In the second and final part of of our digital PR series Zazzle’s Jessie Rasmussen looks at how traditional PR differs from digital and how it has to evolve in order to stay relevant in the digital era. You can read part one here…
The evolution of the Internet has seen Digital PR become fiercely relied upon by consumers, businesses, brands and organisations. It is the perfect way to raise profiles and to distribute messages to a wider audience, something that offline media tools are simply unable to do due to the lack of reach and availability and now, interest.
The challenge is that the model for distributing information has changed for good and I want to dig into that a little more in this post.
PR has evolved
PR has been forced to adapt in its attitude, opinion and actions to fulfill the needs of the online market, to reach an increased audience and boost the online presence of an organisation. Search engines, blogs, forums and online communication tools are now deemed of greater importance than the traditional offline media forms such as print, radio, television and events.
The similarities between press releases and blog posts are easily identified and it is clear to see why both methods are ideal within a digital marketing strategy. Both elements are…
- Informative with an important message to spread amongst a targeted audience group.
- Relevance is key within both methods due to the need of the audience and the restrictions on behalf of search engines.
- Heightened interest levels are developed through the information, the relevance of the content and the fact it is carried through online mediums, which automatically alerts the interest of consumers.
- Unique content is by far the most important aspect which both areas are vital within, particularly with recent search engine requirements.
PR strategists now need to ensure they not only understand how to craft the right message to resonate with an increasingly empowered audience but they must also have the skillset to leverage the distribution channel and understand how best to reach the RIGHT audience effectively.
From press releases to blog posts
The press release was the traditional PR’s weapon of choice and the distribution channel was simply a phone call, meet or email to a list of press and broadcast contacts in the majority of cases. It is a model that is now all but dead in the water. In its place is a multi-faceted smorgasbord of content types and distribution paths that can combine to create the perfect recipe for the audience you want to engage with.
Such overwhelming choice can cause problems of course and so one of the easiest ways to ease into the ‘new world’ is via blog post led communication.
The benefit of blogs as opposed to press releases is that the topic of the post, although it has be in some way relevant, can be on anything that may excite and engage the reader and ultimately result in some form of interaction and increased brand recognition.
Online communities including forums and genre specific blogs are powerful tools in the plight for message distribution and brand identification. They require snippets of stories and news up dates to encourage the audience to regularly read and interact with their blog and forums.
Press releases are not considered to be the most ideal form of post as they are too factual based and formal which readers may find intimidating where as a blog can informal, fun, engaging and exciting and ultimately, any length required to relay the general message. Blog posts are a natural way to promote and brand and to generate interest without being considered a ‘sales pitch’.
PR is evolving at a fast rate of knots and it is essential to be up to date with the changes and ensure that you are still able to utilise PR as a beneficial tool within any digital marketing strategy.
Previous online marketing strategies have relied heavily on the technical knowledge of SEOs, with only a small level of input from creative minds yet with the evolution of PR and the need for good quality relevant content, creativity now plays a more vital role.
The combination of technical and creative has emerged and has encouraged a wider thought process to ultimately result in a digital SEO strategy that benefits the client, is appropriate to the audience and fits in perfectly with the expectations of search engines.
Creative minds are able to perfectly create and develop unique content that entices the audience and grows and develops the awareness, which surrounds a particular brand or organisation. That, combined with the technical knowledge of SEO brings the content strategy full circle. Content creation is simply half the battle.
It is pointless creating good quality content if the audience and the online market cannot find it amongst the ‘noise’, And that is where the technical skill sets play a pivotal role; able to cleverly and appropriately ensure the content is reached and seen by the relevant niches through the specific sites it is distributed to and the way in which it would be presented across the Internet.
The key pillars to any good strategy
We have established and understood the reasoning and the ways in which PR has developed in the online world. There is, however, still a lot that the online world can learn from the offline PR world and none is more important than how traditional PR breaks a ‘problem’ down strategically to ensure it meets the needs of the business and consumer:
- Identification – You need to fully identify the niche of a client, brand, and organisation. Identify with the personal mission and purpose of the company before you can even begin to strategize. Alongside this comes audience identification, possibly the most important element of any plan, if you are able to pinpoint the exact audience market you need to target to ultimately increase brand awareness, the rest will begin to fall into place. You will be able to easily establish a formative plan that fulfils the needs of both the brand and the consumer.
- Strategy – The benefits to the client and the audience are the two things that need to be constantly considered. Strategies can only be fully developed, including time; creation and processes, once identification has taken place. A strategy can very from each brand and will not necessarily remain the same due to the varying needs and expectations of the brands.
- Ideas – Content creation is crucial, particularly with the new requirements of Google and its need to have relevant content. Content can no longer be sales based, of any random subject matter or even thrown together in a hurry purely for the purpose of gaining a link. Much thought time and preparation needs to be put into every piece to prevent the risk of a penalty incurred by Goggle. The placement and distribution of any content also falls into the category of ideas, as it is essential to ensure relevant content is placed in relevant positions.
- Action – Time is essential. A digital strategy needs to begin to produce and accrue results as soon as possible to maintain the purpose of the strategy: growing brand awareness and recognition. The method of the strategy also needs to have longevity, the plan needs to be able to run for any length of time whether it is a few weeks or for substantially longer. This also greatly depends on the brand and their requirements.
What can old PR teach new PR?
It is this strategic level of thinking that we must now work hard on from a digital PR perspective to ensure we leave no stone unturned in our quest to provide a world class service to clients. And on that basis what better way to sign off than with my top five tips from traditional PR…
- Never answer a journalist’s questions immediately – if you are dealing with an important subject which may elicit questions do not allow yourself to be pressured into answering. Take time to think and prepare for every eventuality within your initial brainstorms to ensure you control the conversation.
- Get a headset – and good PR will spend as much time on the phone as off it. That means a headset is key as it means you can stand up and gesture while speaking, which will ensure you come across more naturally and energetic. The key to conversion.
- Be calm, always – never, ever, lose your temper. Stay in Adult State at all times. Transactional analysis is a key method to learn
- Don’t write 1,000 words when 200 will do. PR is not about war and peace. It is about clearly getting across a message as creatively as possible. Often pictures of interactive forms of content that tell the story will do better than a 1,000-word release.
- Don’t be put off – there is a LOT of rejection in PR. Learn to love it and feed off it and you will become a star.