How has Instagram changed the way PR pros pitch?

As the journalists and fashion bloggers arrived to see the pop-up store
launching at the hotel that day, their rooms weren’t just ready—they were

Rather than a standard room, for example, the media and other influencers
found themselves welcomed into a spacious suite, with champagne and
strawberries waiting for them. There were plush robes, slippers and other
details that could wind up in photos, videos or a mashup of content that
could be featured in their Instagram Story later that day.

“One of the bloggers even asked for an outfit to wear to the event to take
pictures and post pictures (of herself),” recalls Erika Montgomery, CEO of
Three Girls Media
in Yelm, Washington. While she doesn’t get into the specifics of the client she was
working with, she uses it as an example of how social media is changing PR.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to shape that story,” she says and by “story”
she means not only the articles and blog posts that might get written, but
the highly personal juxtaposition of multimedia content that’s now easy to
create from a smartphone.

What are Instagram stories?

If you haven’t watched them before, Instagram Stories tend to run only
about 15 seconds in length and can be a still image or a quick multimedia
clip, with the ability to type or handwrite text over top. You can also add
augmented reality special effects (like filming yourself with dog ears, for
example, or wearing a pair of virtual sunglasses), along with emojis and,
more recently, animated GIFs.

As Instagram users scroll down through photos on the app, Instagram Stories
run at the very top and can take viewers through the curated highlights of
someone’s day. Though they originally disappeared within 24 hours,
Instagram Stories can now be archived and showcased on profile pages.

Snapchat originated the idea of Stories, but Instagram’s decision to create
a similar feature in 2016 has proven highly successful. Last summer,
Instagram celebrated Stories’ first anniversary by saying
50 percent of businesses on the platform had produced a Story in asingle month, and that one in five organic Stories from a brand had produced a direct
message from a consumer.

The functionality has proven so popular that Facebook (which owns
Instagram) brought Stories to its own platform last year, making this a
form of creating content that’s increasingly pervasive.

“We all have a phone, and now we are not only a photographer but also a
videographer,” says Sandy Sponaugle, CEO of
Platinum PR
in Sheperdstown, WV. “I think there’s definitely a blending of how we go
about doing any kind of promotion these days.”


How reporters use social media in their jobs]

How to create Instagram worthy events

Sponaugle and her team specialize in areas like tourism marketing, for
instance, where traditional media and social media influencers might be
invited to experience fruit-picking or other activities in a particular
county. While it’s up to the influencer to include what they put in an
Instagram Story, PR pros can guide and inspire the end results much in the
way they might connect a journalist with a subject matter expert for an

“It might be as simple as saying, ‘We’ve found that the lighting in that
room is really good,’” Sponaugle says. “You can also set up funny photo op
spaces as you would with a more traditional event.”

Whereas traditional PR might have tried to focus the media’s attention on
what happens once an event begins, Sponaugle says channels like Instagram
Stories open up rich storytelling opportunities for behind-the-scenes kinds
of details. This can help build excitement before an event, as well as
during and after an event.

Make it easy to promote your brand

One of the main differences, she adds, is making sure the journalist or
social influencer is well aware of your employer or client’s Instagram,
Snapchat or other social handles. That way they can “tag” those names in
their story, which can drive greater brand awareness and add context to
what’s being shown in the photos or videos.

It’s frustrating when these get left out, she says, and doesn’t help the
influencer or journalist, since tagging a company might mean the PR team
gets an alert they can then re-share with their own following. “I want to
tag you — I want to help promote you. Don’t make me work for it,” she says.

Below is an example of a well-constructed post for Old Navy:

Talking about shades of blue & sharing this @oldnavy outfit on the blog today! {link in bio} Btw, a bunch of items are currently up to 40% off right now & you also get 20% off your order with code SWEET! #hipowered #sayhi #oldnavystyle #sponsored Download the app to shop #LTKcurvesthis pic via screenshot or visit the “Shop My Instagram” tab on my blog! 📷: @carstytice

A post shared by Katie Stuart (@wanderabode) on Apr 10, 2018 at 9:05am PDT


Understand what influencers expect from brand relationships

According to Montgomery, it’s also important to recognize that in some
cases, traditional journalists might only use Instagram and Snapchat
Stories for fun, personal use. For a social influencer, on the other hand,
Instagram Stories may represent one of the main ways they connect with
their audience.

There is often more of what she calls a “quid pro quo” relationship with
social influencers, where they are given payment, free products or some
other incentive to provide coverage. Incentives might guarantee inclusion
on a social influencers’ Instagram Story, but it should not appear too
scripted or fabricated and reflect a genuine experience.

Of course, something new may emerge soon that makes Instagram Stories look
like the social media equivalent of an 8-track tape player. Montgomery says
the key for PR pros is to filter out what’s valuable from a brand

“The social platforms are always changing something or another,” she says.
“Our clients just don’t know—and we don’t expect them to know. They’re
experts in their industry and what they do best. This is our job and our
area to help them.”

Shane Schick is a journalist and content marketer who writes for
Marketing Dive, Mobile Marketer and several other publications. A
version of this article first appeared on

the Cision blog

(Image via)


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