Top PR tips for using TikTok
Ben Smith, Founder, PRmoment.com
If you are not already using TikTok, then you are missing a trick. Tim Gibbon founder of communications consultancy Elemental, offers some impressive stats: “According to the Business of Apps, TikTok generated an estimated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021, a 142% increase year-on-year. With 1.2 billion monthly active users in Q4 2021 and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of this year. A staggering three billion downloads confirm it's a powerhouse.”
Below, PR experts offer key pieces of advice for making the most of this platform.
1. Engage with latest trends
Emma Unwin, senior social account director at PR agency M&C Saatchi TALK: “Unlike advertising set up on other social media platforms, TikTok requires you to always be engaged with the latest trends. PR teams should utilise trending hashtags and memes to create relevant content that appeals to their target audience. Leveraging existing trends can expand your creativity and tap into content that you already know successfully draws in viewers.”
2. Aim for user interaction
Emma Unwin: “The tone of the app is overwhelmingly recreational and fun and there isn’t a function that allows you to link to a website. As such, it is very difficult to drive sales or clicks-through via TikTok. Campaigns should aim to encourage user creativity and interaction as opposed to any actual purchases. However, there are brands driving conversions on TikTok - it's just good to be prepared that it's more challenging to do so.”
3. Know your audience
Jack Moore, social lead at communications agency Hatch: “The best people at a party are those that understand the mood, know how to hold an engaging conversation and are more than anything, fun, authentic and interesting. Now imagine TikTok is the party and you’re trying to be the best person there.
“That’s a really simplified way of looking at TikTok, but it shows how PRs need to approach the platform. Understand your audience, know why they spend time on TikTok and then tailor your content to meet your audience’s needs.
“If your audiences are generally engaging with content that entertains, provide them with top tips, teach them something new or inspire them - think about how your brand can leverage its expertise or assets to produce content that fulfils their needs and isn’t just a sales message. To bring it back to the party analogy, if your guests are dancing to Abba, don’t start playing Metallica.”
4. Collaborate with creators
Beth Nunnington, PR director at performance marketing agency Journey Further: “You can leverage TikTok by collaborating and paying creators to develop bespoke content (such as cleaning tips) that you can repurpose into your outreach materials, to give our press materials more substance and newsworthy hooks.
“However, I wouldn't recommend embedding the video content into your press release as this could be a breach of copyright. Instead, it's good to collaborate with the content creators directly, and pay them to create the content you need.
“TikTok is also a great data source as you can see the usage of a hashtag and include it as part of a press release to make it more topical.”
5. Do your research
Beth Nunnington: “It’s really important that you do your research and make sure that the trend you want to jump on is in your client's best interest. For example, if it's a new cleaning trend, make sure you research it, as you wouldn’t want to promote content that could accidentally damage the products you’re promoting.”
6. Create an account for each industry
Georgia Gadsby March, co-founder and head of PR at agency Unearth PR: “When using TikTok in PR you need to identify trends before the media. If you see a TikTok trend in the news already, it’s usually too late to jump on it. You need to be the one to spot the trend and share it with journalists first to gain great coverage.
“To do this authentically, I recommend creating a TikTok account for each industry you work with. For example, if you have a food client you should have a TikTok account where you only watch and engage with food-and-drink related videos. This will tell the algorithm that this is something you’re interested in and create a feed full of popular videos in that sector, putting you in the best position to identify a trend early. You can then share that trend with journalists alongside an expert comment from your client, putting them at the centre of the conversation.”
7. Participation is key
Lee Benecke, digital and content strategy director at PR agency Manifest Group: “I think it's easy to opt for tricks when thinking about using TikTok in your PR campaign but don't go cheap. Get your nose in the feed, fall down a TikTok hole or two, use the business tools, and discover how you can authentically show up. Participation is the keyword on TikTok. You should have already asked yourself 'what do I want people to do once they have seen my campaign?' and, with that answer, you can then use TikTok to make it happen. The best participatory campaigns use the native tools - like the Duet feature - to allow people to play with, remix, and remodel the campaign in their own creative image. And, if letting go scares you, you need to get used to that feeling. In doing so, you will be braver and have the opportunity to turn your PR campaign into something that truly resonates with people.”
8. Understand the analytics
Joe Stratton, client services director at influencer marketing agency What They Said: “TikTok can help amplify your campaign far beyond more traditional methods of advertising. However, it’s not quite as simple as just ‘hitting the live button’. Most importantly, understanding the platform and how it works is essential if you are to maximise its potential - trying to keep pace with the algorithm is one thing, but understanding the analytics will help you know what quantifies as success or failure, and then how you can apply those learnings to keep evolving your campaigns.
“One of the biggest benefits TikTok can bring to PR is how it can be part of an integrated marketing strategy. Its evolution has given birth to a range of diverse creators across areas such as finance and healthcare, providing informative and educational bitesize content that engages younger audience groups which more traditional channels are unable to target.”
9. Get in touch with the fun side
Katrina Luder, head of creative marketing at fashion brand Motel Rocks: “In my experience, TikTok is the place to showcase your personality and your truest self. TikTok is a rebellion against polished and contrived brand aesthetics. Whether you're a personal brand, a service or product; you can show the behind the scenes and storytelling aspect of your brand to promote yourself. Rather than posting the final campaign; tell the story of how the campaign came to life, the funny on-set moments, the fact the floor is fake snow and not real. This is your opportunity to strip back your creative and get in touch with the fun side.
“Once you have your brand mission and values, it will be easy to draw from that the type of content that you should be posting. Avoid posting against your niche, always stick within your brand topic for best results.”
The great news about TIkTok is that PRs are the ideal professionals to make the most of it, as they have the perfect skillset - an in-depth understanding of news as well as knowledge of all the latest popular trends, plus the technical knowhow to create engaging content.
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