Build Communities Online and Off-line for Successful Public Affairs

Communities. Interactions. Relationships. These are the basic tenets of social media.

These are also the basic tenets of a good public affairs plan. Are you implementing these strategies in all your company communications? You should be.

Once you define your message(s) and your target audience(s), you need to build relationships and create communities. It’s easier than ever to do this through social media. But don’t forget about more traditional communications methods like a phone call and an in-person interaction.

Building relationships has always been the key to a successful public affairs program. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind sending out masses of press releases and hoping for some coverage. Instead, I’ve always called, faxed or visited journalists, and set myself and my staff up as resources. Then, when I’m looking for coverage of something in particular, I can contact the journalists I already know. This strategy has always worked.

To understand customers’ needs, we used to conduct surveys and hold focus groups, not to mention simply picking up the phone. I’ve never assumed to know exactly what customers want, without using tools like this.

Then along came e-mail and web sites – much easier ways to communicate with journalists and customers. Now, I can e-mail, blog, text, or comment, in addition to calls or visits.

The advent of e-mail, websites and the subsequent online communities, such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, has made this process much easier. It has also propelled the idea of building communities to the forefront of companies’ communications plans.

It’s about time. I’ve been spouting this philosophy for years, much to the consternation of some former bosses and colleagues. Perhaps now they get it.

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