
Oh, and remember Justine Sacco? Her entire life changed after one tweet sent before she got on an 11-hour flight. By the time she landed she was a worldwide trending topic, she’d been fired from her job, and she was being publicly ridiculed.
There are lots of stories like this one. The bottom line is that you should never assume something you’re posting online is anonymous, whether it’s on Twitter or a message board.
How can social media work for you?
- Social media can be awesome, too. Just know how to use it. Make sure you pay attention to:
- Privacy – Facebook is constantly changing its settings. I’d probably make an effort to check those every month or so.
- Connections – Connect with the right people. Make sure you know them or intend to know them and that you’d be proud to be associated with them.
- Use different strategies for different platforms. I consider Instagram much more private than my Twitter page, for example, and I have fewer followers there. I use LinkedIn for business, which is different than the way I use Facebook.
- Don’t overshare. Don’t use “stream of consciousness” posts, or you might wind up publishing something you regret later.
- Engage appropriately. Remember that you can’t hide your Facebook profile picture, so why not make sure it is something you don’t mind clients, employers or co-workers seeing?
Let’s talk specifics.
Here are a few closing thoughts for maximizing your presence on various social platforms:
- On LinkedIn, optimize your headline, get recommendations, don’t be an oversharer and use the functions.
- Note: In this case, an oversharer refers to notifying your network of every little change to your profile. You can share lots of great info on the profile itself, but it will annoy your connections to get an email every time you add a word to your bio.
- Snapchat does not actually go away! It’s easier than ever to take screenshots, and if someone really wants to recover a snap, they just need to find the hidden file when they plug their phones into a computer.
- As I mentioned above, Facebook is always changing its privacy settings. The defaults are NOT that private, so I’d recommend going beyond their “quick” privacy setup.
- Once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.
- Social media is awesome. You can keep up with family or friends. Gchat has made it easier for me to do my job with co-workers in different cities. And social media is awesome for brands to put their messaging out there. Just use it responsibly.