The ability to have immediate access to goods and services through a digital marketplace is in turn causing radical, disruptive effects on businesses across the world. What’s more? My generation (Millennial) and the generations hereafter are starting to (almost) exclusively use on-demand services for numerous facets of our lives – from shopping and transportation to news and entertainment. Previous generations are making the migration as well.
So, how are businesses leveraging public relations in the digital transformation paradigm? What are the best practices for businesses to market themselves to their respective customer base?
In general, one of the most powerful deliverables in marketing is a clear, articulate and meaningful foundation of positioning and messaging. We refer to is as a strategic narrative – a story that provides people with a clear vision around a common purpose, a clear direction for decision-making and an explanation for why you have that particular vision. This strategy, paired with a consistent PR go-to market plan, has shown to help companies leapfrog their competition and become leaders in their respective industries.
But first, businesses need to understand a few key aspects about the digital marketing landscape and how it impacts PR, in order to get on a path to success. By addressing new challenges and opportunities, businesses can deliver a powerful narrative to the right audience, at the right time and in the right way.
- Content Lifecycle – Content is still king in the world of PR, but attention spans are running shorter. The days of long-form, physical periodicals are dwindling (trade magazines, newspapers, etc.) as rich digital media properties (podcasts, videos, infographics) are emerging as new, more engaging ways to bring business messages to market. Not only is the value of media channels changing, but the lifespan of content is changing drastically as well. With on-demand access to information and services through newer technologies (smartphones, tablets), the opportunity for information to go viral is at an all-time high. This, however, also means the potential for your message getting lost in the fray is at an all-time high as well. The noise generated from everyone being “on-demand” means that businesses have to create as many touch points as possible to get through to their intended audience. Quality content is clearly no longer the only end game – you need multiple digital avenues to deliver a powerful narrative in order to reach and resonate with your target audience.
- Tooling and Technology – The rise of digital media properties only means that more digital tools and technologies are on the horizon. Traditional tools for delivering business messages to market are still very much in play – press releases, white papers, webinars, email marketing, etc. However, businesses must look at creating a digital experience for their audience as well. As a way to create stronger feedback loops in shorter time windows, businesses are adopting new tools and technologies to not only push content farther, but monitor these engagements and touch points as part of their PR and marketing campaigns. Pairing tracking links/tools and “share of voice” monitoring with demand and lead generation assets is not only helping gain an understanding of the end customer, but perhaps more importantly, the digital path that their customer took to find said information online. And what’s more? The narrative that piqued their interest in making a purchasing decision online. Companies are also charged with getting more creative with their traditional PR assets, such as including rich media assets in traditional PR communications. PR Newswire, for example, proactively recommends that with each press release should be a visual component to compliment the written content to increase engagement – something that their new technology platform enables.
- Community First and Foremost – Due to the proliferation of “connecting everything,” people are constantly on the grid and face a surplus of information at any given point in time. Therefore, they have gotten much better at sniffing out “sponsored content” or online marketing campaigns masked as being thought leadership. For a business to truly connect with their community (and to create a community of its own), it needs to be authentic and altruistic with its approach. The phrase, “all ships rise with the tide” is a key viewpoint for marketing leaders to consider when building trust within an industry community of evangelists, practitioners and thought leaders. The point of any community is to give back, not to generate sales leads (this is a by-product). A business needs to demonstrate its value to its peers by sharing helpful and actionable information through multiple content mediums; play well with others (including its competition); and rally around a cause that isn’t self-serving, but self-actualizing. Online community events, podcasts, video chats, social media hangouts, free downloads, live polls, etc. are easy ways to give back actionable content to your industry (and partners/customers), while also generating awareness for your business in an authentic and community-driven way. One of the first rules about community – don’t talk about yourself, which is also what a strategic narrative helps deliver in the first place.
- Unified Media Approach: Paid vs. Earned vs. Shared vs. Owned Media. The new digital marketing mix converges all of the aforementioned media buckets for one goal – to be perceived as an authoritative voice in the industry. Now viewed as necessary for marketing departments, models such as PESO (see image below) marries content deliverables and marketing actions to win in the digital landscape. It also demonstrates how one piece of content, let’s say a company webinar, can be propagated through multiple channels in different ways. For example, before a business hosts a webinar (owned/paid media), it can and should be promoting this marketing deliverable through as many online channels as possible to generate awareness and gain registrants. This might include sponsored (paid media) and organic (shared media) social media posts; advertising in an online trade magazine (paid media); a branded event landing webpage hosted on its own site and/or blog (owned media); a media advisory to notify and invite thought leaders, influencers and other stakeholders to participate (earned media). After the webinar is over, companies can post the video replay to its YouTube channel (owned media), transcribe the webinar to create contributed content for your media partners (earned media), and perhaps even run sponsored social posts (paid media) to help generate traffic to the video replay. With so many avenues to drip your business messages out to market, a blended and unified media approach can help cover plenty of ground from a PR marketing perspective.
This is by no means a full list of considerations, but hopefully it shapes a picture in PR and marketing professional’s minds of what strategies and tactics are needed to maximize your company’s strategic narrative in the on-demand economy. Regardless of your industry or whether you are B2B or B2C focused, your business’ digital footprint is becoming increasingly important for winning in the marketplace. Developing a strategic narrative is the critical starting place, but determining how to deliver that powerful message to online audiences effectively spurs new ways to differentiate from the crowd.