GUEST POST: How paid-for reach creates a big challenge for public sector PR

Our latest guest post is by Mark Woods, who works as a PR and digital communications specialist for the Wales Audit Office. Mark has developed an on-going interest in public sector communications and shares his findings through his blog and on Twitter @MarkStevenWoods

According to him, Facebook and Twitter’s moves to create advertising revenue create some interesting challenges for communicators operating in the public sector within tight budgets. In this post, he explores some options for sidestepping this shift and still reaching our audiences.

We all love stats and I was interested to hear during a recent webinar that 90 per cent of all media interactions are now screen-based. This doesn’t mean that ‘print is dead’ as many have proclaimed but actually just that the news media have had to adapt and move more services online – and this is going to have some interesting implications for PR.

Not least that we as communicators are going to have to embrace social media reach as a measure in much the same way as we did column inches but we are also going to have to do so with some intelligence if we are to make the most of the opportunities that social media presents.

The big concern for public sector communicators with our limited budgets, is that social media’s big hitters are at the stage where they really have to think about turning a profit. Facebook and Zuckerberg have long talked about the need to monetise the platform and will now start charging people for the privilege of reach and with Twitter Ads on the increase it appears the micro-blogging platform is about to follow suit.

But what does this mean for us? Well it means that the days of organic reach are nearly numbered and we need to be prepared for the challenge to get even more creative if we are to produce campaigns with impact without it hitting us hard in the pocket.

But how this can be achieved? A good starting point is looking at what makes an effective post. For example adding a photo to a tweet leads to 35 per cent bump in retweets. It is interesting too that a quote bumps it 19 per cent. It shows that we need to think more about how our content is going to entice people in and make them want to find out more. Add to this the increasing ‘noise’ on social media and the challenge seems great.

For me I see us having to work harder to create loyalty and utilising our communities to spread our message, particularly in the public sector where trying to justify what is essentially advertising expenditure at board level is likely to prove a bridge too far.

It is not enough to just create a following we need to keep them engaged and for large organisations the shift from push communications to becoming media outlets in our own right needs to continue apace.

For now at least content is still king, how we continue to spread the message without paying a princely sum, however, is about to become a right royal challenge.

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