Public relations, like just about every other field these days, is evolving to keep up with the changes in how we receive our information. Advancements in digital and mobile technology have forced longtime communications professionals to revamp their strategies for today’s audiences so their company’s reputation and visibility stays high. It’s an increasingly involved process.
Think about it: just 20 years ago, PR was a different ballgame. If you had something to promote, you’d send out a press release to your media contact list and hope it got picked up. You’d attend networking events and meet as many people as possible. You’d pass out business cards, which would undoubtedly be filed away in Rolodexes all over town, and you’d hope that you made a good enough impression to get your company’s name out there.
These days, public relations is digital, and it’s handled differently — a lot differently. Check out our six steps toward good digital public relations.
1. Relationships still matter.
At its heart, PR is about creating and strengthening relationships with media makers. In the digital realm, this means online writers with large followings, popular bloggers, online columnists, YouTubers with lots of subscribers, and even podcasters. The goal is to get mentions that you don’t pay for (unlike marketing, which is made up in part by paid promotions), and if the content creators like you, they’ll offer you good digital press.
2. Track your results.
To paraphrase the old philosophy of business guru Peter Drucker, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. With digital PR, it’s easier than ever to measure the exact impact that your efforts are having: you can track hits on your website, likes and engagement on social media accounts, and other metrics on other online mentions. This highly specific and accurate tracking is something that you absolutely couldn’t do with older methods. (Sending out a press release, for example: who actually took the time to look at it?)
3. Good research is crucial.
If you’re trying to make a case for the importance of your company, presenting good facts can go a long way in establishing urgency and getting your audience to take notice. People want to know how your business will impact them directly, and digital journalists want to present messages that won’t be accused of being the dreaded “fake news.” Use facts, and back them up with credible studies or sources. Better yet, get in touch with the people who have conducted those studies and see if they’d be willing to say a few words on your company’s behalf, then use those words in your pitch to demonstrate your message’s importance.
4. Think now and think ahead.
Traditional PR required long lead times; sending a press release to a radio station might get you a mention tomorrow, sending one to a newspaper or TV station might get you mentioned in a day or so, and sending one to a magazine would put your mention at least a week out. With digital PR, however, the turnaround is much faster. Publishing can happen with a few keystrokes, which means your message can go out as soon as a digital content provider gets on the task. You’ll need to plan in advance, but you may not need to get in touch with the digital press quite as early.
5. Cultivate thought leadership.
You’re probably pretty good at what you do — maybe even an expert — but are you sharing your knowledge with others? If you’re not, it would benefit your PR efforts to start. Eventually, you’ll come to be seen as a thought leader, or a person that others can approach for ideas and inspiration. By extension of this reverence, your company will benefit. According to Jonathan Gluskin, Director of Client Relations at Interdependence Public Relations, “When you take the reins and position yourself as a subject matter expert, the credibility of your message soars. And, if you don’t cultivate thought leadership in your company, your competition will, and clients will flock to them instead of you.”
6. View all the different aspects as parts of the whole.
There are so many tools to keep up with and so many avenues to explore as part of your digital PR efforts, but they still fall under the same digital PR umbrella. Integrated, planned, and thoughtfully executed efforts performed by a strong team will go a long way in keeping your message consistently on target and keeping your focus from shifting.