Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top 10 tips for modern PR

The worlds of marketing and communications have shifted on their axes in recent years – and the speed of change is hotting up.

Why?  Quite simply because the internet and social media have made us all think and behave in new ways and every day, so it seems, a new must-have service or app is launched.
It can be a bit bewildering.  So, to try and simplify things, here are 10 golden rules for the new PR.

Changed consumer behavior

It may be obvious, but every company now looking to source a new product or supplier will turn first to the internet.  If your company or product doesn't show up on Google or Bing etc, then no sale.  It’s now about populating the web with compelling content, driving SEO and getting your website up the rankings.  More importantly, it’s about giving you or your products credibility.

Credibility

I’m old enough to remember skeptical clients asking me why they needed a website.  People, they said, can simply phone or fax through what they need, and we’ll send out corporate or product information.

Now, every credible company has a website, and many are now adopting social media.  The same argument applies: shortly, companies without a social media presence will look old-fashioned or out-of-touch.  Again, no sale.

Social value

Still not convinced by social media?  Well, nearly £6 billion in UK sales annually is now attributed to social media, with that figure vastly rising every year.  Also, visitors to a website are some ten times more likely to make a purchase if they've come from social media.  And it’s not just the likes of Facebook.  For example, 40% of brands now use Instagram for marketing.

Commercially, nearly 80% of businesses such as yours have found customers from Facebook.  Indeed, a majority of social media users now prefer to connect with brands through Facebook, and over 50% of Twitter users recommend companies or products via Tweets.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that only young people connect with Facebook, Twitter etc, and that their customers have no idea what a Tweet looks like.  Well, maybe.  But the rise of social media makes that assumption unwise and, don’t forget, those tech-savvy youngsters will be tomorrow’s customers.

Integration

However, social media (like the rest of PR) has a downside, if not handled well.  There’s no use getting messages out, if they’re the wrong messages – and, remember, social media gaffes can linger online for a very long time, particularly if your gaffes attract unwelcome comment.  The lesson is to choose your social media platforms wisely, make sure you understand how they work, and post information to them that is consistent across all the platforms you use and therefore…

Getting attention

…grabbing attention for all the right reasons.  In a 24/7 media landscape, always also wise to keep an eye on the media in your sector – whether by logging onto trusted news sites or following the rolling news agenda on Twitter.  Maybe the government is making a statement about the widget industry.  As a widget manufacturer, you may have something to say.  Become a commentator, not a bystander.  You may even become an industry thought leader, to whom the media automatically turns.  That’s when you know you've cracked the new media rules!

Content management

But before all that, there’s no use developing traditional and online PR strategies without first deciding on message and content strategy.  Writing good and compelling content for press releases, articles, blogs or social media remains – and will always remain – the most important part of PR.  Not only does it have to be well-written, it has to resonate with potential customers, and be optimised for SEO.  Now, more than ever, content management is all-important.

Targeting messages

When I was a journalist, dodging dinosaurs on the way to work, press releases arrived by post.  Then came the fax, followed by the internet and email.  Then (shudder!) came media companies who did (and still do) everything for you.  Their great advantage is that, with no effort, you can send out a press release to vast thousands of journalists and websites, and many of the latter will publish your information verbatim.  Mostly, however, they’ll be sites of no importance, with real journalists simply ignoring your story.  So why not draw up a list of key media (and the bloggers and journalists who work on them) and get to know those people on a one-to-one basis?  In the new media age, with more and more press releases being distributed, journalists are looking for the human touch.  More than anything, they’re looking for good information, and why they should be interested in your story.

Push and pull

It all used to be so easy.  You adopted a “push” strategy of buying advertising or marketing lists, sent out information or a press release, and waited for the phone to ring.  Now the rules have changed.  It’s about publishing good information and drawing customers into your community: a “pull” strategy in which potential customers find you.  Inbound marketing focuses on excellent content that attracts people towards your company.  By aligning your published content with your potential customers’ needs, you will naturally generate inbound traffic that you can convert. 

Monitor

Before the internet, it was hard to know what worked and what didn't.  Often, for example, I would advise clients to ask everyone phoning for information how they had heard of them.  Mostly, it was a secretary (remember them?) who wouldn't know the answer.  Now, with the likes of Google analytics you can easily see how people have found your website – what publications they first saw you in, what pages on your site they looked at, or the keywords they used to search for you (or your competitors).  Monitoring will help you refine your strategies and messages.

Engage and converse

Monitoring also allows for two-way communication.  It’s no use having a Twitter or Facebook account if nobody in your company actually posts material to them or, just as bad, nobody keeps an eye on them to see what comments or Tweets have been received.  Social media is all about PR immediacy and everybody communicating with you expects the same kind of immediacy in return.  

Nor does it matter if the person is making a complaint; by reacting positively to it, you are making an important statement: we care about customers and, if something appears to have gone wrong, we’re on the case.  Everybody knows that mistakes happen, so a bad Facebook post need not be bad news – respond quickly and positively, and it can actually be turned into good news.

Taking all the above together (rather than have a point 11, which would be silly), it’s about managing reputation, using all media platforms to communicate messages and, by investing a bit of time and effort, building your brand.   At DavidGray PR, we've been there, done it, and have lots of T-shirts.  We understand the power of brand, and how generating a joined-up strategy that uses social media and targets individual media outlets can generate brand value and corporate reputation.


Charlie Laidlaw  is a director of  DavidGray PR.  He can be contacted Charlie@davidgraypr.com or 01620 844736.

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