Masterstroke Interview with Shonali Burke, President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.

Shonali Burke is a veteran of small and large PR agencies, she is an award-winning president & CEO of her eponymous social PR consulting firm, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.(SBC) , where Shonali along her teams (s) help for- and non-profit organizations small and large reach business goals by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™.

Shonali is coming up with an Online Mini Training on Social PR and in a tete-a-tete with Richa Seth, she has shared details about this training with some interesting ideas, case studies, measurement and more on Social PR. Excerpts:

1. Tell us more about the upcoming ‘The Social PR Launchpad’ online mini training?

The Social PR Launchpad is a free, LIVE online mini-training I’m teaching next weekend, Nov. 13, 14, & 15, just one hour a day. I gave it the tagline, “Unleash Your Inner Social PR Superhero,” because I truly believe PR pros have an an inner “social PR superhero” they can channel to excel in today’s media landscape. So my mini-training is designed to help awaken that superhero within them.

2. What could be the key takeaways/executable ideas that one can look forward to from this training?

Overall, folks will walk away with a clear sense of who their “inner social PR superhero” is, and how to truly give it wings. I’m going to help them figure this out with what I call their personal Growth Action Plan, with tips on how they can continue to grow their unique skills and talent.

On a more tactical level, we’ll also take a look at smart listening, engagement, and a more social approach to media relations, as these skills are still core to today’s PR professional. We’ll look at ways in which you can do this that won’t cost you an arm or a leg, or several nights’ sleep.

3. Could you share an example of a Social PR campaign that has helped to deliver business results/met the objectives?

One of my favorite social PR cases/campaigns of all time is The Blue Key Campaign. It’s not easy to give a faceless, voiceless people a voice, but that’s what we did, through a holistic and integrated social PR strategy that put community – in our case, community generated by the Blue Key Champions – at its core.

Thanks to the Champions we were able to tell refugee stories in a compelling way to their audiences and through their voices. Keeping the campaign’s end-goal in sight – a certain number of “blue key” purchases (a “blue key” pin or pendant was the motif of the campaign) as a means to long-term donor conversion – helped keep our efforts focused. Here’s a Prezi case study I did on this a while back.

4.  How can one measure a Social PR campaign most effectively?

A cookie-cutter approach to PR is partly why our profession has such a bad rap. We can fall into the trap of churning out the same old, same old, tried and tested tactics. That’s what I call PR by Numbers.Fit the puzzle piece into the slot if the numbers match.

Despite the use of “numbers” in that phrase, this kind of activity is usually anything but measurable… in the right way, at least. Yes, you may be checking off all sorts of boxes that make your boss happy… but are you really advancing the business objectives of your organization?

The ONLY formula I can give you is this:

  • Put in place a really smart listening (old world speak: “monitoring”) solution

  • Analyze the results of the data that you secure as a result of that listening

  • Rinse and repeat, aka, implement and improve.

If you look at those three bullet points, they are not a stock formula. They do not tell you, do X and then you’ll get Y. They do tell you this: use your brain to figure out the stories the data are telling you, and implement or change your strategy accordingly.

5. Can Social PR be used to manage a crisis, could you elucidate with an example?

I think a Social PR philosophy is absolutely critical to effective crisis management today. There are so many different mediums via which people can reach brands these days, it can be a bit unnerving for those on the receiving end. However, when a company responds swiftly via its social channels, it can go a long way towards defusing the situation, that then allows for the other components of the strategy to kick in. My good friend and frequent guest blogger, Ancita Satija gives a great example of this here.

However, responding isn’t always the answer. Because sometimes, a situation only seems like a crisis, but isn’t actually one. Watch and monitor the situation 24/7, but unless the crisis starts gathering steam, do not do anything… and this underscores why smart listening is critical in good Social PR. Sure, prepare your talking points, etc. – that’s just common sense – and be ready to activate your crisis plan at a moment’s notice, but do not start getting “out there” until you have concrete information, and know what you’re going to say and do.

6. Some tips for the novice in Social PR? How should one map and implement their social PR strategy?

I heard a three-word mantra a long time ago that I often use: Educate, Cultivate, Motivate. This is how organizations *should* approach it; but most of the time they instead jump straight to Sell. That just doesn’t work.

You have to spend time becoming a part of a community, listening, engaging, curating, sharing. Do for everyone else before you ask them to do for you. Then, when you have enough community “change” in your bank, you can make your ask – but not before.

7. Anything else you would like to share?

I’d love for your community to join The Social PR Launchpad on November 13, 14, and 15 from 2-3 pm ET; I know that’s late in India, but on the other hand, it’s not that late!. There’s even a 24-hour replay for all registrants (but you have to register to be able to watch it). It will be a lot of fun, so I hope to see everyone there!

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