Some Before Thoughts on Social Media in PR

Social media sites have proven to be a valuable outlet for public relations practitioners. Websites like Twitter and Facebook provide a unique opportunity for organizations to keep their publics constantly updated, without spending a dime. This sounds fantastic, but there are some considerations that must be taken before embarking into the world of social media.

The Purpose

The first consideration is very simple; what is the purpose behind creating a social media site for the particular organization? The purpose should be clear. The organization might want to find a new way to reach existing publics, or just simply keep up with its competition. Social media is also a great way to develop new publics. The Internet is broad, powerful, and can be an easy way to draw attention to an organization.


The person, or group of people, running the social media site has a great deal of power. Due to the viral nature of the Internet, a small slip can turn into an all out crisis in no time. It is vital that anyone with access to the site is responsible and experienced.

What the Site Contains

The information on the site must also be considered. It must be made clear in advance what type of information should be left off the site. The goal should be that the organization appears transparent to its publics, while remaining private to an extent. Social media sites allow organizations to keep their publics informed, but there are some issues that need to stay in house.


Instead of creating just one social media site, organizations should strive to be a member of every social media site. The organization must consider before hand which sites it wishes to join, then link each page to one another. For example, Twitter followers could also follow the organization on Facebook, which would lead to more exposure.


The look of an organization’s social media page is one of the most important parts of the page itself. Internet users have short attention spans. The organization should design a vibrant, detailed page with pictures and headlines. Although, the page should not be too cluttered with meaningless artwork. A happy medium of pleasing aesthetics is the goal. If a user takes a two-second look at the page and sees nothing interesting, you’ve lost them.

Whose Got it Right

One organization that has its act together is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Its Facebook page has tons of interesting pictures from fights and fans, constant promotional updates, upcoming events, links to its online shop, Twitter pages and SMS messages. This page has more than 1.5 million fans.

Whose Got it Wrong

One company who is making no effort in social media is the SPCA. It has no Facebook or Twitter pages. This is disappointing, because this particular NPO has tremendous potential of appealing to publics’ emotions with pictures. It could be posting pictures of the animals on a Facebook or Twitter page every day, for free! Yet, the organization has nothing.

What are some organizations that you think could make improvements in the world of social media?

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NPO Volunteerism

There are many ways to make volunteerism appealing. Many Non-Profit Organizations could attract more volunteers by simply getting creative.

An Example

One great NPO is Guitars Not Guns. Ray and Louise Nelson founded the organization, which became officially recognized in 2000. The Nelsons’ goal is to, “Help stop violence in schools and on the streets by providing a music program for at risk teens and other deserving children.” The organization provides guitar lessons to any child willing to learn.

With locations in 17 states, one in Canada, and one in the U.K., Guitars Not Guns has reached thousands of children. It only takes three people to start a new chapter. An organization of this size has endless possibilities for promotional events to attract volunteers.

The Strategy

The first step is setting a goal. The goal for Guitars Not Guns will be to get more volunteers. Next are objectives.  Objective number one will be to get 30 more volunteers in the U.S.  Objective number two will be to establish 3 new chapters in the U.S.

Now that the goal is realized and the objectives have been set, it is time to come up with tactics to achieve the objectives.

The tactic will be to reach out to college students.  College students are often passionate about music. Many students play guitar in their down time. College students sometimes require community service or volunteer hours for their majors and resumé boosters. College students live in community settings such as dorms and apartments, where information can be spread by word of mouth quickly.

A great way to reach out to these students would be to check if any live music events are already scheduled at various universities. Colleges always have events with music that are put on by greek organizations, clubs, or even the school itself. Figure out the organization that is running the event and ask to set up a table with free t-shirts.  Another good idea would be to contact the bands playing and ask them to make a special shout-out to Guitars Not Guns before they start or between songs.  This would surely inspire students to volunteer.

Communication Models

The communication model that influenced this plan is the Two-step Flow Theory.  The key of this theory are the opinion leaders.  In this case, the opinion leaders would be the bands and select college students who could influence others to join them in their support of the organization.

What are some unique ideas you have heard of NPOs using to promote volunteerism?

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BP’s Action on Dry Land

The efforts made by BP since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have been extensive. Although the leak is growing worse, from a Public Relations standpoint the company is doing well. It is important in situations like these to work as diligently as possible to preserve the reputation of a company.

BP technicians use a mechanical arm to improve leak conditions. Taken from ABC NEWS.

The Plan So Far

BP has been extremely transparent since the accident. A detailed press release has been issued nearly every day explaining the company’s actions to stop the leak, as well as future precautions and strategies. The live camera feed of the leak has been seen on nearly every news station. Anyone who seeks information about the plans to control the damage can easily find what they’re looking for on the company’s website. The availability of information shows responsibility. The privacy of the organization is important, but it is imperative that the public be informed by the company itself.

The Action that Must Be Taken

BP has yet to take full responsibility, nor deny blame for the spill. It is crucial that BP remains an active voice, but stay away from defensive language. The Public Relations team must continue to take a journalistic standpoint in its press releases. With the ongoing investigation of foul play, it is best to let the authorities prove the organization innocent, than to deny any wrongdoings. Report what gains are being made and the plan to fix the problem. A strong defense against negligence or responsibility will only fuel the fire.

Satisfying everyone?

From a Public Relations standpoint, satisfying everyone is nearly impossible. Thus far all major efforts to stop the leak have failed. The more this is reported, the more angry the people trying to fix the leak will become. Not reporting it will only frustrate the publics of the company. To know how to please everyone it is important to  know what the people want. A GALLUP poll states that 73 percent of people think BP has done a bad job in response to the spill. But, 68 percent of people think that BP, as opposed to the US Government, should be in charge of fixing it. The people want BP to fix the problem. The PR people from BP need to continue to make it very clear how much time and money is being spent to repair the damage. I think BP has done all it can from a PR standpoint thus far. It is a daunting task to take this situation head-on and try to protect the company for this long.

How do you think its PR team has done?

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