Traditional Public Relations used to just be Public Relations — the business of relating brands to the public via television, print and radio. Publicists and their agencies are responsible for reputation management, crisis communications, media outreach and general brand awareness.
While public relations is not directly responsible for sales, it is a supporting character to build brand authenticity in the media for the trickle down approach to bringing in more customers. On average, it takes 13 exposures for a consumer to organically recognize a brand. Traditional Publicists work to increase the chances of print and media experiences through storytelling and delivering information, such as a press release.
The push by digital marketers to overtake traditional PR is nothing new, though in the early days the two were considered one in the same. If you are trying to figure out how to move your traditional PR strategy into a digital one, here are a few tips and tricks.
First, A Little History
In 1978, the first mass marketing email was sent to 400 users on ARPAnet, it resulted in $13 million worth of sales. That was unprecedented; originally the internet was built to interconnect government laboratories, and most companies did not see email as a marketing channel. But by 1995, 16 million users — or 0.4 percent of the world’s population were connecting via the World Wide Web.
In 1998, Google was born. While there have been numerous search engines, its ranking system has become the benchmark for digital marketing. With the wide spread usage of internet, there was a shift. The audience was coming to the brand, breaking years of the tradition of brands coming to the audience.
Some PR professionals started telling their clients story online — through email, newsletters, blogging and online news outlets — because they realized that having an online presence paralleled the credibility gained from traditional placements. A business’s online footprint was the new print ad, and Google was the publication.
From these innovators grew a new kind of PR, one that could tell a brandstory in front of their online audience and also produce search engine ranking results. Digital PR was created from the marriage of search engine optimization and marketing. It’s the idea of using branded, optimized content to rank on Google for the purpose of disseminating positive brand information and driving traffic. Digital PR professionals seek opportunities to insert their brand on social media, online news, magazines and videos, while also taking advantage of the growing trend of using influencers: regular people with audiences, such as bloggers and vloggers.
Taking the Leap to Digital PR
While it may seem like traditional PR can’t relate to digital PR, outside of wanting to raise brand awareness, there are some tactics that can effectively transcend the gap. Digital PR professionals are hybrids of publicists and digital marketers who use these 3 traditional tactics to achieve digital goals:
Traditionally meant to engage and inform print media, today’s press release supports digital PR and search engine optimization efforts in more ways than one. The internet has made the previously exclusive publicist-reporter relationship accessible to anyone who seeks to build it. While traditional PR agencies may claim the press release is no longer a viable tactic, revised digital objectives give a new definition to “success.”
Companies who host their press releases in “newsroom” sections of their website make announcements readily available for interested journalists or curious visitors. When done successfully, they have become their own news outlet. A press release is part of content marketing and should be optimized appropriately.
However, it is essential to maintain readability over keyword saturation when storytelling. The main objective will always be to disseminate information to the general public. Having news content on-site to be indexed by Google can increase rankings, and becoming an approved Google News source can increase traffic from qualified visitors interested in your industry.
The awesome thing about digital PR is that the return on investment is measurable and trackable, unlike an ad in the newspaper. A digital press release wraps up offline and online publicity in one neat little campaign, allowing you to target journalists, influencers and consumers while gaining valuable backlinks through outreach.
By changing the objective from just views to views-plus-SEO, the press release will fit into a larger scale digital PR strategy. You may receive a print mention, social share or online article from a press release when boosted by targeted outreach, any of which would be a digital public relations win.
Bottom Line: The difference between a traditional and digital PR press release strategy are the goals and objectives. Digital PR goals are measureable through analytics and the objectives have a SEO-focus, unlike traditional Publicists.
Before online shopping and instant reviews became such a big deal, consumers relied on the opinion of the media and their friends for recommendations. Traditional publicists would work diligently to make sure the reputation of the brand was positive and controlled. Sometimes that meant spinning a negative review or partnering with a trusted brand to build credibility. Today, 88 percent of consumers do research online to make purchase decisions based on the reviews, ratings and, more often than not, influencers’ opinions about a brand. It is vital for companies to consider the story they are telling — and the story that is being told for them.
Same as traditional PR, digital PR seeks to control the conversation and build credibility. Unfortunately, just like a negative in-person review, brands cannot control what is written about them; but unlike a traditional review, brands can and should publicly respond to negative online feedback. A digital PR campaign can flood the search engine results with positive content and bury negative content, if done correctly.
Most people do not get past the first or second of search engine results. If the first page of search results contain one to three links to negative brand feedback, you have potentially lost thousands of customers. Sometimes, brands investigate and find fraudulent negative reviews that are hurting their ratings.
These reviews can be flagged and removed using the proper channels. Brands should not be afraid to address legitimate negative online reviews, when consumers see that a company is actively monitoring their reputation it implies that the brand would like to make future experiences better.
Employing an ongoing digital PR strategy for online reputation management means proactively producing positive, searchable content through outreach with news, media and influencers as well optimizing pages to rank for branded keywords and appropriately addressing negative feedback.
Bottom Line: Digital PR increases the amount of positive or neutral brand exposures online by facilitating third party endorsements to quiet noisy, negative links in search results. Publicly responding to negative feedback shows customers that the brand appreciates their business and values their experience.
A traditional publicist is assumed to have a large, influential network in their back pocket — the saying “Your network is your networth” was probably invented by a publicist. They are brand connectors and seek to build relationships on behalf of their clients through networking, attending high profile events and flouting their own reputation.
Digital PR professionals should have also have a passion for networking and relationship building. There are many channels to build an audience, from participating in online communities to becoming influencers themselves. Because having their own audience is valuable to clients, influencer outreach is much easier and proves their expertise.
This year, for example, EverSpark worked with a publication on behalf of one client, and because we had a pre-existing relationship, we were able to get another client posted without any difficulty 6 months later. Outreach and relationship building should be done during the off-season (when you don’t have any active campaigns) to prepare easy wins for an upcoming digital PR campaign.
The best proactive relationship-building strategy is to introduce yourself to an influencer, let them know you source related content, show them the benefit of working with you and engage with their content. No one likes to feel used. A digital PR professional must be able to translate the benefit to the influencer or be prepared to pay for the coverage as a sponsor. Relationship-building can open the door to mutual partnerships with brands who normally sponsor or require payment to participate. Establishing a trusted relationship can be time-consuming but it is a vital digital and traditional PR tactic.
Bottom Line: Relationship-building is proactive and ongoing, but also lucrative and valuable. Influencers with an existing relationship to the brand are more likely to organically share articles because they have a trusted, established relationship.
It’s Time to Jumpstart Your Digital PR Efforts
Digital PR is the child who can use an iPhone at age 3, while traditional PR is the parent who just learned to program the DVR. Digital PR is smart because it learned everything from traditional, but better because it grew up with technology. Both have their value, but in a world in which speed and time are of the essence when disseminating news, there is only one clear winner.
If you don’t know where to start with Digital PR, or don’t have the time to invest in creating strong campaigns, don’t worry. EverSpark Interactive is a top Digital PR firm in Atlanta. Our team of experts can ensure your business’s news is seen by the right audience quickly — and for the right price. Learn more about Digital PR here, or contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.