Mary Pike, Freelance Reporter & Writer
The old and new come crashing together when it comes to navigating the world of public relations. The main job is still to get your clients mentioned in the media, but the methods to do so have changed.
Social media, messaging apps, and mobile devices have altered how people consume information, requiring public relation specialists to evolve. Sure, you still need a Rolodex of media contacts at the ready, but you also need top-notch digital marketing skills.
Getting attention in this short attention span world can be difficult — but not impossible, granted you’re willing to hone in your digital marketing skills.
From using search engine optimization as your best friend to getting social, here’s a look at five must follow strategies for any PR professional embarking on a digital marketing campaign.
1) Keywords Can Move a Business Up
Leading search engines such as Google and Bing are vital to building brand awareness, as most people turn to the Internet to search for pretty much everything. The holy grail of a PR professional is to get their client’s business or name high up in the search results. That is where keyword and search engine optimization come in. These are the words most commonly used by people when searching. If you have a lot of these keywords in your messaging, it increases the chances of your brand or your client’s showing up high in the search results. That’s important. People tend to scroll down only so far before settling on a business or service. The higher your client is in that query, the greater the chance of getting noticed.
PR content that is ideally suited for search engine optimization includes press releases, media coverage, videos, and images. Not only can it get you higher up in the rankings but it can enhance the client’s reputation online, which can then lead to more instances where he or she is quoted in the press or is presented as an expert.
2) Get Social Online
Social media has become an extremely important method of communications for big and small brands alike. It has propelled people to fame and destroyed the careers of others. For a public relations professional, social media is a blessing and a curse all wrapped together. If your client is trending on Twitter or Facebook, it’s a good thing. But if he or she is facing backlash because of a Tweet or Instagram post, it can very quickly turn into a nightmare. Either way, social media is now a mainstay of society and a tool that can’t be ignored.
From a PR perspective, social media means connecting with and engaging people in a brand. It can be used to get a message out and can be invaluable for damage control. The more social media followers your client has, the more people it has to help clamp down on negative attention that can quickly get a brand in trouble.
When navigating social media, it’s important to keep it honest and entertaining rather than promotional and sales-y. Users can see through promotions disguised as informational content and will quickly tune out. With so many choices on social media, they don’t have to accept being sold to on their favorite platform.
When it comes to brand-building on social media, where you spend your time depends on the type of business you represent. For some businesses, being on top of the news and posting a lot of content will work while for others, customers only care about deals and discounts. If the business lends itself to images, then having an active Instagram page will matter more than tweeting on trends in the industry. The key to building a client’s brand on social media is maintaining it on a daily basis.
3) Step Up Your Content
Even in this digital era, content is king — it’s just taken on new formats. When it comes to creating and sharing content, quality matters. You can spend hours-on-end marketing your material, but if its quality isn’t superior, you’re not going to see great results.
Blogging has become a popular way for brands to communicate with existing customers, as well as potential ones. It can also be a way to boost traffic to the website without spending a dime. Your client doesn’t have to be a celebrity to create a buzz or provide valuable analysis online. He or she does have to create content regularly, though, weighing in about industry trends and developments. That will increase the person’s online presence and reputation, which will lead in turn to more engagements.
Guest blogging is also becoming a popular way to boost traffic and build awareness about a company or brand. With this marketing strategy, your client pens blog posts for other websites and online news publications. The more that executive or company shows up in stories and blog posts on the Internet, the higher it appears in search results. These guest posts usually include linkbacks, which means more traffic to their own website.
4) Be Proactive with Search & Social Media Monitoring
Nobody wants to waste time on an ineffective marketing campaign, and it’s particularly true for PR professionals juggling multiple clients. The internet is vast, making it easy to miss both positive and negative stories about your customer. That could be a recipe for disaster if you can’t intervene early, doing damage control before a story gets out of hand.
That is where search and social media monitoring come in. You can set up alerts using free tools to give you a heads up whenever your client is mentioned whether it’s on Google, Facebook, Twitter or other websites you are following. Alerts can be created to not only inform you of client mentions but also competitors, influencers and other constituents. You can also monitor the search engine rankings to determine if a new placement got the right amount of attention. You can track who is visiting your customer’s Website and/or social media pages, how long they stay and what they are looking at. The ability to gauge what works and doesn’t in real time can be invaluable so don’t ignore monitoring and analytics.
5) Video Killed the Radio Star
Thanks to YouTube, Facebook Live, and Hulu consumers have gotten used to consuming their news and entertainment through a smartphone screen. That has propelled video to the forefront of the Internet, with consumers clamoring to access live streams, podcasts, and pre-recorded digital content. For a PR professional, that creates a new opportunity to reach consumers.
Live streaming can be a low cost, effective way to build brand awareness and create some buzz — granted you use it correctly. Live streaming a product launch or store opening that is visual can be effective. Running a live broadcast of an uneventful board meeting, not so much. You have to pick and choose when to embrace video, ensuring you are only using the most compelling and visual of content to get your message across.
If you are creating content for YouTube and other free video sites, keep it short, edgy, and entertaining. Try to stay away from controversial or polarizing topics. Gone are the days when any news is good news. Brands have been broken in hours on social media so tread carefully. The goal is to include everyone, making sure not to alienate along the way. Posting a controversial video may get you immediate attention, but in the long run, it will be written off as a shameless stunt.
The internet has changed the way all sorts of businesses engage, and that is particularly true of PR professionals. Long gone are the days when you can dial up a reporter and convince him or her to write about your client. Now, you can access your audience directly online.
But before you launch a digital marketing strategy for a client, get acquainted with the tools you are about to deploy. Test your ideas and then test them again. The last thing you want to do is make public mistakes when you are ready to debut your client to the digital world.
Are you a PR professional? What digital marketing tips have worked best for you?
About the Author: Mary Pike is a freelance reporter and writer. She writes about work, money, and life for a variety of digital platforms around the world. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.