It used to be that most people started their mornings reading the daily paper, and ended their evenings tuning in to their favorite newscast. Today, we’re more likely to get breaking news alerts via a push notification on our smartphone than pick up a newspaper.
Technology is evolving at a rapid clip, and it’s changing the way businesses communicate with media and their customers. As our reliance on traditional media has shifted, so too has the field of public relations.
In this new media landscape, PR professionals are facing:
- Shrinking newsrooms. Employment of newspaper reporters, editors and photographers fell 15 percent from 2014 through 2017.
- 24/7 news. Gone are the days of snail-mailing press releases. People are used to consuming news on an as-it-happens basis, at all hours of the day, with most of it coming from social media.
- Fragmented media. Where audiences once relied on a handful of media sources to stay informed, now there are thousands of outlets to choose from, from digital publications to niche blogs to cable news networks.
- Pay to play. More and more, media outlets are pushing sponsored content or native advertising to drive revenue — the Atlantic said that 60 percent of its revenue in 2016 came from sponsored branded content.
Given all these changes, what’s a business to do? All businesses, large and small, must embrace the blurring of lines between PR, marketing and advertising.
Here are three solutions to navigate the new world of public relations and ensure your brand holds a lasting conversation with the world.
Invest in your brand story
A recent survey found that press releases, white papers and award programs are out — when it comes to the most important PR tactics, 79 percent of communicators believe storytelling is where it’s at. Telling your brand’s story isn’t just important for engaging with your audience; it helps elevate and perpetuate your message across all forms of media.
Storytelling starts with the right people. Make sure you have a strong team of communicators — writers, designers, multimedia experts, strategic marketers — to help you translate your message effectively and express your brand’s values across multiple channels.
Once you’ve defined your brand story and and crystallized it into a cohesive, compelling message, find as many different ways to tell it as you can. Invest in captivating content — images, videos, ads, blog posts, phrases, even memes — and leverage your owned, earned and paid channels to share your story, paying attention to clarity and consistency.
By weaving your brand story into media interviews, ad campaigns, Facebook videos and other forms of media your audiences are consuming, you’ll create a memorable impression with a longer shelf life than your average news cycle.
Use influencers to personify your organization
Word-of-mouth marketing has taken on a whole new meaning in the digital space. When choosing a brand, we don’t just rely on the recommendations of friends and family members, we also place high value on the word of social media influencers.Influencers can be well-known celebrities with millions of followers — think the Kim Kardashians and Justin Biebers of the world. However, they can also be self-made bloggers or vloggers who have garnered thousands of followers based on their lifestyle or passion for food, travel, fashion, fitness or any niche market. Micro-influencers — people who have around 15,000 to 100,000 followers — present an opportunity to connect with a smaller but often more engaged audience.
Influencer marketing allows companies to humanize their brand. Look for influencers who align with your company’s mission and values, and most importantly, belong to the community you’re trying to reach. Those that create authentic connections with their fans are more likely to sway their buying decisions, so seek influencers who have high engagement and compelling content.
When pitching to a blogger or influencer, adhere to the same standards of media etiquette that you would a reporter. Familiarize yourself with the influencer’s work and the topics they cover and create a personalized pitch that makes sense for them. Open the lines of communication to figure out how your target influencer works with brands. Some will do paid partnerships with brands, while others may take free samples in exchange for an honest review.
Embrace community engagement
At its heart, public relations is all about engaging groups of people. Traditionally, PR pros connected with their communities by amplifying their message through the media, or by hosting good old-fashioned events to generate buzz and bring their audience together.
While these tactics haven’t necessarily gone by the wayside, going online offers even more opportunities for organizations to engage with or mobilize their communities.
From creating a branded hashtag that goes viral, to using Instagram Stories to launch your company’s latest product, to engaging with your fanbase on a subreddit, there are countless ways to reach your most authentic followers where they are. Interacting within various channels, and using data and market research to understand the space in which your audience resides, will help you be an earnest solution to their problems or needs.
Put in the time and effort to build your tribe of loyal customers and brand ambassadors, and you’ll be better positioned to reach your communication goals, whether you’re after organic word-of-mouth marketing or passionate advocates for your cause.
Answer your customers’ questions, share their content, ask their opinion and incorporate their feedback into your operations. Cultivating your community in the digital space translates to real-world connections and longevity for your message.
What PR and media challenges has your company faced in the last few years? How are you adapting?