Strategem and Social Media

It is almost impossible to discuss modern PR without addressing the issue of social networking. In today’s business world, agencies are hiring “social networking experts” and companies are looking for the best ways to utilize this new medium. The problem is, many companies are just barely scraping the surface of what is possible with these great tools. They have forgotten about the strategies they have at their fingertips. The technology is so new and unfamiliar that most companies solely use social networking to disperse information. For instance, a tweet from the computer giant Apple Computer, Inc. reads, “Apple plans dual graphics enhancements on future MacBook Pros.” There is no strategy to this type of use.

At the 2010 PRSSA National Conference in Washington, D.C., author and strategist, Allan Kelly, outlined strategies that PR professionals can utilize in any mediums, including social networking. Allan Kelly’s book, The Elements of Influence, divides these strategies in three divisions:

Assess: Strategies that Assess tend to be passive. These strategies usually allow a client to separate itself from a marketplace or test a market to determine the client’s needs.

Example: An example of a strategy used to Assess is a play known as Trial Balloon. In this play, a player will test preliminary ideas, often without attribution. A great example of this play was when Maryland’s Department of Education was trying to endorse their creative reading program. They recognized the rebirth of comic books and used that to their advantage by allowing students to read Batman. The idea was to sacrifice the goofiness of comic books in order to generate a love for reading.

Condition: Condition strategies are not direct and tend to be mild in activity. They are used to distract the audience, frame the discussion, or prevent the movement of the competitor.

Example: A strategy that deals with Condition is a play known as Disco. This strategy allows the player to sacrifice a piece of their image in order to advance. An example of this play was when Nike was accused of using terrible treatment with their laborers in Asia. In order to save their image, one of Nike’s founders, Phil Knight addressed the media stating, “So I figured that I’d just come out and let you journalists have a look at the great Satan up close.” He showed that his company was mistaken, but was set on improving the conditions of the laborers.

Engage: Generally, Engage strategies are the most dynamic plays. These plays are used to force a player to take action, use authority to declare a position in the marketplace, and attack a competitor in order to allow for competition.

Example: The technique known as Peacock is a great example of an Engage strategy. This is when a player will make an outlandish display in order to garner attention. An example of this was when Sir Richard Branson’s displayed himself in a nude suit on top of a large model mobile phone in Times Square. The campaign was known as “Nothing to Hide” and was used to support the new mobile plan of Virgin Mobile that claimed to have no hidden fees in the fine print for their new phone service. His unique display helped garner a lot attention for the company’s new plan.

Mediums constantly transition, but strategies do not. Strategies are timeless and can be useful in any media. Our job as PR professionals is to figure out how to utilize these strategies in social networking. We must utilize the new medium in creative ways to make these strategies more accessible. In Virgin Mobile’s case, Branson’s Peacock display could be made more noticeable to an audience by utilizing YouTube videos and Twitter posts to project his “Nothing to Hide” display. Beyond just dispersing information, social networking can help us gain more viewers for our strategies.

Check out the following website to get a more in-depth look at Allan Kelly’s strategies and their utilization:

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Nicholas Stackhouse.


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