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The importance of real-time PR

Consumers are turning towards social media sites for 24-hour news and customer support, so what does this mean for PR? Real-time PR responses are important if you want to keep up with this 24/7 approach, and we discuss how this can be achieved without having to man your desks all day and night.   

Rise of digital

Digital news has become more popular than traditional print newspapers for keeping up to date on current affairs. A study from Ofcom confirmed that 41% of people use apps and websites, 1% higher than those that read newspapers – and this is expected to continue rising.

Access to news and information is now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and consumers are therefore expecting the same from brands.

60 minutes and counting

While many people expect an immediate response from brands in our increasingly ‘instant’ lifestyles, there is some respite. Up to 47% of consumers who interact with brands via social media expect a response within an hour. While this is achievable during business hours, it’s much harder to reach that target out of hours without a dedicated 24-hour support team.

Plenty of brands have implemented this level of service, treating its social media channels as another form of customer support, but what does this mean for PR?

Real-time responses

Regardless of the time of day, brands should appear to be approachable online, and this extends to its PR responses. The core fear for businesses is the response to complaints or bad news.

Identify common issues: Even small problems can become big social headaches when customers start spreading their views across their social channels. Have a clear, general set of responses ready. Ensure they’re non-inflammatory. Agree to respond personally within a timeframe – and stick to it. Try and keep other responses off the social channel unless the thread turns positive. Your PR agency can help, but staff who man your social channels need clear, consistent, customer-first training.

Identify potential high-profile issues: Pre-drafted statements are helpful for events or incidents that require a PR response, as they can be posted without hesitation. It requires fast thinking and being careful that statements close down the issue rather than inspiring questions or conflicts. Be sensitive to the issues but firm in your response. This then leaves time for a full statement to be prepared, without leaving customers in the dark.

Train key people how to handle the media: Media training for key people is important, so that at all hours someone is available to respond to the big issues. With good training the ability to respond to consumers becomes easier. A video put out quickly can show empathy, understanding and commitment to putting a problem right.

Let’s not forget that PR swings both ways. You could identify some great news – such as positive customer comments or outcomes – and a swift response can pay dividends too.

Consumer expectations around response times out of hours are fairly low, with most people accepting that your average medium-sized business won’t be contactable out of business hours. But as more brands adopt the 24/7 approach, we are certainly expecting to see a rise in real-time PR as a result.

Sophie Edwards: