Public relations teams used to have a pretty simple remit: have a good relationship with the media and distribute a brand’s ideas to the public through them. Gone are those days. Welcome to the age of online PR — social media, influencers, blogs, search engine optimisation (SEO), YouTube, industry publications, releases intended for the public and press releases for those pesky journos (yes, they still matter).
Like with so many things, the internet has made public relations easier in some ways and more complex in others. It’s certainly more broad.
So, how should you go about building a successful online PR strategy for your brand?
The foundations of effective online PR
Like the foundations of any good relationship, the slab you should build your relationship with the public on should be trust. Never promise more than you can deliver, and while being innovative and ambitious are both good things, biting off more than you can chew will always come around to bite you on the you-know-where.
Define clear goals and objectives
By setting a few goals and objectives for your online PR you can begin to understand the scope of what you are trying to achieve and compress that big task into something manageable.
Start with what you want to gain from your PR, and what aspects of your brand or projects you want to bring attention to.
Identify your target audience
Once you know the what, you’ve got to find the who. Who are you targeting and why? This is probably the most important step of your online PR strategy. If you are targeting everyone, you are targeting no one.
Choose the right channels and distribution methods
Next comes the where. Where are these people going to see your content and hear your message?
One good way to go about this is to use the PESO PR strategy. PESO breaks down the possible communication streams for your message into four categories:
- Paid - includes advertorial and sponsored content, social media ads on whatever platform your target audience is most likely to be using, and any other platform where you pay to get your message.
- Earned - includes media appearances and mentions that derive from your press releases and campaigns and blog mentions. Earned media is built on your trustworthiness and credibility, and is the gift that keeps on giving if garnered correctly. When journalists and media members trust you, they will come back to you to speak on similar subjects. If you give a blogger or a journalist a story on a slow news day, they won’t forget it.
- Shared - includes any and all shared content about your brand on social media. When thinking about shared PR, consider what will strike a chord with your intended audience and what platform they are likely to share it on. If you are targeting professionals, a Linkedin article might be the way to go. If you are targeting young people, consider an Instagram video.
- Owned - While cultivating messages passed on by the media and the public is important, do not discount the power of your own voice. Hosting your own SEO driven blog and other content on your website, as well as providing webinars and other information sharing platforms, can and should be a big part of your online PR strategy. By building a trustworthy presence that speaks directly to your target audience you are skipping straight to the point.
Creating a cohesive narrative for brand consistency
‘One brand, one story’, is another easy motto to live by for your online PR strategy. Your aim should be for people to know who you are in an uncomplicated way. While you should differ your messaging to different target audiences, it should always be within the umbrella of your wider image.
Storytelling is the key to brand identity. By presenting a cohesive and thought-out story, you can drive up recognition and brand loyalty.
Creating newsworthy content
Identifying newsworthy angles can be tricky. You want to be topical and timely, but not put yourself in the limelight of someone else's story.
While it sounds like a crude term, this is the art of Newsjacking.
Newsjacking can deliver a mix of owned and earned PR, and can help you into the shared space if done right.
Brand Chemistry works with Lavazza to highlight the company’s continued efforts to limit any negative social and environmental impact from their products.
By showing the impact of the positive actions of people that work all over the world to get coffee in your cup, Lavazza is able to signal to buyers and the public alike that they are taking steps for the betterment of the planet.
This is a great example of newsjacking, as it illustrates that the company is setting a high standard for sustainability in a supply chain heavy industry. By taking these steps and backing it up, they are able to show the world that there is action behind their words.
Remember, when undertaking PR exercises like this it is essential that you present an honest depiction of what you are doing. By selling high and under delivering, you put yourself and your company in a position to get burned.
However, newsjacking can be done with any topic. When considering what stories you can insert your business in, this is what journalists are looking for:
- Timeliness - Make sure that the information you are sending is current and relevant to something happening in the world.
- Human Interest - Try to offer up people who are being affected or people that can speak to an issue that your business helps solve.
- Statistics that speak to trends - If you are a business that deals with a certain sector or industry, try conducting surveys and questionnaires. Package your findings in a way that works as a story.
- High impact - Again, how many people are being affected?
- Prominence - If you have a high-profile brand advocate who can speak to the issue, get them involved. The same goes for experienced leaders within your team who can speak to relevant issues.
Measuring and analysing online PR effectiveness
Measuring the success of an online PR campaign can be tricky, but there are ways that you can track the impact it has had. To do this, you have to go back to the start — what were the campaign's goals? These are your key performance indicators. If you have ticked these boxes, you can probably consider your campaign a success.
This is online PR, so there are some analytics and tracking tools available to you, as well as other techniques that can tell you where your new customers are coming from.
The most simple is to use Google Analytics. Are you receiving more web traffic after you put your campaign into action? If you are, your campaign could be a driving factor. You can also track engagement with the campaign content on social media and see how many site visits you drive from those posts.
But even this can be hard. For more zeroed-in answers on whether your campaign is bringing in new customers, try asking them. Speak with new clients or set up a questionnaire online to see where they heard about you.
If you are putting out press releases to members of the media, keep track of the level of engagement you are getting from them. No journalist will do a story every time you put out a press release, but by keeping track of what content you sent to whom you can learn what is working with whom. If journalists provide feedback but do not publish a story, try to take that on board wherever you can.
After a few campaigns, come back to your list to see if there are any themes or trends to what has been working and what hasn’t.
Online PR is the face of your brand
Your brand’s online presence is, in many ways, the most important presence it can have. Online PR is like a dating profile — you want it to say the most important stuff in a concise and likeable manner. It should target specific groups you are interested in selling to, and all fall within the same narrative you are building as a brand. Online PR is your foot in the door with new customers, so don’t waste it!
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