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Marketing Guide to Public Relations and Social Media

An excerpt from Chapter 1: An Introduction to Marketing Public Relations and Chapter 10: Social Media from "Marketing Public Relations: A Marketer's Approach to Public Relations and Social Media" by Gaetan T. Giannini, MBA.

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Marketing Public Relations

If you were anywhere in the civilized world toward the end of June 2006, you probably witnessed public relations working its magic. Although the final installment in the series of Harry Potter novels would not be released until July 21, 2007, the anticipation for the new book began to rise. On a British talk show, author J. K. Rowling mentioned that two familiar characters would meet their doom in book number seven and that one of them might be young Mr. Potter himself. This short dialog set into motion an avalanche of press coverage. All of the major television networks and their Web and cable counterparts covered the story. The New York Times gave the story a prominent spot in its pages and on its Website. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal mentioned it. The story also graced the pages of newspapers across the globe, thanks to news wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters. Finally, trade journal Advertising Age covered the story and the story behind the story—the reason this announcement was such a big deal.

When you look beneath the surface, you see that not only did Ms. Rowling have an interest in keeping her work in the public eye, but so did the book's publisher, the producer and distributor of the popular Harry Potter movies, and the countless companies that make and sell Potter paraphernalia. Since the Harry Potter brand became fanatically popular with children and adults everywhere, television producers, newspaper editors, and magazine publishers also had an interest in covering this announcement. Why? A mere mention of the boy wizard's name got the instant attention of viewers and readers, providing benefits to both the organization covering the story and those that advertised with them. As Michael Drabenstott, a partner in SPARK, a public relations and marketing firm in suburban Philadelphia, says:

"The Harry Potter phenomenon started with a unique product: an engaging, imaginative novel that bridged generations by captivating children and adults alike. Favorable media coverage stemming from the first book made Harry into a "star" who became as newsworthy as anyone on the Hollywood A-list…. The public wanted to know about Harry, and journalists willingly obliged. Each successive book stimulated additional excitement and buzz.

When people you trust and admire talk about a product, you are more likely to buy it, so you, too, can become part of the conversation. The Harry Potter case illustrates the unique form of marketing in which the firms that initiate the message win because they get the word out about their work; those that deliver the message win because it draws the public to their information outlet; and the consumers win because they gain access to the information they crave. This is the magic of Marketing Public Relations.

From Chapter 10: Social Media

The way people communicate has changed drastically over the last decade, and marketing professionals are working hard to try to keep up. Social media often is defined narrowly and considered to be synonymous with social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. While these popular cyber destinations are types of social media, there are other non-network types, as well. Think of social media as all sites where participants can produce, publish, control, critique, rank, and interact with online content. As a result, we can include blogs and micro-blogs, video sharing, bookmarking applications, wikis, forums, and opinion sites, as well as social networks. It is the power of interaction that attracts consumers and allures marketers to this space.

Marketers can assume, with reasonable certainty, that anyone who spends time interacting within a specific Web environment fits within the demographic profile of that environment and shares the purchasing behaviors of that group. For example, marketers looking to reach a market segment such as video game enthusiasts (gamers) that is typically difficult to reach via traditional media have a wealth of options to touch this market via social media. Not only do most of the popular games have communities as a part of their online offering, there are Web communities dedicated to gamers and their passion. GamerDNA.com, for instance, professes to reach people who are very difficult to reach outside of their interests in and around gaming. This site specializes in youthful, passionate, digitally connected consumers who participate in many online activities and social media and are among the first to choose games and technology products and tell their friends about them.
GameRankings.com serves the same industry, but focuses on gathering and disseminating ranking and reviews more than fostering community. In either case, these sites can be a direct connection between the marketers of video games and their most coveted customers. So, why should marketers care about social media?

The social media study conducted by Cone Inc. in 2008 showed that 93 percent of social media users believe that companies they buy from should have a presence in social media. In addition, 85 percent believe a company should not only be present but also should interact with its consumers via social media. In fact, 56 percent of users feel both a stronger connection with and feel they are better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

As a result, marketers should not view a social medium as a connector. Rather, the social medium becomes the vehicle for connecting marketers with connectors and, more importantly, for connectors to hook up with each other and spread their opinions to the larger community. For example, the people who frequent Facebook and TripAdvisor.com are connectors, while the sites themselves are not. This mix of social media participants blurs the lines between connector and audience; in any given community, an individual may be both a connector and a member of the audience.

Gaetan T. Giannini, MBA, is the author of "Marketing Public Relations: A Marketer's Approach to Public Relations and Social Media," and assistant professor/chair, Department of Business, Management & Economics at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. Contact him at 610.606.4666, ext. 3427 or gtgianni@cedarcrest.edu