Almost 3.5 BILLION people use the internet now so it won’t come as a shock to you when I say that digital media is taking over in all aspects of society. Everything revolves around digital media; whether it be a website, social media, a blog, a vlog or even a multimedia message – a company will be using some media platform in their strategic framework. Digital media is everywhere, and no matter how much the older generation want to avoid it (that goes for you mum), they won’t be able to for long.
Public Relations is not shy of the new digital landscape either, now primarily based on digital strategies and techniques comes a very long way from the traditional press release and print media. So how have Public Relations practitioners adapted to such changes?
As a result of the rising digital trends, the public relations landscape has radically changed, in the sense that practitioners and stakeholders are now able to interactively connect and engage with the public by having easy access online. PR Web argues that increased engagement with the public through digital media brings the ‘public’ back into public relations.
Practitioners have had to change the ways they work in order to ensure effective and successful communication in such an ever-changing digital world; organisations are now squeaky clean on the newest up to date digital strategies and tactics to ensure they coincide with the wonderful dimension of digital media.
Social media is at the centre of all public relation strategies. This is because social media allows individuals to reach companies more directly (and vice versa), through the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. For an organisation, it’s all about engaging with their target audience and building up relationships to create happy loyal customers. Social media allows this to occur through the ability of quick responses to any quires or complaints they receive. I for one am a very strong believer in social media when it comes to customer service, for example, on a couple of occasions I have made some queries made to Misguided, and have always received a reply within half an hour. This quick and efficient two way communication with customers proves successful and shows social media as a very important tool that has the ability to come with huge opportunities for all businesses.
Take O2 for example, during a period of network failure, O2’s Twitter account became swamped with tweets form angry customers. O2 immediately responded to the angry tweets in an honest and light-hearted demeanour and saved their reputation. People were impressed with the quick direct response. The five steps to successful social media engagement; listen, respond, share, shape and lead.
Of course there are threats too, not all crisis’ end up like O2; after all, social media is ‘social’ and it can quickly result in a slippery slope if a company starts to get a bad reputation for themselves online. The thing about social media is that anything can go viral, so at one click of a button the empowered platform of social media can ruin a reputation. However, in most cases social media is a wonderful tool used by many because it is an effective and powerful tool.
So is everything digital now?
Although the use of the traditional press release has considerably decreased, PR practitioners argue that the press release is not dead. Steve Waddington supports this claim, he argues that the press release is not dead, it has just simply changed with the evolving digital era. Waddington explains that press releases still give you legitimacy, create a steady stream of news, break through the clutter, they are extremely versatile and they simplify year end summaries. When trying to reach a large, news orientated audience, a press release is perfect. They are still powerful tools. However, in the digital world that is forever evolving, search engine optimisation (SEO) is more essential than ever before. For those of you that are unaware of the meaning of SEO, in brief it is a set of rules that can be followed by web site owners to enhance their web sites for search engines and thus improve their search engine rankings.
As a result of the digital world we live in today, it is extremely important to understand SEO if you want to compete in the market. Search engines like ‘Google’ are used by millions of individuals daily looking for websites, blogs and answers to any questions they have. If your website has a high SEO, it can help your brand grow and make it a real competitor in the market.
But is print dead? According to Mark Hooper ‘the death of print’ has been largely exaggerated. According to a study that took place in April 2015 by Deloitte, 88% of magazine readers in the UK still prefer to consume articles via print. Hooper also explains that even the biggest of companies like google, asos.com and (even the number 1 online brand) netaporter.com still publish print magazines because this way of reaching their audience refreshes the parts of their business model that other digital solutions cannot reach. This just shows there is a need for both digital and print. Although print cannot reach a vast audience in the matter of seconds like digital media can, it still has its benefits for public relations.
Leading on from all the SEO talk…
There are three types of media; earned media, paid media and owned media. As you can see from the image above they all work very differently to come to one final cohesive result or goal for an organisation. In the recent years there has been a large shift toward integration of each media. As opposed to the three types of media/tools working alone, by working together an organisation can come to a better more effective result. Media convergence is the new goal. Working together will ensure a more effective outcome.
This is all true, however there has been recently, a larger focus on earned media. This form of media is sometimes seen as the ‘vehicle’ that helps move people to a website. It can be seen as one of the most important media types; as Erica Machin states what is the point in having an amazing website if nobody can get to it? Machin explains that earned media is fundamentally the word of mouth of online, the shares of social media, the online campaigns that get you to the website. Earned media can spread like word of mouth in the form of the content they create such as reviews, recommendations, ratings and stories about their experiences. Up to 92% of consumers trust word-of -mouth recommendations, but only 24% trust online ads. A recommendation from a family member or friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase compared to paid advert recommendation. Similarly, if an organisation gets a social media campaign to go viral, they have a winner. In addition to my last section on SEO, if an organisation has a strong SEO, it can be one of the most effective agents of earned media. People are more likely to hop on your vehicle if you are higher up the search engine page. Once an organisation cracks the SEO they’ll have people driving to their website left right and centre!
Companies are largely focused on how much traffic they can drive to their website and how successful their online campaigns are. In my opinion I prefer the new digital ways of public relations. Organisations are also able to evaluate their campaign and if they are not as successful as they would have hoped, they can change it much quicker now in the digital landscape. Therefore, content is kept current, fresh and a lot more interesting for their target audience.
How do you feel about the new digital PR landscape?