80% of businesses die within the first five years of their business as they struggled to build a lasting brand.
So what could be the reasons behind the 20% of businesses that managed to stay on top of their game in the midst of high competition and other disruption?
They have strong brand presence and credibility, invested in building trust for their brands and ensure that they communicate the right messages to capture the customer’s attention.
Did you know that by combining public relations and marketing, your brand would achieve more sustainable and business longevity?
Public relations (PR) back in the day was pretty straightforward. The news came from national TV channels, a far cry from the WhatsApp fake ‘news channels’ running rampant these days.
Media has always had a strong influence on our perception and also buying decisions.
Presently, there are new players on the media scene in the form of social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube along with the rise of digital media.
This has made the news cycle a 24-hour outlet where stories can be shared with just a tap of a button. In addition to this, anyone can be a ‘reporter’ and we mean that anyone can share news of an organisation via a Tweet or Instagram post before it’s broadcasted by an official media outlet.
So, what does this spell out for PR? Well, it’s evolving for sure! We’re going to dissect what PR and social media marketing are, their relationship and how PR remains relevant in all media discourse today.
What is Public Relations ?
Before we dive headfirst into PR in the digital age, we must first understand what it is. According to Forbes, PR helps a business or person promote a positive image of themselves via paid and also earned communications.
PR also covers analysing and predicting public opinion and possible issues that may happen concerning the organisation or person to craft the right messaging that resonates with them.
A crisis is when a situation arises which could damage the organisation, its stakeholders, or even the industry which could lead to possible threats to public safety, financial and also, reputation loss. #
For an individual, a crisis would usually be in the form of a scandal due to unsavoury news which could lead to bad press and loss of revenue due to being dropped by brands who want to protect their reputation.
Other areas of PR include:
- Corporate communications
- Crisis communications
- Internal investor and marketing communications
- Media relations
- Content creation
- Media event management
- Brand journalism
On top of paid advertisements, PR teams also boost an organisation’s brand awareness via media coverage by traditional and new media outlets.
Traditionally, to influence public opinion about an organisation, PR agencies would work closely with television, radio, and print media to run stories on an organisation’s news along with in-person engagements in the form of interviews or press conferences.
During this digital era, media coverage is lightning quick and shared just as speedily via social media and other platforms such as websites and YouTube.
Social media posts are also less wordy for those who just want a quick and easy to digest update. These posts can also tempt readers and then direct them toward the full article or video hosted elsewhere.
What is Social Media Marketing?
The boom in social media platforms has made it easier for companies and individuals to connect with their audience. It has come far from just a place to post content and has evolved into a vehicle to drive website traffic and increase sales.
According to Buffer, social media marketing is when businesses use social media platforms to see the conversation around their brand (social media listening) and responding to relevant comments (engagement).
To understand how it’s performing on social media platforms, these entities could also analyse its reach, engagement, and sales via analytics. These analytics, in turn, help the organisation create and run highly targeted social media advertisements.
Both PR and social media marketing are rooted in communication
PR goes through conventional media routes such as newspapers, television, radio and magazines so publishing of the news is a little slower
Social media is faster than PR messages because social media networks are easy to access and most smartphone users have at least one form of social media.
Additionally, content in the form of press releases, emails, videos, and others stick around for longer and can be dispersed faster and further with social media. Previously, PR was more focused on certain individuals like investors or business partners but social media has expanded its reach.
With social media, instead of just investors or business partners, more people are reached which can include customers and the curious who are just as important to the success of a business.
Social media makes PR messages more friendly and conversational to their target audience and this has led to the rise of ‘relationship marketing’. This is a strategy that companies use to retain their customers and seem warmer and more approachable to their audience, no matter the industry.
Social Media Marketing VS Public Relations
As aforementioned, social media marketing and PR are both rooted in communications. However, there are major differences when it comes to the purpose of social media marketing and PR
Communicating company messages to target audiences
Social media marketing uses a conversational tone and is usually to drive sales
PR messages doesn’t drive sales
PR messages are passive compared to social media where engagement is more interactive.
PR provides a ‘reason to buy’ while Social media marketing provides ‘You must buy from us because…”.
Social media requires a more conversational tone when it comes to communication and its purpose is usually to drive sales. Furthermore, the tone that companies choose to take on social media needs to be consistent when engaging with their followers.
This becomes the voice of the company and because social media users are discerning, they’re likely to distrust the company once there are any changes in how the company comes off.
For example, if your organisation regularly shares memes and other forms of current media that engages with your younger audiences then suddenly pivots and just shares your company’s unique selling points, this inconsistency could cause you to lose your younger following.
PR sends messages to their target audience without the need to drive sales and so, their tone and approach are different.
People usually react to PR messages passively – seeing them in a magazine, newspaper, or television – as compared to social media where the engagement is more interactive.
This is because social media content is published to seek a response which is how companies create and maintain engagement.
Another difference is how to determine the return on investment (ROI) for both PR and social media. It’s much easier to measure success on social media compared to PR via analytics that is available to creators and companies which quantifies their reach and engagement.
Methods to measure PR ROI include:
- Circulation or Reach – Print, digital or broadcast media’s viewership or unique visitors.
- Mentions – How many times the company was mentioned during a set time frame.
- Ad Value Equivalency – How much the media placement would’ve cost if it was an advertisement in the chosen media.
- Share of voice – Comparing media coverage with a competitor
- Social amplification – How much an article containing your message was shared across social media
- Message pull through – Whether your key messages come through in media coverage
How Public Relations Can Work With Social Media Marketing
Instead of comparing social media marketing and PR , incorporating social media marketing into any PR strategy would greatly boost a company’s communications game.
Previously, any news about an organisation came directly from within the organisation which then goes directly to news media which then reaches their audience. As social media has developed, communication has now branched out into different directions.
Those who view or read traditional media stories can also share it on their own platforms. Your targeted segment of the general public, customers, and potential customers can also communicate with each other about your company on top of engaging with official media stories put out.
Not having a strong social media presence would cause your company to be left out of the conversation revolving around you. Thus, it’s important to use social media to reach both your domestic and also international audiences.
This is where social media managers come in. They are members of the team who will set up and manage your social media platforms and work with the PR team on how your company should sound like on social media.
To foster engagement with your audience, ensure that they’ll be able to reach you via your website and also social media accounts.
Having a sound social media and PR strategy will help you have a better feel of how your company’s perceived online, catch a crisis and manage it quickly, control your messaging, and drive more traffic to your website.
How Public Relations Has Evolved in the Digital World
An interesting way that PR has evolved is the advent of influencer marketing.
Social proof is something that consumers look for and this has also given rise to nano influencers – influencers with about 1,000 to 5,000 followers – who usually have higher rates of engagements with their followers.
Because nano influencers have a smaller following, their reviews and opinions are often deemed as more honest and trustworthy.
Brands have also reached out to influencers and used engagement tools such as Instagram story polls to connect with their audience. For example, to connect with their millennial target consumers, a brand worked with influencers to poll their followers and collected feedback on their clothing designs.
PR has changed to become multi-channel and has expanded from print, online and television placements to social media and recently, podcasts. As mentioned, influencer marketing taps into the influencer’s (younger) follower base and makes your organization more relevant to younger people.
Additionally, brands can drive followers from the influencer’s posts to their own social media account. An article posted on your company’s website can be boosted (impression and also traffic-wise) and shared with the brand’s consumers via different avenues of social media.
For instance, posting your business news on LinkedIn or sharing your press placements on Instagram stories for your followers to see.
A successful PR strategy is one that has branched out to multiple avenues which also expands your organisation or client’s reach to their target audience or consumers. These days, focusing on just one medium of communication simply won’t drive home your organisation’s message.
These days, publications and journalists are also subjected to numbers such as article views, click throughs, likes, and shares on social media. Thus, tailoring your brand’s story in ways that makes it very shareable for your chosen media would put you in their good books.
Plus, your news gets shared across the media’s channels which further widens the reach of your company’s news.
We mentioned before that it’s difficult to track the ROI for PR where commonly, for earned media, it’s calculated by measuring ad value and potential impressions.
This practice has become more accurate these days with digital advancements which can measure engagement metrics including social media mentions, reach, interactions, and even positive and negative sentiment.
Presently, there are plenty of platforms out there that can help brands better understand their place among their target audience with analytics.
Metrics such as share of voice compared to their competitors, accurate audience-related metrics, and readers’ engagement can help to determine which of your channels and messages are bringing in traffic, fostering engagement, and converting to sales.
All of these show that PR at its core is still what it was a century ago which is promoting a positive reputation for an organisation. However, PR in modern times leverages tools such as analytics and techniques such as social media copywriting to convey their message.
Social media marketing looks like it’s here to stay and incorporating it into your PR strategy is the best way to deliver your organisation’s rhetoric to all your target audiences.
Key takeaways: PR has evolved astronomically especially with the advent of social media marketing. Rather than choose one over the other, integrating social media marketing into any PR strategy turns it into a multi-pronged approach. On top of getting a company’s messages across, building trust and increasing loyalty to drive brand awareness, now, with social media marketing, you can generate leads, sales and site visits as well. The best of both worlds!