Social media and PR go hand in hand.

Because the purpose of public relations is to generate as much positive press for your company as possible.

And social media is where most people are seeing that coverage unfold.

It’s no secret that PR has evolved beyond press releases and traditional outlets. Consider that social media dominates news consumption among millennials and the younger crowd.

Meanwhile, recent social media statistics highlight that over 50% of consumers follow brands directly to stay updated on brands.

From new products and company milestones to marketing campaigns and beyond, aligning social media and PR ultimately allows you to boost your positive mentions and keep customers in the loop. Doing so should be a top priority, but where do you even start?

How to bridge the gap between social media and PR

Here’s the deal: scoring positive press and building brand awareness doesn’t happen by accident.

Below are nine actionable strategies that combine blogging, content marketing and social media for PR.

1. Become a contributor or guest blogger

The concept here is simple: earn exposure and authority by publishing content on big-time industry blogs.

Guest blogging is a tried-and-tested example of newer-school PR. Given that most blogs are eager for fresh content, a well-crafted pitch is often enough to get your foot in the door.

The advantages of guest-blogging are threefold:

  • You’re able to reach a wider audience than your own, tapping into potential customers and gaining exposure with industry players
  • You benefit from the credibility of the blog you’re posting on (think: “featured in” snippets or testimonials on your website)
  • In some cases, you can earn backlinks or significant traffic depending on the type of blog you’re posting on

For example, blogs like FastCompany accept guest post contributions for their Work Life section. These blogs are written by industry experts, often on behalf of B2B or SaaS professionals with firsthand experience regarding workplace trends.

An example of social media and PR: an online publication accepting guest posts

Contributors not only build their own authority by publishing on the blog but also earn byline summary snippet and link to their company’s site.

Promoting guest posts is a great way to mix social media and PR.

Of course, guest posting requires you to come up with thoughtful pitches and meaningful content that people actually want to read.

In turn, you can boost and share that content once it’s published. That’s social media and PR in action.

2. Encourage your employees (including C-level) to post on LinkedIn

Keep in mind that modern PR isn’t just about getting mentioned in publications.

Social media is perfect for tapping into the “public” part of public relations. For example, many B2B companies rely on LinkedIn to spread the word about their companies when it comes to milestones and new services.

Specifically, C-level employees and folks in leadership positions often have a lot of pull on LinkedIn. Announcing news from a personal account not only makes your news feel more human but also tends to earn much, much more reach than a traditional branded post.

Example of an employee posting on LinkedIn as low-hanging fruit for social media and PR

The beauty of social media PR is that you can reach your target audience and communities directly. The more people you have internally hyping your company and singing your praises, the better.

3. Empower influencers to spread the word about your brand

Perhaps the biggest creative avenue for boosting your social media PR efforts is influencer marketing.

For companies in the B2C space, getting your products in the hands of influencers is a great way to spread the word. Whether through freebies in exchange for reviews or full-on paid sponsorships, the opportunities to connect with influencers are seemingly endless.

And keep in mind that what an “influencer” looks like is constantly changing, especially given the rise of micro-influencers.

Although name brands might partner up with celebrities, up-and-coming brands can work with content creators both big and small. Engagement and buzz are more important than follower count.

4. Build an army of advocates with an ambassador program

Basically a more robust version of influencer marketing, an ambassador program practically guarantees you social media PR around the clock.

Ambassadors are often trusted and vetted by the company. In exchange for a commission, free products or other perks, they’ll hype up your brand and its latest offerings.

Example of an affiliate program

Granted you’re selling a quality product, brand ambassadors will spread positive word of mouth on their own time.

Again, consumers flock to the likes of Instagram and Pinterest to learn about new products. When prospects find an army of satisfied customers singing your praises, they’re much inclined to buy.

5. Interact with journalists and publishers via Twitter

When we think about getting “coverage” on our products or business, our mind naturally jumps to journalists.

While reaching out to journalists is totally fair game (and actually easier than ever), remember that journalists are people, too. The basic rules of good social media engagement and social media etiquette are still in play here.

Instead of cold-pitching a journalist on Twitter, take the time to understand their interests, publications and stories. Some low-hanging ways to build trust include:

  • Sharing their articles on Twitter (and @mentioning them)
  • Be helpful: when they ask for sources, offer up some ideas instead of offering yourself as a source
  • Interact with them on a conversational level and avoid a purely promotional relationship

You don’t have to look hard to find someone in your industry that’s hungry for a story.

Additionally, hashtags such as #HARO (“help a reporter out”) and #JournoRequest are prime places to find journalists that need a source for a story.

6. Use social media to boost your press release strategy

This is perhaps one of the most straightforward examples of social media and PR.

Because for some companies, social media is the primary avenue for breaking news or announcing upcoming products. Beyond dropping links on LinkedIn or Twitter, consider additional formatting ideas such as:

  • Summarizing the key points of your press release in your caption
  • Providing bullet points or a “condensed” release alongside your external link
  • Formatting your release into an image or infographic
Example of social media press release on LinkedIn

7. Implement a social media crisis plan to stay positive when things go wrong

Reputation management is crucial for PR, especially during times of crisis.

Poor press spreads rapidly on social media. When you’re dealing with a wave of negative comments and call-outs, responding thoughtfully is a must-do to keep your credibility and calm your customers.

Remember: even massive brands make PR blunders and have to issue apologies.

This is all the more reason to have a social media crisis plan. Although you shouldn’t anticipate a worst-case scenario, a crisis plan can help navigate situations that could result in poor press. When in doubt, hold yourself accountable for your mistakes but never issue a knee-jerk statement.

8. Support your PR pushes with #hashtags

Putting together a hashtag campaign is a brilliant way to not only monitor conversations related to your business’ PR efforts but also cement your brand identity.

Hashtags are snappy and easy for your audience to remember when done right. Consider how you can couple your campaigns with hashtags to:

  • Build a sense of community with your customers
  • Support a good cause
  • Highlight your company’s milestones or achievements

For example, LEGO has been using their #RebuildTheWorld tag for a couple of years now to showcase positive, uplifting stories related to the brand…

…and likewise, show support for sustainability.

See how that works? An evergreen brand hashtag like this is the perfect mix of public relations and social media.

9. Make a point to respond to your target audience and build relationships

Keep in mind that creating good press for yourself is as simple as engaging with your customers via social.

That’s because most of your interactions with followers are public and open for the world to see.

And in that sense, you use those shoutouts and Retweets as means of generating buzz. For the sake of creating more positive conversations around your brand, make a point to:

  • Respond to questions, comments and complaints alike: you’d be surprised at how you can spin a negative interaction into something positive
  • Regularly Retweet people who sing your praises (including success stories and testimonials)
  • Ask questions and encourage engagement directly: people want to sound off but you need to give them the chance

Just note that your social media response time really matters here. You don’t want to leave anyone hanging or potentially sleep on a glowing comment from a satisfied customer or influencer.

Do you have a social media PR strategy in place?

Listen: PR work is no longer confined to sending out cold emails or dropping press releases.

Injecting even just a bit of creativity into your social media and PR strategy can go a long, long way.

From influencers and guest posts to simply rethinking the way you promote yourself on social, there are so many actionable steps you can take to build more positive press.

We can’t overstate how impactful social media will be in the coming years when it comes to supporting business initiatives (including PR). If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the latest Harris Report that breaks down the future of social media marketing and what you need to know.