Social media is a revolutionary public relations tool that is changing how messages are being communicated to the public. Traditional public relations is no longer a one-way method of communication. It is now becoming a dialogue between the company and consumers, as seen last week when the iconic breakfast chain iHop revealed that it would be changing its name from IHOp to IHOb.
Public relations was once strictly an output form of communication, with content creation controlled by the company. The addition of social media in public relations now allows for a discussion to form with the consumer. IHOp’s name change created an immediate dialogue, with Internet users speculating as to what the “b” could stand for. Breakfast? Brunch? Bacon?
The answer was finally released on June 11th: burgers. The name change was made to unveil their new menu which offers steak burgers.
The dialogue leading up to the reveal made the impact of the menu addition much more powerful. Normally, the addition of burgers to a breakfast chain’s menu would be a relatively small piece of news. But with the public name change and ensuing social media conversation analyzing it, suddenly, everyone is talking about IHOp’s new burgers.
Public relations in a social media age rely on responses from the public. The response from a celebrity or competitor is one that can generate a larger amount of publicity. There was an immediate response to IHop’s name change on social media from celebrities and companies such as Chrissy Teigen and Wendy’s on Twitter. This interaction helped to generate additional conversation for the company and promotion as well as allowing for other companies to “piggyback” on the successful strategy. It helped to create buzz for their new menu item as well as bring IHOp back into the public eye.
How to measure success
Social media has influenced how the effectiveness of a public relations campaign is measured. Traditionally, it was measured by the brand exposure and media coverage generated. Today it is being measured not only by brand exposure and media coverage, but how much interaction is achieved online through various media outlets and the conversations generated from the public. IHOp’s name change generated over 5 billion impressions over the course of a week and was one of Twitter’s top trending topics.
When it comes to social media marketing, risks are a must. A company name change is an enormous risk. It holds the possibility of alienating long-term customers and creating confusion. But, due to social media, that confusion ended up being beneficial for IHOp. It created a nation-wide conversation that no traditional marketing campaign could have created. IHOp’s success shows us that we must be willing to try new things with social media. Create a new voice, share content that doesn’t necessarily directly tie into your business, make jokes, jump into conversations, be bold. Take a look at your social media strategy and ask yourself — is interesting? Does it make an audience look twice? If not, take a tip from IHOp (or IHOb) and do something a little crazy that starts a dialogue. It might just pay off.