Craft a Public Relations Approach for the Digital Age

Oct 6, 2017 | Digital, Public Relations

Long gone are the days of working in a silo for public relations efforts: Pitching your local newspaper with a ribbon-cutting or business update, securing the coverage and generating a return on your investment via enthusiastic community members who become customers.

With the ever-present threat of thinned newsroom staffs, the hourly news cycle and social media, public relations in the digital age is constantly changing and evolving to include social media, content creation and engaging brand influencers.

  • Traditional outlets are disappearing or consolidating as online platforms and social influencers continue to grow
  • Reporters are expected to do more with less as newsrooms get smaller; staff may not have traditional “beats”
  • Video, photo and online content are increasingly important, even at “print” outlets
  • Politics often control the national and regional media conversation

So, what does a successful public relations campaign look like now?

Among all the changes, public relations remains true at its core: A strategic communication progress that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its audiences. We will always, first and foremost, be storytellers. It’s our approach that’s shifting.

Through implementing industry standards like the PESO (paid, earned, shared and owned) model, we’re getting closer to achieving a beautiful mix of tried and true media relations efforts working in tandem with integrated marketing tactics, all for a cohesive, consistent overall approach.

What it really comes down to is nailing your narrative.

Know where your audiences are.

Nailing your narrative means your public relations team marries their approach to all elements of your story: The company’s online presence on their website, on their blog, voice and messaging on social media channels — no stone is left unturned. This is increasingly important as audiences seek news more and more from social media rather than third-party news outlets.

Being selective about when and where you engage with specific audiences is equally critical, as it doesn’t make sense to invest time in a channel where the audience isn’t looking for news, or doesn’t want to interact. For example, creating content for LinkedIn Publishing may not make sense if we’re targeting 15- to 18-year-olds, but it’s a perfect fit to build influence and engage with industry peers on key topics.

In this way, your public relations team must first and foremost consider your audience and goals when advising or executing any step of strategy.

Leverage shared platforms.

Of course, social media plays a giant role in this process. In 2015, 52 percent of all consumers’ online and offline purchasing behaviors were influenced by Facebook, according to The Drum. Although media relations may have been mostly separate from social media efforts in the past, it is more vital than ever to keep your story and branding consistent across all platforms.

Social media also provides a plethora of additional opportunities to engage with key audiences in new ways: Showcasing behind-the-scenes efforts through your Instagram stories, showcasing thought leadership through LinkedIn Publishing, or broadcasting a Facebook Live video to answer questions directly from your fans and consumers.

It’s not all about social media, though.

Own your voice.

Now more than ever, it’s critical to own the messaging and content you’re distributing. If you haven’t updated your website content in a year, or don’t currently leverage a blog or e-mail marketing effort, it’s time to take a second look. Owned platforms and branded content allow you to reinforce key messages and share your story in a way that you alone control.

Take advantage of these opportunities to show your audience that you are a trustworthy brand that understands their pain points and can offer a solution. For your website or blog, start with an editorial calendar that outlines a content schedule: Perhaps you make quarterly updates to website content, or start with a monthly blog series.

Investing time into creating owned content has a two-fold benefit: It provides SEO benefits as search engines recognize fresh, relevant content, and it also provides fodder for your shared (social media) platforms, to drive traffic back to your website and further engage your audiences.

Think beyond traditional earned coverage.

All that being said, third-party credibility is still the greatest advertising for any client. Considering the Big Idea beyond traditional pitching and media relations can result in a successful charge, even in the shifting media landscape.

Media outlets who may already be focused on community outreach and engagement can be strong potential partners for a community event. A local or regional blogger may be open to a collaboration with your client, sharing your message with their audiences who are already engaged and trusting of that blogger as a credible source. Leveraging enthusiastic employees for a series of contributed content can build relationships with influential media outlets and build buy-in from key staff members.

Still not sure where to begin with your company’ s public relations strategy for 2018? Come chat with us.