Webinar Recap #2: Jeff Sweat - PR, Social Media, and the Art of Talking to Humans at a Distance
Updated: Feb 5
View the webinar on our Youtube channel here!
Last week we were joined by the esteemed PR director and sci-fi author Jeff Sweat who spoke on the art of storytelling in this digitally prolific and diverse world, shedding light on how to effectively navigate digital media during today's turbulent, pandemic-stricken time.
As summarized by Jeff, "All the rules about who got to make content has fallen away," making room not only for content creators and creatives, but the PR realm to readjust and amplify their role in online storytelling. In this webinar recap, we seek to answer the questions: how does one make their voice heard amidst the insurgence of new online creations, and how should we use social media to this advantage?
First, some background info on our speaker:
Who is Jeff Sweat and what is Sweat + Co.?
One of 7 boys and 1 girl
Former tech reporter and novelist—wrote two books: Mayfly and Scorpion (post-apocalypse sci-fi series)
PR director for Deutsch LA and 72andSunny—the top advertising agencies in the US
founder of Sweat + Co, an LA based PR and marketing agency made up of mainly content creators and PR professionals.
Once fed 1500 drunk people in Cannes—one of his favorite campaigns
Combining business knowledge and his writing skills, Jeff feels most satisfied in the unique niche he created for himself.
Reflecting on the journey it took him to designing his own later career, Jeff encourages everyone to explore what makes you different from others and consequently, what you can offer to the world that others just don't have. This is how you can find a unique career fit that satisfies your needs, and how your organization can set itself apart from others as well!
With experience pitching thousands of stories for a wide range of agencies, Jeff summarizes the following for us:
"PR is..getting people to say good things about you." - Jeff Sweat
PR are the consultants for the modern agency
PR doesn't just tell your story; they help you create a story worth telling
You can't make people care about a story if it isn't inherently interesting
An important relation Jeff identifies is one shared by social media and PR, which makes social media the malleable and powerful tool, art, and skill it is to assist PR; social media is PR without the middleman.
Ultimately: PR's job is to know how to tell your story and who it's for by catering to the different social media audiences
EIGHT rules for effective PR-ing in today's virtual world
"Everything we design is meant to be talked about, shared and moved along." - Jeff Sweat
1. Everything is PR
According to Jeff, PR is relevant to everything we do, regardless of if we work for PR or not. Whether it be updating your company's statistics or reposting an article about a current event, everything you do in relation to social media represents who you are, to the extent of how it's moderated.
The question now is not whether or not you have an online presence, but whether or not it represents who you are and your core values.
While analyzing how the Kardashians took the internet and entertainment industry by storm, Jeff points out that the main "product" being promoted is the Kardashian family themselves.
What drives their popularity is the share-ability of the content they put out. That calls into the question: how forward-able are your posts and creations?
"If you weren't paid to do it, would you share your own content?" - Jeff Sweat
DESIGNING AND LAUNCHING YOUR CAMPAIGN:
Before campaign: meet with team, pipeline, planning;
Kickoff: brief PR and engagement with creatives and return with social media and PR ideas;
Creative Review: PR then identifies ideas that have the most buzz and tweak to get more share-ability potential; figures out how to bring journalists and solicit coverage;
Launch: PR and social teams create a PR plan for campaign; meet with client PR teams
2. Keep your story straight
Sometimes we just can't seem to pinpoint our own story. In his webinar, Jeff emphasizes that this is the first and most crucial step to accomplish prior to propelling your vision and products.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
What is it that you're doing that noone else doing? What is it going to add to people's lives that they don't already have?
STEPS TO TAKE
Create a Cocktail napkin statement: A: Where you are today... **[**how do you get to your goal] B: Your goal
Perform an agency vitals assessment—month long assessment on ALL things related to your company/organization/people/goals/values etc.
"[It] informs far more than our PR strategy—it informs our entire business" - Jae Goodman, CEO, Observatory
3. Make the story better...or nothing else will matter
If PR was the tip of an iceberg, its massive body would include things like the agency's core, creative assets and content, its client information, and its culture.
4. Place your bets— understand what each channel does for you
The process starts with figuring who you are, then proceeding to formulate the stories that describe who you are and getting them out there through the infinitely varying social media outlets out there: news media, video platforms (Youtube, Tiktok), blog posts (Medium.com, Google blogs, Wix), paid advertisements (Facebook, Instagram, professional/social networking apps, LinkedIn...and more). Always remember to match the medium to your message!
BUT, you have to believe in your own story and the core values you seek to portray through it.
"I won't tell a story I can't believe in." - Jeff Sweat
5. Can't get into the news? Make your own!
Having hosted daily webinar series for two weeks straight recently, Jeff reminds us that pandemic has opened the gates to content creation—anyone can do it, anywhere.
STEPS TO TAKE
make your own platforms; very little cost compared to hiring others to write/do things for you
not everything you make is going to go viral
Remember: "Anything you share...you got to make people care about it" - Jeff Sweat
6. Don't Spin (fake) stories
all you do is damage your credibility
Citing the following example, Jeff cautions against the wrong usage of facts (which accounts for libel): A smoking ad cited a health study claiming that smoking reduced the burden of smokers on health care systems, but failed to mention that this was because of the increased deaths caused by smoking that gave smokers little time to be admitted into the health care system in the first place for treatment. Out of context, the reference made in the ad is misleading as it is harmful.
7. Build phone relationships
As a journalist, you have to talk to a lot of people—if you don't, you won't get the response from the people you "connect" with because you don't have that relationship to carry the favor.
8. Measure — anything and everything
Measure the response of your audience to your content
Measure what makes you—how much impact?
Measure growth and changes within and without your programs
Try to be as accurate as you can
On a final note, the three things you need to be a good PR, says Jeff, is
Be fearless—be able to talk to anyone if you need to
Be warm—you also need to be kind.
The ability to communicate
"Be able to talk to anyone if you need to, but you also need to be kind." - Jeff Sweat
PR is knowing what to say, how to say it, and who to say it to when conveying anything from company values to your start-up's story. It's about understanding your agency not regarding on surface level knowledge but what that knowledge amounts to in the form of long term and short term goals. With the abundance of social media platforms and self-made media in this day and age, tact is crucial, and fine-tuning your story and your tone in telling it can make all the difference between just another twitter post to a viral video narrative.
Stay tuned for next week's webinar recap!
Until next time!