Ruth Atherley

In the past few months, in our Vancouver PR agency, we’ve had the opportunity to develop several social media plans for clients. And Sarah’s first point on picking your marketing objectives is where we always start – although we focus on identifying your communications objectives.

A few months back, we had a meeting with a client in Vancouver about their PR needs and social media was a big topic for them. When we asked what the communications objectives were, they weren’t quite sure at that point. And, in fact, were a little thrown off by the question in relation to social media. They were used to identifying objectives when it came to traditional communications initiatives, but they were approaching social media a little differently. It was more about jumping on the bandwagon, rather than about what they wanted to achieve.

We took them back a few steps, asked them to leave social media out of the picture for the moment and focused on what their overall communications objectives were. Once we had defined the objectives, we then began to delve into understanding who their target market is. Once we identified their target market, we broke that down into the components of how their target market would like to receive information and whether they were engaged in social media. After all, there isn’t any point in reaching out on social media to people who aren’t participating.

It turns out that the organization needed a range of communications vehicles to reach their target market. And, at this point, social media wasn’t at the top of the list of where the target market was engaging. This was changing, but not to the extent where social media would be one of the key elements of the initial communications outreach.

Social media is a valuable tool for communicators, but it has to be used strategically, in support of achieving your overall communications objectives. It is important to go back to the foundation of communications strategy and planning. Define the objectives, identify the stakeholders and understand within their environment, how they want to engage. Then as an organization, you can meet their needs and expectations for information and dialogue.

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