Ronjini Joshua is the Founder and CEO of The Silver Telegram, Writer and Host of The PR Playbook Podcast and The Green Room Podcast.
I was having a discussion with a colleague last week, as I often do when recording The PR Playbook Podcast, and we touched on a topic that was close to home: the reliability and future of the media. Of course, when it comes to our specialty in media relations, this is a critical conversation and led to this important question; do people still trust the media?
As a business that depends on clients’ interest in being published and featured in the media, this is a talking point of prime importance. Traditionally, the executives and brands that come to us are leveraging the media to build credibility, but if the integrity of the media is being questioned, is what we do still relevant? How will we reach our audiences effectively? How will we impact businesses’ bottom line?
Public relations is the practice of communication and storytelling to key stakeholders, and we have relied heavily on the media to deliver our messages, but as more and more businesses and people are always online, so is the explosion of content on the internet. And while all sources are not created equal, it is clear that each industry has its own best mode of credibility and content delivery. While this remains via third-party media in some cases, it may also now include many other sources.
Develop a new PR plan.
For example, a growing trend in consumer marketing as more online tools are developed is the dependability of online reviews and even brands that are educating customers one on one. The running shoe niche is a great example of this. As I’m training for a marathon, I’ve relied on a combination of media and consumer reviews alongside smart brands like Running Warehouse that do a full decomposition of each shoe to educate their customers, sometimes bringing in brand experts to really dive in. This is a perfect progression to the content creation trends that have evolved over the past five years.
More and more brands are taking ownership of their content, leveraging the premise that content truly is king. Owning the conversation, the content and the delivery experience is shifting the landscape of how the media is also delivering content. I’ve been working with brands for two decades, slowly shifting their perception of thought leadership and brand awareness. Most of that shift has been focused on content creation and educating key stakeholders.
This shift drastically changes the way PR professionals work with the media and even develop strategic plans for brands to be featured in the media. With this in mind, it is more important now than ever to have a strategic PR plan that will address your key audiences in the places and ways they would like to receive their information. Every platform doesn’t work for every audience. Social media and independent publishing platforms make it easy for anyone to position themselves as media. In my opinion, this is good and bad.
Sidestep the content overload.
When devising your PR program, there are three key factors that you should consider to accommodate the shifting landscape. First, make sure you’re broadening your view of the whole marketing mix and how it works together. The marketing rule of seven says that the audience needs to see an ad at least seven times to take action. Factor this into your plan. How can you position your PR-focused content in alignment with SEO, advertising, sponsorships, speaking programs and with your website? I love SEO, but most of the time, it does not map with PR and marketing campaign messaging. Explore your SEO needs first, and then find out how to combine them into your messaging to make it work for the other parts of your program as well. A good writer on your team is essential.
Second, double down on your messaging. The effectiveness of an advertisement significantly increases when there is an alignment of messaging on the landing pages, so make sure you are weaving similar messages from your PR, advertising and marketing campaigns together. Are you conveying the same message across platforms? Are they unified or disjointed? Review this to ensure there’s no confusion and then commit to it.
Last but not least, start integrating a data-driven approach. I’ve heard so many times that “PR is not measurable”; that’s only true if you can’t connect how each part of the communication mix supports each other. Public relations is the organic function that builds brand awareness, leadership and credibility; you can leverage these opportunities by integrating tracked links (UTM’s or Bitly links) to identify how your audiences are finding your website or other marketing materials. Make sure when you’re working on PR that it’s actually reaching the target audience you want to attract and driving them to action.
Advertising is the paid version of getting in front of a targeted audience in a direct and creative way, and marketing is best served with warmer leads to provide additional information to get customers across the finish line. While it seems like a lot of work to analyze the data, there are more tools now that are at your fingertips to watch where people are coming from and observe their behaviors than ever before. The most simple and free tool is Google Analytics.
Data has been king for a while, and though there are privacy concerns, most people have accepted this kind of tracking to a degree. Use this to bolster your approach and review traffic and other metrics on a regular (monthly) basis. Soon, you’ll see that you can make effective adjustments that will support a winning PR strategy as well as an effective marketing and advertising mix. So, is it the end of PR? No, it’s just time to evolve and get more creative with content and, even better, have a deeper understanding of why and how consumers explore content, leverage credibility and make decisions.
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