What’s the best computer software for my 4th grader? How can I manage my kid’s schedules during my hectic workweek? What are the healthiest recipes I can make in 20 minutes? These are a few of the questions parents may ask themselves during the back-to-school season.

Back-to-School: How Big Is the Pie?

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend approximately $72.5 billion dollars on back-to-school merchandise this year. With back-to-school season in full swing, PR professionals in countless business verticals have an opportunity to bring awareness to their client’s businesses. Whether your client provides a service or a product, many publications and social media outlets should be targeted for coverage.

Building a Plan

While a well-placed media outreach is a key component in providing consumers with the knowledge and awareness that sparks initial buy-in for a product or service, it should not be the only channel in your plan. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools for influencing customer perception of a brand and buying habits. PR professionals, with a well-designed plan, can use social media as a direct line to its client’s customers through a familiar and trusted voice.

Social media plans should contain two components: proactive and meaningful activity on a client’s branded social media account and, if possible, alignment with a social media influencer.

Proactive Social Media

Proactive and meaningful activity can be many things, but the most important rule of thumb is never to let your client be silent. Nothing is more boring than having a company update its Twitter account once every two months. Follow these tips on how to best maintain a client’s social media account during the back-to-school period:

  • Things like coupons, discounts and competitions work well on social media, but directives like “Buy now” do not. Parents and college students are always looking to save money, so the more you can do to remind your client’s customers that the business is thinking of them, the better.
  • Always keep things visual. If you can post a photo in place of text, do it. Social Media Examiner provides great tips to get started.
  • Gauge customer insights and directly respond. Nothing is a better gut check for a product or service than what customers are saying on social media. Do a quick search, and if you come across something negative, address it. Taking a few moments to speak directly to a frustrated Mom can build trust with customers and make for a potential media opportunity.

Social Media Influencers

Social media influencers have massive numbers of followers who highly value influencer opinions. Customers are becoming increasingly disenchanted with advertised content and often find it untrustworthy. During back-to-school days, receiving just one tweet from an influencer about your product can be hugely influential.

How to Engage an Influencer?

Step one, find out who the top influencers are in your field. Forbes created a list of 2013 Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers that can be your brass ring for influential people in social media, but realistically it’s going to require extensive research of your competitors’ social media accounts and keywords that define your business.

Step two, now that you’ve located the most relevant users, how do you pitch them? Pitching a reporter on Twitter is not an easy task and should not be taken lightly. Because Twitter is on open forum, getting called out for not paying attention to the influencer’s requests, or pitching irrelevant information, can be humiliating for both you and your client. It is key that, before you press send, your information is laser- focused to the influencer’s beat, that he or she has interacted with PR in the past and that you come across as conversational. It doesn’t hurt to tweet an article the influencer has written or retweet something you found interesting. A little flattery goes a long way.


Matt Tye

Matt Tye is an intern for Airfoil, a high-tech PR and marcomm firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.