Beginning from the early years of the past decade, social media has come to define how people communicate. It has redefined how brands are built and how companies talk to their customers. Just 10 years ago it was nearly impossible to grow a brand without using television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and proper connections to the media houses and journalists who controlled those spaces. Today you can grow your company immensely without ever needing to appear in any of those channels at all. That is the power of social media. In fact, companies can no longer choose to not be on social media if they want to successfully push their brand name. Those that stay out struggle to communicate with their customers no matter how many TV ads they might show.

Startups cannot afford to be left behind. Social media has changed how PR is done. More and more journalists are seeking stories directly from their followers. Even more, stories are erupting off social media before being seen anywhere else. Brands are being destroyed on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube long before the stories get on the newspapers, TV or radio. Twitter has reinvented breaking news. If it is not on Twitter when it happens then it is not newsworthy. The real-time Twitter feed means that if brands are not able to actively use the platform so much could be at stake. The president of the most powerful country in the world is using Twitter to delve into important issues in the land and now journalists have to pick their news from those tweets.

How then can PR teams in startups and PR agencies get ahead of the news, control its flow and know what is said by people in order to build their brand and stay ahead of the news?

1. Influencers

The growth of social media has brought with it a new group of extremely influential people online. These personalities have massive followings on their social media pages. They are known as influencers and they command great loyalty from their fans.

Startup PR teams and agencies can leverage the existence of social media influencers to build relationships with these personalities. In addition, the influencers charge some fees to endorse products online. Most of the time, having influencers gives your company a very good line of defense in case of bad press or negative talk on the social media networks.

Aside from the ability to protect your brand’s reputation, influencers also do a good job of marketing your products to their followers giving your company a good pool of customers at a very affordable rate as compared to what you would pay for advertising in media outlets.

2. Listening

PR teams need to listen more online. There is no chance to slack and feel safe. Someone could be tweeting or posting on Facebook negative reviews and it catches on. If you don’t get ahead of this early enough it could go viral and ruin your brand name. For startups, ruining the brand name before they even start growing can really destroy the young company for good.

Fortunately, there are many social listening tools that have been built online to help companies stay in touch with everything that is being said about their brand.

Do not allow a small issue that would have been easily solved become a trending topic. It is like signing a death warrant for a small company. Understand and stay in the loop when it comes to what your customers or audience is saying.

3. Influence journalist stories

PR professionals work behind the scenes to shape a brand’s image. In the current age, journalists are always looking for story ideas or opinions from social media to know what people are saying. Trending topics drive readers to articles written by journalists.

It is up to PR professionals to be on the lookout on social media for journalists in search of opinions, story ideas or suggestions. This way, they can get in touch to influence these stories and what is being written. They can even get the stories to run in favor of the brands they represent. If the stories don’t go through, the PR team will at least have kept their point of view in the public eye and influenced the topic in one or another.

4. React to negative press

Managing a crisis like a startup that has already received negative press can be a daunting task. However, due to the presence of social media, companies can move quite fast to release an immediate response on the social media pages in order to explain themselves before things go south.

In the current age, PR teams have an immediate exposure to an online base of followers where they can release statements and go viral with their responses. This saves the brand image before it destroys the company.

5. Make announcements

Twitter is the guru of breaking news in social networks. This place makes the news travel fast. Their trending topics section also goes a long way to help with this. If enough people are tweeting about it, then it will be on that section. Companies can leverage the existence of such a platform to make their announcements. There are chances that the announcement picks up with everyone who sees it. This will help the company’s name be out there more.

Public relations and social media should be partners at all times. Word travels fast on social media. PR teams who are always on the alert for anything negative about their company can save the company a lot of money by getting ahead of the story, releasing an immediate response and getting in on finding solutions. When good news is being put out, the same PR professionals can help to amplify that in the social media channels in order to create awareness and build on the positive name of the brand. The art is in the listening. The more you are listening, the more aware you become; that way, social media becomes a growth hack by which you leverage positive press and influence your company’s growth.

If you would like to outsource your PR responsibilities as a startup and are not looking to have an internal PR team, feel free to reach out to the Pressfarm team for a chat. We are ready to help you build your brand image, and manage your public opinion.