Today’s digital landscape has changed Public Relations (PR) as we know it. From being a profession that dictated what information was released and when, PR professionals are expected now to do so much more than write and distribute a press release. We need to be active on all social media platforms, build relationships with key influencers and audiences across number of industries, network, analyse data and be primed to react to any negative comment or story.
My job, and the job of others in the PR industry, is harder than ever but so much more rewarding and exciting. That’s all thanks to social media (*thank you social media gods*).
So what actually is PR?
PR is all about perception and reputation. It’s how you position your brand to the outside world so you’re perceived in a positive way. What many people don’t understand is that PR is every interaction your business has with the outside world, from your greeting when you answer the phone, to tweeting, blogging and going live on Facebook. It’s not just about being seen in a newspaper. The digital age had made sure PR is that and so much more.
Here are 5 things you need to know about PR in the digital age.
#1: The gap is widening between PR and media relations
Traditionally PR was a lot more simple. It was about writing and distributing a press release to key journalists, pitching in stories, getting press coverage and face-to-face networking. If your brand wasn’t seen in your target press or you weren’t seen at networking events then you weren’t doing your PR well. With the emergence of content marketing and social media, the lines have become a lot more blurred.
Media relations has become its own entity and while it’s still very much a form of PR, the gap is widening as digital PR becomes more of a priority for brands. This may be because media relations as a whole has some PR to do for itself (ironic I know) with the public losing trust in the industry and the on-going fake news frenzy taking the spotlight.
So media relations is …. Just media relations. It’s as simple as that.
#2: The press release is not dead
There are so many people out there and blogs written with the title “The press release is dead”. I completely disagree. The fact is, it’s just evolving with digital alongside everything else and in many ways the press release can actually complement other aspects of your PR. Confused or skeptical? Hear me out.
First of all, the press release is still the go to tool for every single journalist and is still by far one of the best ways to spread a targeted message to your audiences because it builds credibility for your brand fast. How else will journalists find out what’s going on so they can publish stories if you don’t send them a press release? They don’t have time to trawl Twitter all day to wait for a news story to break so they can write about it as an after thought.
Secondly, when you think about it press releases have an impact on SEO. When you search for something on Google, how many results come back that lead to a publication? I know when I use Google a lot of the results come back with links to Forbes, inc.com, Huff Post etc. Do you see a trend here? Yep, they’re online publications.
That’s because the press release is still very much alive, only now leading with digital publications rather than in-person print publications. That being said, despite a decline in readership for print media, there is still a demand for it.
PR as a whole is about story telling and publications offer you the prime opportunity to share yours. I could honestly say so much more about this, but I don’t want to preach to much. Let’d end my point with this. Please don’t ignore the press release, embrace as part of your digital PR plan and make it work for you when you need it to.
#3: The online influencer dominates
PR is no longer all about journalists, it’s about bloggers, podcasters and video marketers who now have huge influence over society … and the internet. It’s all about the influencer. Originally seen as a bit of a fad, the influencer is now being embraced by PR professionals and businesses alike.
So why are online influencers important for your business? Here are some things to remember:
- They have authority and influence.
- Consumers trust recommendations from influencers.
- Influencers are seen as celebrities and opinion leaders.
- 94% of elite marketers now use influencer marketing because it drives 11x more Return on Investment (ROI) than traditional digital marketing channels.
- They drive traffic to your website and help you convert leads to actual sales.
If influencer marketing doesn’t form part of your PR plan then you need to re-think it because now is the time to utilise them.
#4: PR is NOT advertising
When I tell people that I’m a PR Consultant and Coach, I sometimes get the response “So you’re in advertising?” Not I’m not. Advertising and Public Relations are very different and here’s why:
- When you advertise in online or offline, you pay for the privilege to do so. In PR you create the content and publish it for free. It could be that you self publish via your website, have your own podcast or you place an article in a media outlet. While you may pay for part of the process to do this, i.e. software or outsourcing of work, you won’t pay for the content to be seen by your audiences.
- In advertising and self published content you have control over what the message and what is actually made public, unlike in media relations, where you can pitch a story or create a press release but have no control over when and what is actually printed by a journalist.
- PR has a lot more credibility for a brand than advertising. Why? Because it does so much more. It shares a story, creates a connection with your intended audiences and is not paid for. Consumers know the difference between reading, watching or listening to an advert trying to sell them something and reading, watching or listening to a piece of content sharing a story, solving a problem or teaching them something new.
- Advertising has a different shelf life to that of PR because you pay to play. The ad will be published or played as long as you make it happen, but a piece of content, a news story or a podcast / video can last a life time because of the nature of the internet.
#5: Personal branding is a priority
Have you heard the saying “people buy from people?” To promote your business effectively in the digital age you need to let your audiences in to learn more about you and the people behind your brand.
If you look at some of the most successful people in business or people online who have the millions of followers, they’ve all got one thing in common – they’ve built a personal brand and thanks to digital marketing, it’s easier now than ever before for you to do the same.
So where should you begin? You need to:
- Understand what makes you, well, you I suppose
- Consistently post online
- Teach rather than sell
- Share your personality and values
- Be seen online having two way conversations
- Understand your audience
- Craft and relay your key messages well
Need some help with this? Read my blog What I’ve learned about building a personal brand.
#6: Storytelling and relationship building are still the two most important aspects of PR
Sometimes I think that because we talk to each other via our keyboards, it’s easy to forget what PR is actually about. The two key aspects any business needs to integrate into their plan – digital or not – is storytelling and relationship building.
That can be with anyone – influencers, social media fans and followers, stakeholders. They need to be clear about who you are, what your brand represents and they need to feel a connection with you that will result in a long lasting relationship. In other words, you need to create raving fans that will not only buy your products and services, but will also recommend you to others. That’s good PR.
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