Evolving Tools: Text Messaging & Public Relations
In the last decade, public relations professionals have become accustomed to giving clients advice about text messaging for fundraising campaigns and customer relations. A 2008 text messaging campaign conducted by the United Way raised less than $10,000, and just a few years later, the American Red Cross raised $32 million for Haiti. For those creating and managing events, text messaging can be invaluable – helping you relay information to attendees. The tools we advise clients to use have changed dramatically, but how is text messaging impacting our profession and how we work?
For those working in media relations or advocacy, text messaging is invaluable if trying to meet a reporter at a coffee shop or restaurant, or if you need to send a private note during a hearing or meeting. The fast pace of PR work can mean that we use text messaging to find our way when GPS fails us, or to drop a private note during a conference call, or to coach a client who needs help.
One of the best uses I’ve found for text messaging is for real-time event communication. When working with a group of public relations professionals at an event where the team is actively managing a group of reporters, having a text messaging group means we can quickly sort out logistics, find each other, and make sure all of the reporters get the information, interviews and materials they need.
I’ve also found text messaging helpful for dealing with certain clients. For one client that did a large event which attracted significant press attention, incoming requests were triaged via text message and discussed among a small group of people tasked with coordinating interviews. I was the only PR person in the conversation, but it was important to talk about these requests and prioritize them in real-time.
And how we work is constantly changing. I was initially not a fan of Slack, an app that communicates like text messaging around a project that is segmented into channels. But I’ve gradually gotten used to Slack and realize it has some merits. For one thing – I can always tell when I log in, where I need to be updated.
In terms of client relations, I appreciate getting appointment confirmations, meeting changes, and updates via text. Text messaging has contributed to that feeling of needing to “always be on” and available for clients, even if their texts arrive after hours. So it falls on the PR pro to decide how to manage these messages. If someone texts me about a non-urgent matter after hours (e.g a text comes in during dinner with my family asking if they can call me at that moment about what appears to be a non-urgent matter), I might text back and suggest talking during working hours, or just avoid responding until the morning.
In 2012, communicators were still very skeptical of texting and worried that it would ruin communications as we know it. I think you have to accept texting for what it is – a rapid way to communicate with people – and you have to meet people where they are at.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven