Social media in PR and marketing:
"You achieve the most when you work together."

Social media in PR and marketing: "You achieve the most when you work together."

PR and marketing are separate disciplines in many companies. Social media is an important channel for both of them. In an expert interview, Konstanze Pflüger, Vice President of Data4Life, and Michelle Gerstberger, Head of Marketing at FLEX Capital, share their experiences and best practices.

Konstanze Pflüger,
VP Communications Data4Life

Konstanze Pflüger has been working in corporate communication and PR for almost ten years. She played a key role in developing and driving forward communications at Project A and Heartbeat Labs, and has recently become VP Communications at Data4Life. Konstanze Pflüger and Michelle Gerstberger met in 2016 when they were working together for Project A.

Michelle Gerstberger,
FLEX Capital

Michelle Gerstberger is Head of Marketing at FLEX Capital, a private equity fund that invests in profitable and growing companies from the German Internet and software medium-sized companies. Michelle Gerstberger is an expert in content marketing and, as a consultant, has supported many companies in the development of their content marketing strategy in the past.

Konstanze, how do you approach social media and what role does social media play for PR and communication from your point of view?

Konstanze: Companies are increasingly expected to be present in social media - by customers, investors and applicants. This is now part of an integrated communication strategy and has a similar status to a website.

For which objectives in PR is social media particularly suitable?

Konstanze: When appearances on social media are well done, they contribute to the consistency of the corporate brand and strengthen employer branding. You can give deeper insights there and build a community. If the press writes about the company or individual people, the articles can be shared in the networks. Social media can support classic PR in this way, also because you often reach a different target group on the platforms. Of course, I always want a post to go viral. But even without the viral effect, you can reach many more customers, investors, potential applicants or even some media representatives there, depending on the topic, than via other channels such as simply sending classic press releases.

What tips do you have to achieve a wide reach on social media?

Konstanze: The important thing is to set up social media strategically and to keep it up, even if you only get three likes at the beginning. You cannot say in general which format or which post will increase reach, you have to try a lot. For example, if employees are proud of their company's content, their corporate mail is more likely to spread as well. Of course, this helps to improve the range, since every employee has his own network. What can also increase reach is to tag other companies or partners and to advertise campaigns via sponsored posts.

For a few weeks, or even months, you should test different strategies to see what works. Because that is also changing because the algorithms of the networks are changing. It helps to be informed and to stay up to date on which new functions the networks themselves are promoting. Sooner or later you will see effects: it may be in the form of leads, general recognition value or purchases. This is often also the interface to marketing. It's often difficult to measure the success of traditional PR. In the past, KPIs such as the advertising equivalent value were used, but the more campaign-based advertising formats there are, the less meaningful is such a figure. It is also based on print media. Social media can offer more meaningful KPIs, also because most networks already have integrated analysis tools.

You cannot say in general which format or which post will increase reach, you have to try a lot.

Konstanze Pflüger

What role does social media play in your marketing strategy?

Michelle: Strategy is the basis for us too. Which target groups do we want to address? Which platforms does the target group use? Which formats then suit the target group and platform? The content is based on the problems of the target group. Where can a company offer solutions? In addition, we regularly use content, both organic and paid. That depends on the objective. One company can sell its products directly via a social platform, another first wants to be noticed with its positioning or collect e-mail addresses from customers. We then track how successful various measures are. The qualitative data, such as comments and messages, are also relevant if they are evaluated correctly.

Konstanze: I believe that everyone who looks after social media in the company, whether from marketing or communications, develops a feeling for the target group after a while. This is an additional feedback channel and a huge value, especially in the start-up environment.

What does a typical working day on social media look like for you?

Konstanze: First thing in the morning I look at what's been happening on the various channels. I'll see how did our latest posts perform? Are there any notifications I need to respond to? At lunchtime I'll check it out again. I also look on the platforms to see what relevant editors are dealing with, what the industry is concerned with and think about how we can position ourselves - on social media, but also in dialogue with journalists.

When I'm in charge of social media alone, I usually have in mind what I share when and where. Often there are two or three posts a week. I plan the posts in advance in a separate social media calendar. If there are several people in the team, you have to create at least a small editorial plan and coordinate it so that it is clear who is creating which posts and associated visuals.

When it comes to topics, I often make sure, depending on the company, that they are as varied as possible. I usually publish in the morning and at noon because many users check social media briefly before work and during the lunch break. But that also depends on the channel and you can look up the relevant statistics for the networks. It is also not possible to say in general which days of the week are more suitable: For some companies, posts on Fridays or Saturdays run well because many users deal with the topics on the weekend. At other companies there is no interaction at all on the weekend. That depends on the product, the platform and the target group.

What is your social media work like, Michelle?

Michelle: We have a content plan in which we plan the content for the next few weeks. Some content formats take a relatively long time to prepare, for example videos or expert contributions. In the week of publication, I prepare content for the following weeks and then it comes to the analysis: What is performing well, what is not performing well? You can invest a tremendous amount of time there. And as you have already said, you also must watch what is happening in the industry and whether you can react to something daily.

Konstanze: That also plays a big role in PR, Agenda Surfing. What is currently a public issue and how can we as a company take it up for ourselves and position ourselves on it. That was the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago, for example, and at the beginning of Covid the home office topic. However, you always have to be quick when dealing with such topics.

Michelle: I agree with you. What I see with us: You not only have to maintain a company brand, but maybe also have people who want to position themselves for certain topics on social media. In addition to the content strategy and the daily research for the company, there are also one or two other profiles in which almost the same amount of effort must be invested.

Which content formats do you mainly create for social media?

Konstanze: That depends on the chosen communication strategy. If a company wants to use social media for employer branding and wants to appear very human and approachable, you can introduce employees and give them deeper insights via videos and photos. There is currently a lot of text content, for example articles that were published on the company blog and that were shared on social media or articles about the compan. Depending on how the team is set up, some formats are easier to create than others. Creating videos, for example, takes more time than pictures.

Michelle: For example, we are currently summarizing important statements from articles in videos that we then share on social media. When the user sees someone, they might like, it builds a higher level of trust. In return, the effort of producing a video can be worthwhile. Basically, I always think about who should the content address? A CEO has little time. The message must be short and to the point. This can be a slider with a few bullet points, or an article with graphics and subheadings that is easy to scan. For other personas who want to dig deeper into a topic, a link to a detailed webinar may be the better format.

In your opinion, what role does social media play in building a brand?

Konstanze: It's difficult to build a strong brand only with social media, there are always other channels - whether online or offline - through which the target’s group attention can be drawn to the company. Marketing and communication should ideally deal with the topic of branding together. When talking about the employer brand, it also makes sense to include HR and, when it comes to product communication, also sales or customer support. Every company should have a clear message and know what it stands for.

For start-ups, the topic of brands has increasingly come into focus in recent years. In communication, parts of the branding area have always been part of everyday life: Communication should be consistent across all channels, or consideration is given to how management can be positioned as experts or thought leaders. This works via interviews and background discussions in traditional media, but also very well via social media, through your own statements and contributions, or if you share the interviews there. When everyone from marketing and communication contributes their knowledge, something great can emerge for the brand.

Michelle: Yeah, I totally agree with you. It is important to define exactly which brand you want to build in advance and then regularly create content that corresponds to the brand and delivers added value. In the B2B area, I often encounter the fear of revealing too much internal information, but from my point of view you can only gain if you share knowledge that will help others.

Marketing and communication should ideally deal with the topic of branding together.

Konstanze Pflüger

What are the biggest mistakes PR and marketing can make on social media?

Konstanze: Inconsistencies between the social media channels, but also other marketing contents such as newsletters and websites, should be avoided. And the content must fit the person involved. It has to be authentic. In addition, it helps to understand the basics of social media in order to get the maximum effect out of it. These are often simple things: employees should tag their own company when a post is shared on LinkedIn, or don't start a tweet with an @ sign on Twitter.

Michelle: From my point of view, the biggest mistake is simply not doing anything or hesitating forever because you approach every single post in a perfectionist manner. The platforms are so fast paced that it doesn't matter if a post with which you tried something new does not perform well. You can always learn from a contribution that doesn't work. Constancy is important. You should publish something every week, otherwise you won't be able to build a relationship with the users.

You should publish something every week, otherwise you won't be able to build a relationship with the users.

Michelle Gerstberger

How should marketing and PR work together from your point of view?

Konstanze: First of all, they should work together at all. In the past I have often seen that both areas work completely separately. But in the end, marketing is as much a communication form with the customer. It may have a different tonality, but the goals are like those of PR. A weekly joint meeting can help to coordinate, exchange ideas and think campaigns together.

Michelle: I agree with that. In small businesses, it is best for one person to do both. If there are two teams, it is important to work closely together. You can simply achieve more if you approach issues from both sides, achieve reach and pay attention to measurability.