…Setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page is free. You can also get a blog set up at no cost. What does cost is the strategy, an audit, ongoing engagement, content creation and measurement. It’s much less than some traditional media buys, which has been one of the benefits of PR over the years—more credibility and less cost than ads. However, I think that we need to view social media as a component of communications and there are few people still out there who think that PR is “free.” There are similar comparisons, an organization doesn’t pay a reporter for editorial coverage, but to develop a media relations strategy, create a pitch, get it out there and connect with a journalist and follow through—that takes expertise, time and effort, which costs money.

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A new year is always good to review what you, as an organization and as individuals, did well the year before and what you could improve upon. Here at the AHA office, we’ve been doing a pretty strong inventory of 2009. We turn seven in 2010 and while it might not be a typical “milestone” number, we’re quite excited about our upcoming anniversary on April 1. (We know, April Fools Day!)

During our period of “taking stock,” I was also given the task of writing a proposal for a potential new client. I love writing proposals and plans, learning about a new organization and, sometimes, a new field. I found myself thinking about some of the key learnings we have taken away from last year as I wrote the proposal.

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The Bad Pitch Blog has an excellent post on holiday tie-ins and what does and doesn’t work. In this post, they showcase examples of the good, the bad and the ugly. One that stands out as great is PNC, a financial services group. For the past 26 years they provided the PNC Christmas Price Index. Using the classic song The 12 Days of Christmas, in a fun and lively way, they showcase the how prices have increased or fallen over the past year.

They “own” this area of Christmas and this year’s website is great. It is an educational tool. It was made to explain some things, while being entertaining—and it’s well done.

When we are working to generate media and blogger attention, we often look at the time of year and what traditional holidays or events happen that we can tie into. Events, holidays and other seasonal traditions can provide strong opportunities for PR, if it’s done right.

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Mark Naples has an excellent piece on Imedia Connection: 6 Ways To Sabotage Your PR Efforts. Anyone working with an agency, a contractor, a freelancer, or even with in-house PR should read this and take an honest look at how you work with these people; people like us at AHA!

In the piece, Naples focuses on interactive companies and/or start-ups, but what he writes applies to many organizations and industries. The first point that he makes touches on unrealistic expectations. I think that’s an important topic. I happen to be a strong believer that you need to reach high and go for the brass ring.

At AHA, we’ve had clients on CNN, The Today Show, The Late Late Show, Letterman, Canada AM, Maclean’s, and many other high profile media outlets. However, it doesn’t happen in the first week of our working with a client. It takes time to develop an effective pitch—one that is filled with facts, stats, anecdotes, information and interview opportunities.

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Jeff Bullas has a great post on his blog that outlines many of the reasons that companies aren’t using social media. The post showcases many of the points that we, at AHA, have heard from senior communicators and CEOs. What I also found quite interesting are the comments. They put forward a range of perspectives and are worth a read.

In the world of a communicator or marketer, there is a great deal of focus on social media. It’s important for those of us who work in this area to keep in mind that not everyone has embraced social media the way that we have. We have had many senior executives talk to us about their fears about using social media and their concerns are valid. We’re facing a culture shift and change isn’t easy – even change for the better.

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