How to thrive in PR by acting like a human online

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Every day humans are bombarded by 400 million tweets, 55 billion Facebook status updates and 150 billion emails.

Journalists, social media strategists, public relations professionals and the bulk of the working world have shifted face-to-face relationships to online mediums to get things done in this new world of work. As a public relations professional, the relationships I build with bloggers, journalists, editors and thought leaders online are my bread and butter. Those online relationships are likely very important to you and your business, too.

Here are four tips to help create meaningful connections with others so you can land stories, build relationships and improve your organization’s share of voice online:

1. Treat online relationships like face-to-face encounters. It is completely possible to establish a meaningful and personal connection with someone online, especially with the number of tools available to make communication seamless. While sensory clues are often missing in online communication, which can make it challenging to connect, it’s still a viable medium to engage in business and personal matters.

For example, after writing a post for MarketingProfs on the parallels of yoga and marketing, I found myself tweeting with a writer from Copyblogger. After tweeting for a bit, we moved the conversation to email and by the end of the exchange, I found out that he lived in Texas, went to Indiana University and is fellow a yoga fanatic. Through this exchange, we established a personal connection, and albeit not face-to-face, it proved to be a meaningful exchange –one that will hopefully continue.

To treat online relationships like face-to-face ones, find a common ground, don’t be pushy, keep it simple but be thorough and most importantly, be genuine.

2. Give (and don’t always expect to get). Well-known speaker and founder of Help a Reporter Out, Peter Shankman, recently gave a TEDxTalk called “Why Nice Actually Finishes First.” The theme of the speech is clear: before you get, you should give with nothing in return.

If you are a PR professional, before you pitch a reporter to write about your company’s latest and greatest news, you should develop a relationship that is non-self serving at first or even gratuitous. Get to know them through their work at their publication or follow them on Twitter to learn more about their interests. Interact with them in the comments section of their stories or on social media sites before ever pitching them.  Perhaps, even consider sending them an interesting article or story idea that has nothing to do with your company or client, but rather completely serves their interests or beat.

3. All in one messaging doesn’t work.  A relationship requires trust, and no one is going to give that to you unless you have a founded relationship. With that being said, you can’t just spray a marketing message, sales pitch or business proposition to a blind-copied email list – you have to grow roots before the proverbial tree (relationship) grows upwards. Remember, personalized messaging is key when building an online relationship. People want to hear from other people- real human interaction always wins.

4. Be relevant. In a recent interview on media relations 3.0, Jason Falls, CEO and speaker at Social Media Explorer, wrote, “The sure-fire way to be successful is to focus on relevance. Go for quality [of outreach and placement], not quantity.” As PR professionals, we know this to be all too true. Do your homework: there is plenty of information online about the people you are likely trying to connect with.

Do you have other tips for creating meaningful relationships online? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Allie Gray Freeland is the PR Director at iAcquire, a digital marketing firm based in New York City and Phoenix. Prior to working at iAcquire, Allie worked at organizations including Rasmussen College and Meet Minneapolis-The Official Tourist Bureau. She has a degree in Journalism from University of Minnesota and is a frequent guest contributor to business and marketing publications. Find Allie on Google+ or Twitter at @alliegrayfree.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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