7 Ways to Use Social Media for PR Activities & Top Brand Examples

Karishma Borkakoty

May 2, 202413 min read

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Social media and public relations are a potent combo that very few brands leverage masterfully. Starbucks is one such.

Ever sidled up to a Starbucks counter, soaking in that coffee-scented ambiance, only to have your name creatively butchered on a coffee cup?

Chances are, you've been there, done that😊  

But back in 2019, Starbucks in the UK decided to spin these familiar little goof-up experiences into something downright heartwarming with its #whatsyourname ad campaign.

So, the ad centers around this person named James, who's going through a big personal change, trying to be accepted for who they really are in a world that's not always as easy as we'd like.

The scene goes something like this: James is in line at Starbucks, feeling all jittery, thinking, "Okay, this is a big deal." Then comes their turn, and the barista pops the question, "What's your name?" Now it might sound like nothing special, but for James, this isn't just any name — it's their name, chosen and declared with pride. For James, it felt like the world was finally seeing their identity for the first time. It was validation — loud and clear, right there, between the espresso machines and the pastry boxes.

Starbucks didn't just keep this moment to themselves; they shared it with the world on social media with the hashtag #whatsyourname. And just like that, this hashtag turned into so much more than a campaign. It became this big, heartfelt conversation. People everywhere started sharing their own stories of feeling seen, all using the same hashtag. It was genuinely touching.

And this brand didn't stop there. It took it even further.

For every social media post with the hashtag “#whatsyourname,” Starbucks pledged donations up to £100,000 to Mermaids, a charity that's all about supporting transgender and gender-diverse youngsters.

This Starbucks story, right here, sets the stage for modern social media PR in the digital era, where authenticity, empathy and genuine human connections are at the heart of what makes brands stand out. Now, let's dive into the role of social media in PR, exploring real-life examples and strategies to see how it can become a powerful tool in your PR toolkit.

Recommended reading: 10 Best Social Media Marketing Examples In 2023-24

Table of Contents

Impact of social media in PR

There are several ways social media has transformed the public relations landscape. Let's discuss three main ones.

Influencing the community of like-minded individuals

Any well-known agency offering social media PR services will vouch for the role of influencers in driving PR relations. Why? Because user-generated content (UGC) and content from thought leaders and opinion makers add significant weight to your brand's message and help build trust with your audience, more than self-serving advertisements can ever do.

61% of customers say they trust product recommendations by social media influencers since they are sincere and unbiased. 

Latest Influencer Marketing Statistics 

If you look at today's social media channels, you'll see friends, colleagues, and ordinary people turning into vloggers, bloggers and influencers. These individuals are not celebs, but their posts are relatable and appreciated by the general crowd. They help make your brand more approachable and relatable, like a familiar face among many faceless logos, and they do it all without the big budget typically required for celebrity endorsements.

🚫Beware: It’s a common misconception that the best influencers are the ones with vast follower networks. However, tier-2 influencers with smaller, more tight-knit communities have been found to garner more engagement on their posts and hold more purchase-led conversations. Influencer selection can be a tricky affair. Don't just get hung up on vanity metrics like follower count. What matters more is what they can really do or contribute to your PR goals.

Boosting customer engagement

Social media has completely transformed the PR game, making it incredibly easy to communicate with your audience. This means you can now have real-time conversations with your followers and directly gather their feedback without the need for email surveys.

Via social media customer service you can resolve issues swifty and boost customer satisfaction without violating SLAs. Timely, swift support keeps customers engaged with your brand and away from competitors.

Engaged customers are more likely to repurchase and yield referrals, aiding you with lead generation. If you are able to engage these referrals with targeted content and ads, you set off a virtuous conversion cycle that works organically without costly advertising.

Effortless topic curation and trendspotting

Social media is an always-on hub where people are constantly chatting, sharing, and voicing their thoughts on everything from hot trends to controversies. This non-stop stream of conversation can be a goldmine for social media PR, offering raw and real-time consumer insights straight from your audience. These insights are invaluable for content and campaign creation, providing inspiration that can lead to trending and viral content.

In addition, having direct access to your audience can help you create customer-centric narratives and craft messages that elevate your brand’s image more effectively than conventional PR activities.

Deep dive: What Are the Top Situations Where You Can Leverage PR?

Social media and PR: 7 ways to combine them

Social media can play a significant part in becoming a conduit for your PR activities. Here are a few of the easiest and most effective ways to start using PR and social media together without inflating your marketing budget.

1. Set clear and realistic objectives

Start with a crystal clear and realistic goal. Knowing what you're aiming for lets you tailor strategies that hit the mark right from the beginning. Plus, setting specific metrics and KPIs gives you a clear scoreboard to check your success at the end of the campaign. This way, you can fine-tune your approach for even sharper results next time.  

Need an example? 

Let's say you want to get more people talking about your brand. You might decide to kick off a campaign where you ask folks to create and share their own content using a special hashtag you come up with. Now, your goal here is to track this chosen hashtag on social media. If you see your hashtag everywhere, more than you initially hoped, you'll know your campaign's a hit. If not, you can adjust your social media strategy for success.

And it's not just about tracking hashtags. The real challenge for many brands and PR teams lies in clearly defining their social media goals.

4 Easy Steps to Define Your Social Media Goals

  • Get your objectives straight: Ask yourself: How will social media fit into your PR strategy? Do you want to increase brand awareness, manage a crisis or boost customer engagement?

  • Track the right metrics: Identify relevant key social media metrics such as reach, impressions, engagement rate, website click-throughs, conversion rate and customer acquisition cost (CAC), based on their ability to provide meaningful insights into your social media performance against your set goals.

  • SMARTen your goals: Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Replace vague ambitions like "boost social media engagement" with precise targets like "increase post engagement rate by 20% in the next quarter."

  • Prioritize and focus on what matters: Not all goals can be given equal weightage, so focus on the ones that really push your PR forward. Prioritizing your social media goals means you’re always working on what will give your brand the biggest boost.

Read more:  How to Set Social Media Goals for Your Business

2. Get your content calendar ready

Once you have your PR goals in place, it’s time to create a PR calendar. Where do you get started?

Think about your goals, who you're trying to connect with and what you've got to say. Make sure everything you post is true to your brand, fits your PR objectives for the quarter and resonates with what your audience prefers to see.

3 Pillars of Calendar Creation 

When you plan your content calendar, consider these three factors:

✅Timing and scheduling: Align your PR activities with key industry events, product launches and seasonal trends to maximize impact.

✅ Target audience and channels: Understand who your target audience is and which channels they frequent. Tailor your content and timing to match their preferences and behaviors, ensuring that your PR efforts reach them effectively and resonate with their interests and needs.

✅ Flexibility and adaptability: The media landscape and news agenda can change rapidly, so it’s crucial to build flexibility into your calendar. Be prepared to adjust your plans to accommodate breaking news, trending topics or unexpected events to stay relevant and timely in your communications.

Find more details: Create a Content Calendar for Social Media in 4 Easy Steps 

3. Keep your ears to the ground to capture trending topics

PR's all about keeping an eye on public opinion and all the latest trends. This means you need to keep a track of what people are saying about your brand, understanding the current trends in your industry and being aware of the broader cultural conversations. And social media platforms have become a goldmine of public opinions and discussions, making it easier than ever to stay informed.

Many robust social media monitoring tools are designed to show you insights on what's hot and trending among your audience now, from specific hashtags to broad discussion topics. With AI-powered social listening capability, you can track specific keywords or phrases that are gaining traction, helping you to quickly identify and react to emerging trends.

Sprinklr-s social listening dashboards shows the top phrases and words

If you really want to cut to the chase, leverage a listening tool enriched with Generative AI. It will not only surface trending campaign/content ideas from social media but also speed up tasks across the campaign lifecycle by generating campaign briefs, descriptions, hashtags, channel-specific posts and more.

Back to basics: How Brands Can Use a Social Media Monitoring Strategy 

4. Double-down on ambassador programs

Now, brand ambassadors are ordinary people who love your brand and want to talk about it on social media. They could be anyone who loves your brand — like your regular customers, your team or even partners.

Here's how to make your ambassador program work, in simple steps: 

  • Set clear expectations: Tell your ambassadors what you expect from them and how they should talk about your brand. 

  • Keep them posted: Always share the latest news and updates with them, so they're talking about the newest stuff on their preferred social media channels. 

  • Let them be themselves: Allow your ambassadors to use their own style when they talk about your brand. Don’t go to them with a script. Instead, let them express themselves in their own way, but within the brand guidelines. 

  • Check how it's going: Keep an eye on the program's progress and use what you learn to make it better. 

This way, you can build a strong team of people who help spread the word about your brand online.  

 5. Connect and collaborate with influencers of your niche

Consider teaming up with influencers, micro or mega, in your niche, depending on what your budget allows. Even if your company doesn't have a formal influencer marketing strategy or plan, it's wise to keep tabs on influencers who are making waves in your industry. They're often the first to pick up on new trends that you should be aware of.

Additionally, simply following and engaging with these influencers can lead to organic interactions with their follower base. You might find opportunities to join the conversation or get involved in other ways without needing an official partnership.

6. Measure results of your social media engagement rigorously

You won’t know how much engagement your PR efforts via social media is garnering unless you measure the results periodically. Break down your goals into achievable milestones and check attainment at the end of each milestone period.

To do that, you’ll need to track the performance of your social media posts, your influencers’ posts and analyze each and every data points that remotely show your social media engagement rate. Use tools like Google Analytics, Sprinklr Insights, Facebook Insights or X Analytics to crunch these numbers. We have covered the key metrics and reports offered by each tool, in the next few sections. Read on.

Learn more: How to Measure Social Media Engagement Effectively

7. Learn and adapt continuously

Think of social media engagement as your PR report card. Why? Because, when your posts are hitting the spot, that's your cue to keep pushing in that direction. But when a post doesn't get you the traction you hoped for, consider it a lesson, not a failure. It's an opportunity to ask, "What can we learn from this?"

This constant cycle of posting, observing and adjusting based on feedback is how you keep your social media PR game not just running, but evolving. It's about listening to what your audience is saying (or not saying) and letting those insights shape your next move. This way, you're not just spending money and hoping for the best; you're making data-driven decisions with proven success rates.

Successful PR campaigns on social media

Let's dive into the top 3 brand stories that are all the rage even in 2024. These brands have totally aced their PR game with social media, keeping their messaging super simple but incredibly impactful.

Curious about how they did it? Let's dig in and check out their moves.

Chick-fil-A’s BBQ sauce saga: Fans spoke and they listened!

Back in July 2016, Chick-fil-A decided to switch up their BBQ sauce from the original to a new smokehouse flavor. The response was immediate and loud: fans took to social media to express their dismay, sparking a fiery campaign under the hashtag #BringBackTheBBQ. The outcry wasn't just a few disgruntled tweets; it evolved into petitions and even calls for boycotts of restaurants.

Chick-fil-A, known for its customer-centric approach, quickly noticed the escalating chatter through Sprinklr’s social listening tool. The listening data revealed not just a spike in conversation around the BBQ sauce but a significant shift in sentiment, with a growing chorus of customers clamoring for the return of the Original BBQ sauce.

Chick-fil-A turned crisis into a PR win

This brand turned what could have been a big mess into a PR win, strengthening their bond with customers and proving they really listen and care about what customers think.

The big win?

The original BBQ sauce return. Yes, Chick-fil-A announced the return of the original BBQ sauce, marking the first product reinstatement in the company's history.

Even bigger?

Before the sauce change, mentions of Chick-fil-A’s BBQ sauce were modest on social media. However, from July to October 2016, the brand witnessed a staggering 923% increase in mentions, with the #BringBackTheBBQ hashtag dominating the online conversation.

In fact, the relaunch in October 2016 saw an even more remarkable surge, with mentions skyrocketing and sentiment flipping from 73% negative to 92% positive!

The biggest?

Customer trust and undying loyalty. Chick-fil-A and its creative agency, Moxie, alongside Sprinklr, developed a comprehensive engagement strategy. This included creating new social media monitoring dashboards and setting up a dedicated “war room” to engage with fans in real-time, addressing their concerns and sharing the joyous news of the sauce’s return.

💡Your takeaways?  

  • Never lose sight of the customer sentiment

  • Listen to your followers and fans 24X7

Dove’s ‘Courage is Beautiful’ Campaign: Giving back is the best PR

Back in April 2020, when COVID-19 had us all figuring out how to live through a pandemic, Dove came up with something pretty amazing - the 'Courage Is Beautiful' campaign ad featuring doctors and front-line workers from around the globe.

The advertisement featured close-up shots of their faces, showcasing the physical toll of wearing protective gear for long hours, with the indents and marks left by masks serving as symbols of their dedication and resilience.

What did Dove earn from this campaign?

People applauded Dove for celebrating real beauty and authenticity. Frontline workers started sharing their heart-wrenching pandemic stories, putting things into perspective for the rest of us.

This whole campaign even scored Dove the 2021 Marketing Week Masters Award for Brand Purpose, raking over 2 billion impressions worldwide and unprecedented engagement levels.

In fact, this 30-second video on X blew up, spiking Dove's engagement rate by 2,601%, with the brand scoring a whopping 99% positive sentiment across all social platforms!

Stand-out features of the campaign

  • Real-life heroes and raw footage that screamed authenticity and fostered emotional connection

  • Zero hard-selling or self-promotion 

P&G’s #LikeAGirl Campaign: Doing cause marketing differently

Procter & Gamble's Always brand is remembered not just for social media PR but for sparking a societal conversation through one of its campaigns. The #LikeAGirl campaign kicked off with a video that had a simple yet powerful message: asking people to do things "like a girl" and showcasing the stark difference in responses between young girls and the rest.

Frankly, this video was a call to action, to change how we perceive and use the phrase "like a girl." It made viewers introspect how irresponsibly they use this phrase and how it can undermine a girl’s confidence during crucial puberty years.  

How did the audience react?

The campaign took the internet by storm.  

It got people talking, thinking differently and changing the whole outlook and narrative around women's empowerment. P&G hit the mark, positioning itself as more than just a brand, but as a true champion for women.

P&G's #LikeAGirl campaign


💡The lesson? 

One sure-fire way to PR success is to challenge the status quo, attack a deeply ingrained stereotype and flip it on its head. P&G transformed "like a girl" to mean something powerful, something to be proud of and in doing so, empowered an entire community of women.


Now that we've walked through the basics of weaving social media into your PR magic, it's time to lace up your boots and take those first steps this year itself. And don’t worry, it's totally normal to have those "Will this really work?" moments. When that happens, just remember the brand stories we talked about. Take a closer look at their journeys — what rocked their world and what didn't.

And if you're feeling those newbie jitters, don't sweat it. Sign up for a 30-day free trial with us and we'll walk this path together.

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