Social media is rapidly changing the way people interact with companies, transforming customers’ relationships with businesses, online and offline. PR is a perfect example of a traditional marketing tool that has undergone a seismic shift in the new social world.

In the past, companies would issue press release to announce major events, such as a product launch, new store location or hiring of a key executive. The whole concept of public relations was to get the media to cover a story, getting the word out through traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).

Today, consumers are no longer at the mercy of the media as the primary sources for news and information. Consumers have much greater control over the messages they absorb. Often, they create messages about companies and distribute these stories across the web via social media tools like Twitter and Facebook.

Manage the message with PR

Companies can influence messages about their business with intelligent use of public relations.

First, create interesting and valuable content that customers will want to share. Leverage existing content by repurposing an article or white paper as part or a press release (or vice versa). Add relevant statistics, survey results or case studies to add value to the news.

Format the news as a press release, and distribute it online. A web-based service like (starting at about $80) will provide distribution to traditional news media, major search engines and online media sites. News can be pushed to media contacts in specific regions and industries, increasing visibility where it counts.

Take advantage of social media channels to highlight the news and encourage social sharing. Use Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn with links to the release on a company website page, generating more site traffic. Some online press release distribution services will automate this process, or posting and tweeting can be done manually.

Keep a stream of news flowing by publicizing events, new clients, upgraded product features, and anything else that will interest your customers. Reinforce consistent messages over time, and they will become part of the social conversation about your company, helping to build the brand story you want to promote.

Author: Joellyn (Joey) Sargent, president of BrandSprout LLC, a strategic marketing consulting firm that helps growing companies optimize their marketing investments with programs that create visibility, engage customers and increase sales.