Recollect a time, about two decades ago, when the public relations (PR) world was buzzing with the chatter of fax machines transmitting press releases and Rolodexes brimming with business cards and personalized notes.
Those memories might induce nostalgia, however, the landscape of public relations has changed dramatically since those days. Three significant catalysts behind this transformation are social media, content marketing, and paid media advertising.
Each of these has revolutionized the way brands communicate with their audiences, fostering new channels for PR teams to reach out, opening doors for sharing expertise, and blurring the distinction between advertising and media relations.
The Impact of Social Media on PR
At its core, public relations is about nurturing relationships, both between brands and the media and brands and their customers. Social media has given PR professionals a less formal and more immediate conduit to both journalists and consumers.
Bridging PR Professionals and Journalists
Let’s consider this— dispatching a press release via a fax machine did transmit the information to the media outlet, but it did little to cultivate relationships. Building relationships relied more on private meetings, emails, or phone calls. It required an understanding of a journalist’s schedule to know when it would be appropriate to ‘intrude.’
PR professionals who fostered such relationships reaped the rewards of exceptional coverage for the brands they represented. Social media channels have simplified the process for PR experts to connect with journalists. Interactions as simple as tagging someone in a tweet or responding to a post can establish a connection without interrupting a journalist’s day.
Linking Brands and Customers
Social media has also empowered brands to directly connect with potential customers through their own platforms. But these platforms are not just channels for brands to ‘speak’ to their audiences. They also enable social listening: By tracking relevant social media accounts, brands can keep a pulse on the topics garnering considerable attention.
The strength of social media and PR lies in connecting brands with consumers and the media simultaneously. An instance of this is Dove’s ongoing “real beauty” campaign, which champions real women over professional models to showcase their products. This campaign underscores the company’s belief that every woman is beautiful and bolsters inclusivity in the beauty industry.
A more recent offshoot, Dove’s #ShowUs, uses hashtags and social media platforms to encourage more brands to feature real women in their campaigns. Since its inception, the brand’s commitment to inclusivity has concurrently generated media coverage and forged connections with real consumers.
The Influence of Content Marketing in PR
As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating “valuable, relevant, and consistent content” for a brand’s audience. Within the PR sphere, content marketing enables PR professionals to position themselves or their clients as thought leaders by sharing insights on their own blogs. Regular contributions to respected publications can serve the same purpose.
The secret sauce to effective content marketing is the utility of the content. It is less about directly prompting a sale, but rather, blogs and other pieces are geared towards building trust between the blogger and the audience, eventually elevating the blogger’s status to that of an expert.
Consider HubSpot, a customer relationship management platform, as a perfect example of this. While their product is a software solution aimed at marketers and sales teams, their marketing blog is celebrated for dispensing valuable insights for professionals. This includes industry statistics, best practice guides, and clear explanations of emerging strategies and tactics. Their commitment to delivering value is undeniable.
Offering such value to readers fosters content sharing. A blog article that resonates with its readers and is considered valuable has a higher likelihood of being shared, broadening its reach. This initial act of sharing sets the stage for content marketing to spread like wildfire.
The Synergistic Relationship of Paid Media Advertising and PR
While PR and advertising are distinct fields, they share a significant intersection. Typically, it takes longer to build momentum with a PR campaign due to the time required to establish relationships and foster trust.
This is where paid advertising steps in, offering immediate brand visibility while the PR efforts are in full swing. Both display and social media advertising can assist PR professionals in reaching larger audiences and delivering their messages effectively, without being filtered through a media outlet.
The fitness company Peloton provides a case in point. Initially known for its indoor cycling equipment, the company leveraged Apple search ads to promote its fitness app, repositioning the brand as a comprehensive fitness solution provider. This paid advertising campaign led to a 2.5-times increase in app downloads.
Merging the Three Power Players in Public Relations
The transformative effects of social media, content marketing, and paid media advertising on public relations are most potent when all these components are seamlessly integrated.
So how can PR professionals accomplish this? Begin by designing marketing and PR strategies with integration in mind. While not everything will be perfectly sharable, developing a content calendar that spans both blog articles and social media channels will help augment the reach of both.
Establishing social media connections with external, credible blogging platforms bolsters both a brand’s content marketing and its social media strategy. Constructing paid media advertising messages around the topics featured in your brand’s content marketing enhances consistency and brand recognition.
Adhering to these guidelines can enable all three elements to fortify your brand’s PR campaigns.
While it’s indisputable that digital technology has reshaped PR, it’s still a business rooted in relationships. Technology has redefined how these relationships are constructed, but it has not undercut their significance. Social media, content marketing, and paid advertising can all contribute to solidifying and expanding these relationships.
In this evolving digital age, the PR professionals who adeptly leverage these powerful tools will stay ahead of the curve, fostering stronger relationships and propelling their brands to new heights. Embrace this transformative trio, and craft compelling narratives that resonate with your audience, inspiring them to act and engage with your brand. This is the future of public relations, and it’s here for you to seize.