Digital , Marketing & PR

Using Social Media to Enhance PR Efforts

Greg Kihlström

Most professionals tend to think that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter should be used to connect with customers by showcasing company culture, featuring new products, and to provide an additional customer service channel. While this is  true, they shed light on the limited view some have regarding the uses of social media for other purposes like enhancing public relations efforts.

In utilizing social media as a tactic to support a PR efforts, you could improve awareness of your brand as well as its exposure to audiences you may not otherwise reach. Read below for some tactics you can use on social media before, during, and after your PR campaigns.

Before: Social media as a research tool

Understanding your target audience

Before launching a public relations campaign to promote a certain article or piece of news for your company or clients, the most important thing to do is determine the target audience for the specific story you are looking to pitch. Knowing who the target audience is will help with the research that is needed to develop a media list and a story that will resonate with the audience.

Social media can be used during this process to determine who your company’s current audience is by looking at who interacts with your content, who your followers are, who is mentioning your company, as well as your competitors that these users also engage with. In the case that a new audience should be targeted, getting general information about who your current audience is could help to determine a realistic new target audience. As you look into building a new audience persona, it’s best to keep in mind that PR professionals often look at the target audience of a campaign as a small step outside the current audience of the organization. Thus, the best target audience is typically a group that has similar attributes or a connection to the organization’s current audience but that somewhat differs in demographics.

Targeting publications with similar audiences

Just like using social media to determine who your current audience is or should be, social media is a valuable tool in determining what a publication’s audience looks like. By looking at a publication’s social media accounts and the type of content they are posting, you can determine which publications would be best to target PR efforts towards moving forward. Based on your findings, the publications that best target your audience should be added to your media list and should be sent pitches by email or form submission.

Additionally, understanding what type of content is most popular with the publication’s audience on social media will help determine if your story will be well-received by readers of the publication. Taking a look at the content that gets the most interaction and it’s style, topic, and title, will help you optimize your pitch email and article idea for those publications listed in your media list.

During: Social media as a tool to develop relationships with publications’ editors

Engaging with editors’ social profile content

After conducting research, creating a media list, drafting emails for each publication, and sending out those emails, the best thing to do is stay on a publication’s radar. While we don’t recommend following up an hour after sending the first email or flooding every editor’s mailbox, we do recommend other ways of engaging with the publications, one of which could be through social media. Reposting or commenting on stories by the editor you are reaching out to, or that are about topics similar to your pitch, show that you are a regular reader and editors could take note. Additionally, since people are naturally more likely to open an email if they recognize the sender, doing this on a regular basis before and after you send a pitch could increase the likelihood that the editor will read it.

Sharing editors’ content on social media via the publication’s website

There are also newsrooms at various publications that have made the switch from traditional to digital content, making engagement with each post through clicks and social shares a top priority. Some publications, like Slant, are even going so far to pay journalists based on the number of clicks their article gets. By using social media to promote articles editors have written and tagging them, you could be helping yourself get your foot into the door.

After: Social media as a promotion and analytics tool

While public relations efforts are often an ongoing process that don’t typically have a set “end date,” once a story is picked up by a publication and is published, social media can be utilized to determine how successful the media placement was in improving awareness and exposure for your brand. Performance of public relations efforts is a difficult thing to measure, but social media has become an important tool in gaining insight with Facebook and other social media websites driving more traffic to news articles than Google.

Promoted posts by publications themselves

When media outlets publish stories, they are sometimes also promoted on social media. This provides tremendous value and can provide insight to how the audience reacted to the published story through the amount of retweets, likes, shares or reactions the post receives. While this number provides a basis for how many people have read and reacted to the article, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who clicks and reads the story will also like, comment, or retweet the post. In any case however, we recommend reaching out to the publication to receive analytics on the published story as well as the social post it was promoted on.

Promoted posts by your organization

After your story is published, promoting it on your company’s social media should be your next step. If you aren’t promoting a story within your own networks, you could be giving up a huge opportunity to gain even more publicity. So, when you promote the story through your social media channels, be sure to track the engagement you get on your post. This, combined with the interactions on the publication’s post, should give you a good idea of how many people have engaged with your article through social media. Remember however, that engagement on social posts only shows the amount of people who reacted to your post, not the total amount of people that viewed it.

Measuring success

During the time that your article is being promoted on social media, we encourage you to track your followers and mentions. If your accounts experience a large increase in followers,engagement, and mentions, it could be attributed to a successful PR strategy, especially if the increase in engagement and mentions is directly tied to the article itself

In addition, taking a look at your website analytics will help you understand if your efforts influenced the target audience to go further than simply viewing the story by visiting your website. Depending on the credit your organization is given within the published article, you could see increases in Organic traffic from users searching for information about your company, or increases in Referral traffic from the publication’s website, as well as Social referrals from media promotion.  It is important to note however, that with PR efforts regarding op-eds, media inclusions, or media placements, most traffic and engagement will be seen 1-4 days after the piece is published.


As you can see, social media is an important tool for marketers to use when developing a public relations strategy. By using social media, you will be able to identify your audience as well as the types of content that appeals most to them, engage with editors to improve name recognition, and you will be able to gain more insight as you plan, implement, and analyze your PR efforts that follow.

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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Greg Kihlström
Greg Kihlström
SVP Digital