Mixed Signals: Your Life as a PR Campaign

Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Why is the use of social media so popular? It’s fun. It’s lighthearted. It offers a reprieve from life’s heaviness.

This is also why businesses are benefiting from social media. It provides a place for customers to interact casually with the brands they love, personifying them, integrating them.

Although our personal updates are in-the-moment comments about the dailyness of life, for businesses, social media updates are serious business. It’s hard work to make planned, purposeful interactions sound spontaneous and personal and well . . . real.

That’s why many businesses are using social media planners to manage their online presence. Bringing order and purpose to your company’s online mutterings is helpful, but sometimes that planning can hijack your entire marketing strategy.

Social media can begin to takeover your every waking minute: Posting to Facebook and Google+ morning, noon and night. Sending Tweets by the hour. Pinning to Pinterest every chance you get.

All these can be valuable tasks to build your online presence. But these tasks can quickly sidetrack you from the greater thing, causing you to neglect the very reason you are using social media in the first place.

Over at Social Media Today, Brad Smith reveals “3 Social Media Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Mr. Smith calls us back to the basics: our business. He explains

People always want to know “how many Tweets per day should they send” or “what day should I schedule my blog posts?”

But these questions are usually pointless. Social media can’t save your brand.

Today, your product and service is your marketing. That means:

  • If you’re providing a product, then make it the most innovative, unique and easy-to-use product in your space.
  • If you’re providing a service, then make go above and beyond expectations to deliver the best possible customer experience.
  • If you’re writing a blog post, then make it the best, most actionable or information-packed post possible.

The primary focus should be what you are offering to the market—and it isn’t your social media panache. It’s about your product or service or experience. Our reason for being isn’t to have the most Twitter followers or to get the greatest number of Likes on a Facebook status. That’s not our purpose in business—or in life.

It’s so easy to get those things switched around, isn’t it? Although Mr. Smith speaks to businesses, I couldn’t help but apply it to my own life.

In this media-driven age, it is easy to manage life like a PR campaign. We develop stories that play well to the media, things that are heart-warming or funny or unusual. Instead of living life for the joy of living it, we set up moments that we can broadcast, making life more like a production to execute to an audience rather than a life to live to the full.

I think we could learn a bit from Mr. Smith’s advice for businesses. As individuals, we should seek to live the most innovative life we can to have the best possible personal experiences. Out of that overflow, maybe we will have time to post about it via social media, or maybe we won’t. But when we do post about it, it will be full of exactly who we are—not merely a PR stunt to gain followers, likes, or reposts. Here’s to real living, in real life, to the full (John 10:10).

About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza

  • Bruce Charles Meyer

    I think it’s primarily a sin–i.e., an offense against a holy God–to be very preoccupied with one’s own Brand, one’s own public image. But, however, there may be an extrinsic reason to promote our Brand. Whatever that might be. Being famous for being famous is out; maybe being famous for the purpose of supporting one’s family or promoting a good cause might be ok if it doesn’t cross some line.

    Jesus didn’t promote his brand, although He did make some powerful claims about himself and his ministry. The apostles were brand-conscious and sometimes Jesus rebuked them for it.

  • alice

    I’m trying to figure this out in my own life. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve limited myself to a certain amount of social media and one of the many reasons I’ve stopped blogging. My husband and I were discussing this the other night–how people have forgotten to be quiet, to withdraw, to pray alone. We’ve gotten too attached to broadcasting ourselves for every little thing.

  • Daniel

    Interesting take on social media.

    The only social media I’ve really used is Facebook, and generally I use it for two purposes:

    (1) Keeping up with my friends and family.
    (2) Posting occasionally, mainly links to causes for which I have a passion–causes that my largely conservative Christian friends don’t necessarily appreciate. In that sense, I fear I am not using social media to protect my brand, but rather endangering my brand to be “that slightly demented cranky uncle who spends far too much time caring about Muslims and civil liberties.”

    Indeed, some of my friends seem to post positions that I feel I am in direct opposition to–e.g., birtherism, mis-attributed quotes allegedly from the founding fathers, etc. But I fear that I border on the offensive far too often, more so than my friends. Nevertheless, my friends “brands” are diminished in my eyes when I see uncritical acceptance of urban legends and propaganda. I am sure my “brand” has been diminished in their eyes, too–though I have often bitten my electronic tongue to avoid being an over-the-top crank, and keep the damage to my brand to be more of the run-of-the-mill “crazy uncle” brand.

    In that sense, for the individual, my experience is that the “branding” gives more opportunities to be diminished by social media than to be skillfully improved.

    Then again, YMMV.


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