We have come a long way from faxing press releases and looking up reporters in Bacon’s Directories, a Webster’s Dictionary-esque book that was rarely up-to-date to provide any real value for the project at hand, or so my seasoned PR colleagues tell me.

In today’s increasingly social and digital world we now have access to so many tools to improve the reach and impact of our message. This social revolution is opening the floodgates for communication professionals and businesses alike to share more with the right people and gain insights into the effectiveness of this communication.

So just like we tell the companies that come to Overit’s public relations department for help knowing they need a presence on social media but aren’t sure where to begin, here are a couple ways we as PR pros, can leverage these platforms for the benefit of our own efforts.

Monitoring the reach of your message

In PR, clients are constantly asking – what’s the ROI? And we’ll be the first to say it can often be difficult to quantifiably prove our worth as part of the overall marketing mix. Now I’m not saying a strategic PR program holds no value, but rather the opposite. Proving this value – now that’s a whole new ball game.

The growth of social media has opened so many doors for monitoring your target audiences, determining their interests and pairing that with your content. Tracking shares on a piece of coverage, along with readers’ feedback regarding its context is all made easier with the help of social media. Not only can you provide your client with detailed analytics on the reach of their message, but you can continue to monitor these interactions in real-time and react accordingly.

Developing relationships with key media members

These days you can find out just about everything you need to know about a person, or reporter in this case, by combing their various social media accounts. And when I say social media accounts, I’m not just talking the standard Twitter and Facebook profiles. You can learn a lot from a reporters’ personal blog or website, Tumblr and Instagram accounts and even Pinterest boards that can’t be found in their corporate bio, or lack thereof, on Cision (formerly known as Bacon’s Directories – seeing a trend here?).

When reaching out to a reporter, it’s best to be armed with as much knowledge about their interests and particular beat so that you can be sure you’re targeting the right people with your client’s message. We’re lucky to have these resources at our fingertips, so do your homework – or as we call it, some light stalking – and avoid wasting their time and yours.

Here at Overit, we encourage our PR team to follow relevant reporters and outlets on social media and monitor these accounts regularly. Beyond simply sharing their coverage on your own networks, offering resources for reporters’ stories (even if you don’t have a particular client in mind) is always a great way to get your foot in the door so you can start building a long-term relationship.

The 140-character pitch

Social media is being used more and more as a resource for media members to gain insight and resources for stories they’re working on. Its not unusual for a reporter to tweet asking followers to share their least favorite airport and collect enough content to write a book on the country’s worst airports in just minutes.

A great example of this is actually from Overit’s very own Public Relations Director, Liz Grimes. Our client was attending a trade show in NYC and since they weren’t a vendor, we didn’t have access to the press list. By monitoring tweets related to the conference she caught a request from a reporter at a top news outlet looking to speak with a professional in our client’s industry around a rapidly evolving trend. We were able to get her on the hook in real-time and schedule a meeting with our client. It’s a PR win that wouldn’t have been possible without the presence of social media.

Humanizing your personal brand

Social media also allows us to make personal connections by learning common interests and humanizing our personal brand as PR professionals. Following up for the umpteenth time with the same standard note is not only repetitive, but not likely to catch anyone’s attention or drive the desired response. Maybe you noticed they too are a huge Sox fan, so intro with a comment on the three game Yankees sweep they secured last night – sorry Dan. My point is, business as usual is not always effective. With the state of today’s media members’ email accounts, its no wonder they didn’t respond to your generic follow up note to a story idea they’re not even interested in. Take a chance, stand out and get noticed!

Call to Action

With so many ways to utilize social media to boost your efforts as a PR professional and further prove the worth of your extreme – and often unhealthy – dedication to your clients, why not make the most of it?

In my opinion, our rapidly evolving world is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. In the end, we are all seeking a common goal – to share a good story with the appropriate audience. So break down that digital barrier and start establishing real relationships with media members that result in mutual respect. In turn, they will be more apt to respond to your pitches and happy to work with you on future stories.