Approaching Public Relations In The Age Of New Media
One of the biggest struggles faced by marketers today is how to balance new media (digital and social) with traditional media (TV, radio, print). Marketers tend to pay attention to the “new shiny idea,” often taking action on new media campaigns. But one traditional medium that has bridged the gap between the two worlds is public relations.
Public relations (PR) is work that helps a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various paid and earned communications. Twenty years ago, PR worked through traditional media and in-person engagement; whereas today, we now have digital, social and influencer marketing — even virtual reality — to consider. Unlike TV, radio or print, PR has evolved and is as relevant, if not more relevant, today than it was 20 years ago.
Below are a few examples of how PR has evolved in the digital world.
Refined Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has been a hot ticket for several years now. As consumers continue to look to social proof and opinion, influencer marketing has evolved.
I expect this year to be a big year for nano-influencers — those with a following of 1,000 to roughly 5,000, and who often have much higher engagement from their fan bases. Due to their smaller following, their recommendations and opinions are often perceived as more genuine and trustworthy.
Brands are using influencers and other engagement tools to connect with consumers on a more personal level. For instance, H&M used influencers and polling tools to target their millennial consumers, find out their preferences and collect feedback for the designs.
While the world of influencer marketing operated much like the Wild West in previous years, I believe it is beginning to show us more savvy and refined programming than ever before.
Reaching the public has evolved from standard print, online and TV placements to a multitude of avenues. As mentioned above, influencer marketing is key to being relatable to younger consumers, as is the emerging world of podcasts. Brands can play off the influencer posts and drive new followers to connect on their own social channels. The impression and traffic to one web article can be leveled up by connecting stories and sharing with different brands’ fans, whether it be through reposting business news on LinkedIn or sharing a perfect consumer-facing press placement in Instagram Stories with a swipe-up link.
Today, PR must be broadened to multiple channels to deepen and expand the reach to target consumers. The message simply cannot break through the clutter when only focused on one medium.
The millennial-driven company Bumble has done a great job at touching on all channels through its influencer partnerships, such as its partnership with The Chainsmokers for the Bumble Beats dating app, in which the band hosted a concert ticket giveaway at the first college road stop of the campaign, or thought leadership interviews centered around new workplace initiatives like “The Hive.”
It takes more than a heartwarming story or innovative product launch to earn a story in 2019. Increasingly, reporters and publications are being asked to deliver metrics such as article views, clicks, social media shares and likes. Therefore, your brand must be able to offer more than a great story by showing a willingness to help amplify that story across a variety of networks.
This is something I think all PR teams should be offering in 2019 as part of the pitch for earned media. There are different audiences to reach on various social media platforms, in newsletters, etc., that should be utilized when important and noteworthy press is earned.
IHOP was able to show how sharing news and information across different platforms can increase the engagement of consumers. With the brand’s stunt, changing its name to IHOb last year, the company was able to garner stories published by a variety of outlets and on social media platforms, as the news was virally shared.
As tech continuously upgrades and shares information through artificial intelligence, PR strategies will begin to include voice-searchable content. Many consumers are using a virtual assistant to provide everyday information, from the news to the weather outside. I believe earned and paid media will be transformed to be easily referenced by virtual assistants, reaching targeted audiences more efficiently.
Google Assistant already shares information from search results. Asking “OK, Google, what’s the latest news?” or “OK, Google, how do I get rid of a cough?” results in top answers read aloud to the user. The future of these results will become even more specific and useful as more data is collected, making ideal earned placements with detailed information increasingly important.
Modern Day Metrics
PR and marketing results have historically been difficult to track in terms of return on investment. Common practice in PR used to be measuring ad value equivalency and potential impressions for an earned media placement. However, times have changed and the advancements in digital have given PR pros modern new tools for measuring success across a variety of attributes.
Metrics platforms are helping brands understand their positions by providing a variety of analytics at their fingertips. On a single dashboard, brands can now track things like their share of voice among competitors, true audience metrics and reader engagement with content to determine which avenues and messages are successfully converting.
The examples above show how public relations is still doing what it did a century ago by “cultivating a positive reputation,” but is now using 21st-century tools and techniques to deliver the message. The way I see it, PR has adapted with the times, unlike the rest of traditional marketing and is staying relevant by taking the best of the old and combining it with the best of the new.
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By Paul Koulogeorge
Vice President of Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations at The Goddard School.