The relationship between social media and PR has changed as social media has evolved into a powerful two-way communication platform between organisations and their customers.
The essence of PR in the last few years has always been about securing media coverage for clients – either helping them to get into the press or keeping them out for whatever reasons. Either way, the name of the game was always about influencing the media and a client’s audience (the public) to maintain a good reputation and enhance business bottom-line.
Now, the ripple-effect of digital channels and social media means that everyone can have their say, be it your client’s friends or foe. These days anyone can build a blog, make a vlog, set up a Facebook or Instagram page or Twitter account. This means that the public can make or break a business through this element of sharing in a relatively short amount of time, however, the PR consultant’s role in the digital landscape is arguably more important today in the art of steering the ‘public conversation’ than a few years ago.
The biggest leap for PR lies in community management for clients. PR consultants who preferred to live in a world where messages could be tightly controlled might just freak-out at the thought of managing a community on Facebook, LinkedIn or elsewhere that gives the public full access to the ‘internet’ to vent their wrath and to criticise their clients. And, for these consumers to share and then share again…
Social Media and PR In The Digital Age
Many businesses today are choosing digital channels over traditional media to share their news, but traditional media is still equally relevant. The UK now has many more magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters than ever before – some titles have got progressive and built digital models, but traditional media is and always will be highly influential. The key role of the PR consultant is to ensure that relationships with these media models thrive. PR has always been about people, about building media relationships with a view to influencing the public through the content of stories in publications, on TV and on the radio.
Social media has taken this to a new level, which means that the PR expert has to successfully manage what has become a very public relationship on the internet by going straight to the coal face of digital, joining the social airwaves and cutting out the middleman. Where storytelling has always been part of the traditional skill-set, the PR consultant’s new role in sharing a client’s news still lies in seeking out the angles and telling stories.
In social media, this means sharing the information in shorter bites for content creation for digital channels, where it can be shared. And this ability to drip-feed and share a positive story is, in fact, a PR-man or woman’s dream – after all, we can always post links to the bigger picture or even a video! These storytelling skills are as valuable in social media as in the form of the traditional press release, they just need to be adapted for the digital age.
Digital PR is all about combining traditional PR with content marketing, social media, and search: transforming static news into conversations. News can be spread further, faster, and more directly to a specific target audience than ever before in history. It allows us to maximise news like never before. Instead of being satisfied with a single placement, your news can be shared exponentially.
PR might not be all about controlling the conversation anymore, but what a good PR man or woman can do is engage with the public to facilitate discussion and bring influence to the table via the new digital channels – just like we used to do through a press release.
We are presented with a new market, a new landscape whereby brands are at the beck and call of the demanding consumer. And with that comes a need for change. A need to embrace the new and perhaps most importantly the need to integrate. People consume their content in new and different ways. For its part, content marketing has become so popular that there’s a “lowest common denominator” effect, with mediocre or redundant content dominating and crowding digital channels.
But when they work in concert, PR and content marketing are a 1+1=3 situation. Here are some ways to enhance the collaboration and make it work harder.
Content, particularly visual content, is key
Today’s PR campaigns are about telling stories that engage prospective customers or partners. We still tell plenty of stories through editorial media, but the old days of email blasts and “smile-and-dial” tactics are over. The smartest PR professionals help product or service companies identify their most powerful differentiators, shape a narrative, and tell their story where it counts. Breaking through with quality material will become more difficult as content marketing approaches a saturation point.
PR today is about SEO
If PR is all about content, it follows that SEO is a critical item. When it comes to content, quality and relevance have replaced sheer quantity as a key metric. To be shareable, content must be optimized, so fluency in SEO basics is a necessary skill.
Thought leadership isn’t just for B2B brands
B2B executives in professional or technology services have long distinguished themselves by linking their corporate brand to a compelling idea or point of view. But today so-called “thought leadership” is also relevant to consumer product companies. The explosion of digital and social media has made every factor of corporate reputation―from customer service to CEO behaviour―relevant to brand image, and therefore to PR. Even consumer brands need to position themselves and their companies as leaders. They must offer ideas and inspiration, not just great products and services. That means more PR professionals are at work on executive visibility and content programmes and reputation management is built into every campaign.
PR is about “influence”
Some confuse influence with popularity, but the two are not the same. Just because someone has a large social following doesn’t mean they are influential. Not only that, but the way we go about generating influence has changed. A survey of 500 PR and marketing professionals found that 82 per cent are using influencers to help get their story out, and many in that group are engaging social media personalities.
Everything is measurable and measured
The rise of data-driven marketing has been a difficult transition for some PRs because few of us are trained in analytics, and there’s been no industry standard for evaluation of earned media outcomes. But the new rules for PR professionals are catching up with the introduction of new measurement models, such as PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared,Owned).
Have joint planning sessions. This is obvious, but many agencies outsource social media management, and it’s easy to lose something in the process. Whether handled internally or outside a PR agency or department, it’s helpful for the teams to plan and brainstorm together so that each can learn from the other.
Unify PR and digital marketing under a singular theme. In many cases, the narrower, the better. Broader topics may seem easier for informing an editorial calendar, but a more targeted theme often works better for attracting true prospects, not just browsers. Long-tail keywords are rarer than the broader, “fatter” terms, but they are far more likely to attract serious prospects.
Never discount earned media. It’s still extremely important for any B2B or consumer content marketing programme. Backlinks from top-rated domains major newspapers or news sites boost SEO to high levels, and a good content marketing programme can amplify glowing earned media like product reviews or feature stories.
Let influencers be a bridge. Influencer marketing is one way to build a connection between the earned media relations of a PR programme and a content marketing outreach. A white paper or e-book that offers insight and ideas from industry figures like analysts or bloggers can help build relationships with those very influencers while heightening the credibility necessary to generate earned media mentions.
Use data to inform the editorial calendar, but not the content. Particularly in technology PR, people are brainwashed to think that blog posts and articles should be packed with data the way we might pitch a reporter on a new trend. As PR and content professional Frank Strong said ”Eyeballs glaze over with data, but most people remember stories.”
Corporate blogs carry a stigma of self-serving promotion, and the general public is still more likely to trust traditional news outlets. PR reminds content teams to focus on the public. What stories are the most interesting? How are current events shaping our industry, and where can we be involved in those trends? By working collaboratively, PR can bring fresh insights, creative angles, and a greater perspective of the public into content marketing production. PR’s goal is to share a story that is so compelling that members of the media eagerly want to publish the story on their front page. The distribution vehicles may vary, but the results are the same – good stories that engage your targeted audiences.
PR and digital marketing really are working toward the same goals – increased brand awareness, educated audiences, increased thought leadership, better industry positioning, and customer loyalty, to name a few. While modern marketing has certainly changed practices, one thing has remained constant: There’s always an opportunity to tell a better brand story to a larger audience.
This is a guest blog by Sabine Raabe of Biscuit PR with whom DowSocial partner when social media and PR are required when delivering digital consultancy services