Businesses used to a traditional media relations program (print, online coverage by media outlets, and MAYBE a few bloggers) probably ask themselves this question all the time. Questions I've heard in recent months include:
Does a customer twittering about our latest product constitute coverage? Does a Facebook fan page where I can post information about our latest version upgrades and have people comment and link to their own blogs/pages constitute coverage?Does traditional media even LOOK at social media for info on my company? Should I just target bloggers? Why would I need to do more than one social media platform?What's the value of all this anyway?PR is going multichannel where communications and relevant content need to be deployed across numerous social media as well as traditional media relations platforms to be effective. This also means creating and packaging relevant information in to different formats (audio, video, mobile, social media engagement, etc.) to gauge receive the maximum ROI. This requires a strategic plan of deployment and engagement across many different targeted communication platforms as well as marketing channels. Where most integrated communication campaigns fall short is a deployment and engagement strategy to be able to update, monitor, listen, respond and learn from an audience's reaction to company content. It is the reciprocal and ongoing dialogue with an audience which makes a communications campaign successful and strengthens brand position.
The real question I think companies struggle with is what it is the VALUE of deploying a multichannel communications campaign? Understandably, most clients know and appreciate the value of having coverage in a major newspaper, magazine, trade press or even (arguably) high-authority blog. But what's the VALUE of having 100 fans or more on Facebook? What's the VALUE of someone twittering about the latest press release? What's the VALUE of 10,000 views of a CEOs video on quarterly figures?
The answer my friends is that companies are making their target audiences a PRIORITY. Interacting and providing content as well as services (think customer service responses via Twitter) allow companies to create goodwill for their brands and may even create brand evangelists in the long run. As any good crisis communication professional will tell you: don't wait for a crisis to start looking for allies. Create goodwill and protect your reputation NOW.
So what IS coverage in today's social media age? Coverage is what a company defines it to be. However, not making use of and deploying communications across multiple platforms means some companies may be limiting their ROI and losing a valuable opportunity for more customers, media and other stakeholders to learn and love their brand.