Technology. What first comes to mind when you hear the word? Are you thinking of frozen computers and slamming CTRL-ALT-DELETE on your keyboard? Are you thinking about repeatedly calling IT to tell them you can’t print, again? The word technology makes many a person shudder, but I’m here today to tell you to fear not! Technology is on our side.A little over a week ago, I attended the 2012 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) St. Louis Chapter’s annual Tech Day. Now in its third year, Tech Day began as a way to increase the public relations industry’s understanding of how technology affects our practice and how we can harness that technology to better our client’s business.
The half-day event was chock-full of great information, but here are my five takeaways on how technology affects public relations:
1. Big data doesn’t equal big insights.
In the world of technology, big data is everywhere. We have data from our websites, retail locations, social media platforms and more. Even people are data. Just because you have a lot of data doesn’t mean you have something to share with upper management. Pulling the actionable insights (think: changes in attitudes and behaviors) from that data is required to prove the value of public relations.
2. Technology gives us the tools to build deeper relationships with influencers.
With the proliferation of social media, you can now connect with influencers using less intrusive means than ever before to build a mutually-beneficial relationship. Why not follow them on Twitter? Subscribe to them on Facebook. Sign up for their blog’s RSS feed. All of these touch points allow you to better understand what is relevant to that influencer now, resulting in better outreach and better results later.
3. A lot of influencer list-building tools exist. Find the right one(s) and supplement them with human intellect.
More than 30 tools were mentioned in a 60-minute session on using technology to connect with influencers. Finding the right tool to help you build your influencer relations lists will take time, but it’s worth it. Once you’ve found the tool that works for you, understand its methodology. Take the time to actually listen to a demo. Ask questions. But don’t stop at the tool – leverage your human smarts to understand who the right influencer for your brand message is and how the two come together.
4. SEO is for more than just the Web folks.
Public relations practitioners must understand some SEO basics in order to be successful. Leveraging SEO allows our content to be found more easily by people looking for our expertise. Ask for access to your website analytics and Google Webmaster tools. Understand which keywords are critical to your business and strategically include them in any online content (e.g., website copy, newswires, blog posts) using a tool like Inbound Writer.
5. Technology fuels crises – but also fuels better responses.
Whether your own tweet sets the online world on fire or the blogosphere decides to rally behind an employee with a bone to pick, technology makes it easier than ever for a small issue to turn into a big crisis. Examples are everywhere of issues that turned into big crises after a tweet caught fire (United Breaks Guitars, anyone?). The potential risk doesn’t mean you should avoid social media altogether and it doesn’t mean you should stick your head in the sand and hope the storm will blow over. Technology also gives you the tools and means to look for and correct issues before they become crises. It’s crucial to have a plan in place for who can approve responses in the face of a crisis. Finally, don’t forget to plan for who will take that person’s day-to-day responsibilities if 100 percent of their focus must shift to the issue.
Technology is in everything that we do. Technology can make our jobs easier and offer new and exciting ways to connect with influencers and consumers alike. Tell us, how are you using technology to improve your public relations work?