August #PRStudChat Recap: Unraveling the Technical Aspect of PR


A Guest Post by Murewa Olubela

Two months ago, I had an epiphany, or at least the beginning of one. I sat on a couch in my living room, questioning my non-existent interest in metrics and analytics. I wondered why I readily would attend another social media track, even if I knew what the speaker was going to touch on, but I have never attended any track that tackled measurements. I came to two conclusions: either I didn’t give two hoots about assessments and measurements, or I assumed that I had no present need to master metrics.

Neither one of the answers suited me. In my discovery, I had fallen into the current millennial discussion. Yes, as a millennial, I have the advantage of being a “native” user of technology. However, I needed to learn more about technology and social media, other than their use. Because, being social media savvy isn’t the same as being technical savvy.

While ruminating on my newfound thesis and writing half-completed blog posts on the subject, I was given an opportunity to moderate the last edition of #PRStudChat’s SummerCamp. What more could an inquisitive student pray for! I jumped at the chance. On August 15, 2012, I partook in an online discussion about Unraveling the Technical Aspect of PR.

Question 1: Is the technology tester role important in public relations?

Of course! In today’s practice, communications and technology are joined by the hip. Public relations professionals are expected to identify and test new technologies, in order to determine their use and benefits for their client(s). I think of it this way: how would you convince your client about the benefits of a new platform except if you are convinced yourself; and how can you be convinced if you aren’t comfortable with the said platform? Besides, as Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, says, “technology helps us in our own planning and allows us break down the silos to work with other areas. So, hooray to all millennials, we’ve got one foot in the door.

Question 2: Which social media management tool do you use and why?

The usual platforms came up: Tweetdeck and HootSuite. A couple others like ArgyleSocial, Engage121, Radian6 and BufferApp did crop up. Truth is there are a million and one social management tools out there. And Valerie Simon, director, marketing communications at Plymouth Rock Assurance, will tell you that “it’s important to understand the strengths and differences among them.”

Question 3: Is it advisable to optimize news releases for social media?

Absolutely! Social media has changed the game and isn’t going away anytime soon. The way information is being dispersed and broken is no longer controlled by traditional media. “People do get their news from social media, as it is, and journalists are on SM at all hours,” says Mike Steier, an NYU graduate student. So ask yourself, what’s wrong in reaping the benefit(s) of an added advantage? And it definitely “doesn’t hurt to craft a social media release that is different from the traditional release,” says Jason Mollica, president of JRMComm.

Question 4: Why should a public relations student understand Google analytics or web metrics?

AVE is an outdated metric for PR measurement. Hence the reason for measurable goals and outcomes. It’s no secret that research is important in all stages of a public relations endeavor. You need data in order to figure out who your information would reach. And you need data to measure the success of your online actions: where the traffic is coming from and what’s driving action. It also “helps with adjustments in strategy,” should you need to tweak your plan, says Jeff Eisenberg, a Villanova University graduate. The thing to remember is that “where social media analytics end, website (Google analytics) begin; from click to conversion,” says Breakenridge.

Question 6: What’s the most important thing to know about web metrics?

For Lisa Brock, principal of Brock Communications, the most important thing to know about web metrics is how to “use them to gain business intelligence and improve your communication.” For Amy Bishop, digital media strategist at Campus Crusade for Christ, it’s “learning which metrics will represent progress toward your designated business goals and knowing which to focus on!” For Lisa Larranaga, social media manager for Cision, it’s important to remember that web metrics are “just estimates and shouldn’t be used as end-all-be-all.” The reason, Jennifer Rideout, a PR Consultant at StrategicAmpersand, will tell you, is because “there are always more metrics. [So], determine what is important, analyze and strategize.”

Question 7: Are QR codes dead?

It seems like a long time ago when QR codes were a constant fixture in advertising campaigns. However, even though the question sounds appealing and quite funny, QR codes aren’t dead. The hype about QR codes has however gone down. Infographics is the new status-quo. Nevertheless, should your client still request for QR codes, you need to provide “a creative placement and unique destination,” says Bishop. It should definitely not be like my recent encounter: a giant green QR code on the floor of a bus-stop. I brought out my phone, but it was only to twitpic and not to scan the code.

Question 8: Why is incorporating mobile technologies into communication campaigns necessary?

A whole lot of people are spending more time on their mobile device(s) than their computers. And as Allison Matherly, social media coordinator at Texas Tech University, says, “if your audience is there, shouldn’t you be? You are likely missing opportunit[ies] if you skip mobile.” Brock also pointed out, “If you don’t evolve, neither will your business.”

Question 9: Which aspect of mobile technology should brands and companies focus on?

Mobile apps and mobile optimization. And not just any kind of optimization, but responsive web design. You’ve got to provide an extra incentive for your target audience to hang around online. However, in your bid to be mobile conscious, it’s necessary to evaluate your need for an app. You might not need it. Should you create a mobile app, it should be consistent with your company’s brand. So, no half-hazard attempt.

Question 10: What do you wish you had known about PR before declaring your major?

Internship, internship, internship! I wished I had known the importance of gaining experience. Also, like Mike Hopkins, vice president of PRSSA BYU-Idaho, I do wish I knew that public relations would engulf my life and become my social life because of its incredible nature.

Thank you Deirdre Breakenridge and Valerie Simon, for extending me the honor of moderating the chat. And thanks to everyone who participated in the chat. You all taught me. I do hope that this isn’t the last #PRStudChat’s SummerCamp. It has been an incredible and different learning experience.

P.S. the next #PRStudChat is on September 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Murewa Olubela (@PRmurewa), who is an undergraduate studying creative writing and public relations at the University of South Florida.