Google – judge and jury
The rapid growth of social marketing, compounded by increasingly sophisticated search habits, has big implications for how you manage your brand and reputation online. Every transaction begins with a search: Google is usually the first port of call for anyone considering a business or personal prospect, followed closely behind by a trawl through Twitter’s search engine. A prospective transaction can sometimes end there too: Google’s own study into how business-to-business (B2B) companies are researched found that more than half (or 57 per cent) of buying decisions were taken before a face-to-face meeting had occurred
Online – it’s where PR lives now
Some might say the term ‘online PR’ is already outdated – that online PR and reputation management are one and the same thing – in the same way that the terms ‘social media and ‘digital’ are now interchangeable.
However we label it, these days you can’t afford not to have a PR plan that lives online: in 2006, 16.2 million people in the UK were using the internet every day, according to the Office for National Statistics. Since then, this has soared to 35.7 million – representing 73 percent of the population.
Essentials of traditional PR and reputation management that you (still) need to know
The discipline of PR has migrated from the age of Gutenberg (the man who introduced the printing press to Europe in the 15th century) to the era of Zuckerberg (who needs no explanation to readers of this book), but the fundamentals are the same: take your brand or company’s core values that you want to promote, and knit together creative concepts with brand message, while identifying the influencers who will take these forward to your target market in an objective manner. As ever with PR, the challenge is planning how to control the messages when the medium is not always paid for.
Start with strategy and an understanding of your audience
It would be foolish, not to mention costly and time-wasting, to embark on PR without having established your goals for such activity. Perhaps it is bigpicture stuff about positioning your brand in a certain market, or at a more micro level, the launch of a new sub-brand product or service. Whatever your goals, PR should always support your company’s wider marketing efforts. If marketing hasn’t done this already, start by doing an internal audit to identify core strengths as well as vulnerabilities, and messages you want to consistently deliver. If your business has a consumer insight function, use the information they have collated in order to create an audience profile.
Know the influencers, understand their pressures, gain their trust
The stakeholders who have always formed and assessed reputations – journalists, customers, prospects, investors, and financiers – are still the group you must seek to influence. These days you need to do so online as well as through traditional channels.
The humble press release – it still works
A quick way to get word out about your business is via the tried-and-tested press release. A release is just that: a means of getting information out to interested parties. Because of the need for online content to be ‘discovered’, some argue that press releases need to be even better written than those designed for print.
Get to grips with content marketing
The expansion of social media and the explosion in demand for content are perhaps the two biggest – and strongly interlinked – evolutions in PR since the 2012 edition of Understanding Digital Marketing. Simply put, content marketing is about telling a story. Ask yourself: are you ready to tell yours? Start by thinking back to the stories that have impacted you. Did you feel informed, connected, moved to react? Then, think about your influencer group: what stories are likely to resonate with them? You might ask why you need to go to the effort of creating great content. As search engines tighten their ranking algorithms against manipulation, they continue to reward and prioritize high-quality, popular content. In other words, good content inspired by audience insight helps your search engine ranking, so try to gain an understanding into what your audience’s passions are.
With all these tips in mind, a content-driven PR strategy can become the pivot around which you build an inbound marketing campaign and protect your reputation, allowing your PR efforts to move from pushing a new product or service and instead to create that gravitational pull necessary to generate influence and convince your audience. Now we turn to industry luminaries to crystallize the points in this chapter by distilling down their own experiences.