The nature of social media and marketing has transformed the public relations industry. Similar to marketers and social media managers, public relations professionals must wear several hats while balancing collaboration.
A brand’s online presence is also tied to brand image and voice, so collaborating with social media teams is essential to managing an organization’s communications.
To give you a glimpse into how our social media and public relations teams collaborate, I talked to Aisha Quas, our Brand Communications Strategist, and Abigail “Abby” Schmitt, our Corporate Communications Strategist, to get their perspective on what public relations means in today’s world and what steps brands should take to amplify their brand.
We’ll define what public relations marketing means in today’s industry, why our teams collaborate and how we work as a team to amplify Sprout’s brand. We’ll also talk about the Sprout tools we use to help our team stay in sync.
What is public relations marketing?
Before I dive into our collaboration process, let’s talk about what public relations marketing means and what it looks like in the current landscape.
Public relations is the practice of using media to promote a brand and grow a positive public reputation. It involves brand reputation management, which encompasses handling your external communications, including any crises. Public relations marketing is a tool used to facilitate those tasks.
In the past, PR focused on traditional media like print, radio and television for coverage. In today’s environment, social media has blurred the boundaries between public relations, media relations and marketing.
Social media has cultivated a 24/7 news cycle, forcing PR professionals to always “be on”. A feeling social media managers know all too well especially when online topics and trends skyrocket and plummet quickly.
Similar to social teams, PR practitioners need a variety of skills and expertise to be successful. PR professionals must constantly monitor their brand’s public image and act quickly to calm the fire during a PR crisis. And since social media allows brands and consumers to connect across multiple channels, they must pay attention to online conversations too.
With all of these responsibilities and skill sets to juggle, it just makes sense for social media managers and PR professionals to form partnerships. Aisha encourages communications professionals to embrace this alliance.
“It’s a smart and strategic relationship since much of the content and learnings can be repurposed across both disciplines,” she says. “Observations from the social team such as how audiences are engaging with specific content, or how their behavior is changing has a direct impact on the stories you pitch to media,” she adds.
The nature of our work requires collaboration, so why not take advantage of our emulsion of expertise?
Why our social and comms teams collaborate at Sprout
Abby says every organization should have a close partnership between social and PR, but this kind of collaboration holds even more significance at Sprout. Our audience is made up of social practitioners and the goal is to reach and understand them.
“Our collaboration with the social team helps us better understand our customers and craft messages that will reach them and the news [outlets] they care about. This impacts Sprout by better amplifying the company’s thought leadership and value to more audiences,” she says.
Abby also adds that our alliance is imperative because both teams are responsible for external communications. Our goal is to amplify Sprout’s voice, so collaboration between both teams is vital, especially when it comes to creating content that grows and educates our audience.
“The insight each team has on the current media landscape and trending topics on social media is extremely important in making sure the messages and focus areas of our teams will be effective,” Abby explains.
Collaborating frequently ensures a unified message/story across our social handles and Sprout’s media coverage. It allows us to build a stronger brand point-of-view, story and voice.
“When our teams are in lock-step with one another, it creates a more cohesive brand experience for our social followers and broader audiences who learn about Sprout from an article, podcast or interview we’ve participated in,” Aisha says.
Now that you have the “why” of our backstory, let’s talk about how our team works together to execute our public relations marketing efforts.
How our social and PR teams spread Sprout’s message
Our teams use email, enterprise messaging and virtual meetings for brainstorming sessions to stay connected, ideate, spot trends and develop story angles or new messaging approaches.
“Most idea sharing and collaboration happens organically when one of us comes across news or ideas that could work for both our social audience and media,” says Aisha.
We want to complement and fortify each other’s work, especially since the work we do innately complements each other.
“Whether we are announcing a new product feature, promoting an award or educating our customers on a trending topic, our teams collaborate often to make sure our messaging is aligned and bolsters each other’s work,” Abby says.
When the PR team secures a new media replacement or another opportunity that we can leverage on social, we look for creative ways to amplify that content across our social channels to increase engagement, awareness and traffic.
Aisha says, “The social team will help amplify certain announcements we may be pitching to media, such as awards we’ve won, notable partnerships we’ve formed (i.e. Salesforce or DEI efforts) and new product integrations.”
Abby says ensuring our voice is aligned and optimized to each medium isn’t viable without daily collaboration. She also mentioned how the best part about our product is that we use Sprout’s tools to help facilitate this collaboration.
“Tools like Sprout Listening and Reports allow our teams to ideate, pivot and amplify our external messaging,” she says.
Sprout has a suite of analytics and reporting tools, but let’s go over a few of our favorites.
How our team uses Spout’s tools for public relations marketing efforts
Sprout has a range of tools that are valuable to our teams. We both use Social Listening, Tagging and the Profile Performance Report the most. Here’s how we use each of these tools:
Our teams use social listening data around current events to inform social content and timely outreach to our target outlets.
“[Social listening] allows the PR team to pitch relevant social data to reporters on timely topics that will also reach our audience. The social team will share ideas for these pitches while using listening to better understand how our customers are talking about Sprout, along with our product announcements so that the PR team can address and pivot where needed,” Abby explains.
Aisha notes these timely pitches can span a variety of topics depending on what our targets are most interested in. Then, we use the Sprout’s Listening data to “soft-sound” ideas to reporters and see what sticks.
“For example, the pandemic really impacted our ability to travel and we knew that our news/tech targets would be covering this angle,” she says.
As a result, the team secured coverage in the New York Times and CNBC, which also garnered organic pickup in smaller outlets. About 31 outlets covered our data. We also repurposed the same Listening data in social posts. Using Listening data is just one way we use social media and PR to help us generate buzz.
However, even if the data isn’t picked up by media, it’s almost always valuable data for our social audience. We’ll also do timely Listening pulls that the PR team might not use to pitch reporters, but is something our social audience might find fascinating. Like this post when Adele’s new album dropped. We turned to social listening to learn more about how people reacted to the release. Long story short, people had a lot of feelings.
Tagging allows us to pull data on different partnered efforts, whether it’s crisis communications or a Tweet that shares an article our PR team secured.
“We look at the Tag Report to measure the reach of our employer brand social posts. Since employer brand ladders up to our media goals, we track impressions, engagements and the top performing post each month to inform what is resonating with our social audience. That gives us an understanding of how we may approach a more culture-focused pitch angle,” Aisha explains.
I also think the Tagging feature is helpful in our inbox. We can look at conversation history when we’re looking at Sprout’s perception on a topic over time or dealing with crisis comms.
Overall, Tagging acts as a form of benchmarking to track the performance of a project.
Profile Performance Report
The PR team leads the company’s investor relations handle (@SproutsocialIR). Abby says she uses the Profile Performance Report to see how effective our engagement strategy and posts are, particularly following large investor events like quarterly earnings.
“We often share these with the social team for their advice on growth and engagement tactics,” she adds.
This report enables our PR team to find the analytics that matter to the specific social handle they manage. They can get the information they need, when they need it, so we can focus on sharing social knowledge and recommendations to help them reach their goals.
Examples of Sprout’s successful public relations marketing projects
Since we’re such a collaborative force, social and PR are always working on projects together, but there are two major projects we want to give a behind the scenes peek into: the Sprout Social Index™ and our TikTok Integration.
These two projects are great models for how social and comms teams can champion collaboration for public relations marketing efforts.
The Sprout Social Index™
The Sprout Social Index™ is one of Sprout’s largest projects. Teams across the organization work together to create our annual report on social media trends.
Our social and PR teams followed suit and piggybacked off each other’s work.
Our PR team re-used data visualizations and animations from social in media outreach emails. Aisha says this method was very successful as a follow up to entice reporters who didn’t initially respond to covering our data.
Aisha explains, “Reporters often gravitate toward outreach emails that include photos and/or videos since it helps them execute story ideas faster, as they don’t have to search around for them.”
Launching our TikTok integration was another large project that required a lot of collaboration between the social and PR teams.
Our goal was to drive awareness to the integration and educate our customers on the benefits of using TikTok for Business.
“We collaborated on timing for the announcement and crafted angles that would resonate with our audience for both media outreach and social engagement. This resulted in successful media placements and an announcement that reached many of our main social audiences,” Abby says.
The social team posted about these media placements with article links alongside our other launch content to promote the integration even further.
Public relations and social media teams are stronger together
So we’ve covered why and how we collaborate, let’s review some key takeaways:
- Social media blurs the boundaries between public relations and marketing.
- Social and comms teams should work together to carry out public relations marketing projects.
- Sprout’s reports and tools like Social Listening, Tagging and the Profile Performance Report support our teamwork
But the biggest thing you should take away? Your teams are stronger together.
Public relations is more social than ever, and brands need to keep up and be prepared. Both teams are on the front lines for brands and have valuable insights to share with one another.
Break down the silos and blur the lines as much as you can because your audience and target reporters consume even more of their content online. Sprout can help your social and PR teams collaborate with ease—sign up for a one-month trial.