Complex Made Simple

PR in the era of digital media

Influencing, impacting, effecting are precious words used today in our media industry which we hear around a lot. What is that all about?

As PR agencies, we are lately asked not only to generate coverage for brands and organizations, but to build relationships that influence behaviour; and this is where ‘digital media’ comes into play.

Many have written about the changing nature of PR, and its move from traditional coverage, celebrities and ambassadors; to influencers that have enormous reach and are trusted within social, demographic, or values-driven networks.

Public relations is also known to be a specialized practice where certain trends are powerful and in other cases weak and nonexistent. It has always focused on delivering the right image, insights, messaging, reputation, brands, cohesive marketing communication, ROI, strategic communication, and CSR projects.

Most experts, therefore, following these rules have services that are limited to media and media relations, and they passionately believe that publicity will produce a good outcome always. But today the PR views are changing and agencies see the new digital media as a revolutionary power that is changing the way the public are reacting to campaigns and yet upsets the way agencies practice PR.

Social media, the game changer

Social media, on the other hand, has transformed to become a support; and changing the way PR campaigns are distributed and measured should be studied further. Online platforms are revolutionary tools that has changed the way PR is practiced, becoming an essential part for many companies; offering PR specialists some new challenges to explore.

PR; unfortunately; is also getting perceived as an old marketing method that has relied on the same tactics and formulas for a long while, and that’s been only measured by the number of coverages, ROI ad AVI’s.

Let’s admit it; prior to the digital blast everything was print based. It was all about securing coverage. If a person wanted to be famous, then they were promised by their agency coverages to make them what they want in print, TV, radio and many other mediums.

Yet, the success of a public relations campaign is no longer measured by the weight of clippings it has achieved, but by the number of blog posts, conversations, comments, retweets, Instagram comments, etc. that it gathered online.

From PR, traditional practices, our industry has evolved rapidly to accommodate constant change and new digital tools, creating opportunities for new successful campaigns.

The growth of digital marketing has also many consequences on media agencies which are now in search of unique and engaging content always. This in return has transformed the role of PR and made it more challenging to create interesting and appealing content.

Successful PR campaigns are now increasingly dependent on their ability to create content that people want to share and talk about online; so this has forced PR agencies to work and focus a lot more on new channels and to be more open to things, not only in terms of measurement but also in relation to deliverables; promoting better marketing tools with better outcome.

We can’t deny that social media offers new channels of communication between companies, brands and its public that are beneficial. It doesn’t only offer an opportunity for direct and instant communication, but also a chance to get back to the ideal basics of public relations, building and maintaining relationships, and changing some of the negative categories typically associated with our industry.

Has PR died?

Digital for sure has become an innovative tool that has quickly changed the way public relations companies practice their deliverables; but it doesn’t mean PR had died. It’s a platform that has become an important part for many com­panies in helping PR experts to explore new areas to research and use tools that can be integrated within their existing PR practices.

I still believe, though, that there is an amazing link between both practices (PR and Digital) that can make a brand more powerful and play an important part in the market. We just need to know how to use it and sell it.

On the other hand, most of the social media can be a waste of time.  It’s a great platform to post photos, announce opinions, like, comment, unfollow, follow and utilize other harmless endeavors. Social media can void hours, if not days, out of our work, time and energy. Using this method for PR professionals and entrepreneurs; can be useful for connecting brands on the web with other new customers.

And press releases?

Today we can use social media to be support PR and vice versa through many ways.

Mixing social media with press releases are beneficial; and when writing down any news, it’s good to find a way to support and extend the message via online platforms. This will help a lot since journalists now a days, rely heavily on Twitter to source, monitor and research stories. So, by sharing a story online professionals can reach them instead of interrupting their inbox constantly.

Creating online campaigns around some case studies is another format; where most of the PR agencies build case studies or infographics to highlight successes and build credibility. While some stories make a good write-up, most people aren’t willing to invest their time to read long-forms of articles. Instead of sharing the full study on social media, picking out the key facts from the success story and highlight those across the board will make a difference.

Executives, brand managers and others; are recommended to publish news on LinkedIn. When CEOs or other executives actively engage online, they’re playing an important role in building trust with others inclusive of their media exposure. Since it’s a small percentage of managers that are active on social platforms; it’s time to educate and encourage them to change that.

Social media also offers a major way to offer expert observation and make an immediate impact on the audience. Yet, press releases might take time to reach readers and most likely to miss some opportunities here and there. So in support to print news; online can be of an assistance.

Example, in the case of breaking news or crisis management, executives must proceed with caution to ensure they are adding value online to the conversation and not being completely egotistic or trying to exploit on a catastrophe.

If us, as agencies will always work on relying on traditional public relations tactics, then it’s time for us to breathe in a new format and apply it into our efforts. By focusing on a online platforms in conjunction with our PR practices, we will be able to communicate our messages directly and more effectively.

Additionally, clients with this format will be able to connect with media and influencers proactively looking for news and resources instead of spamming press with press release documents and others they simply don’t want or can’t share immediately.

(By Zeina Akkawi, Managing Director of PAZ Marketing)