Public Relations. Just the name itself has a habit of conjuring up images of young go-getters, phones glued to ears, carefully (and craftily) spin-doctoring even the most nefarious of stories.
But regardless of these stereotypes, PR remains an essential part of any business or brand strategy – no matter the size or scale of the operation. In fact, the rapid rise of technology has seen the practice of public relations transform significantly into one of the most creative, dynamic, and interconnected fields in play today.
In this post, we take a closer look at the intricacies of Digital PR, examine the key differences between digital and traditional PR practices, and reveal how to build a robust network that is right for your business.
A Brief History of Public Relations
Today’s practice of public relations is rooted in a variety of global origins, however, it is widely accepted by academics and industry professionals that the birth of modern-era public relations took place in Boston in the year 1900 with the establishment of the “Publicity Bureau;” an organisation designed to support Harvard University fundraising activities. While there is little on record to confirm the Bureau’s specific tactics, the strategy behind its inception was to harness the power of the Nation’s telecommunications networks and press agentry to reach as many potential donors as possible.
The idea of capitalising on the reach and influence of the media continued through WWI and WWII, using the same method of publicity to effectively disseminate wartime propaganda, recruit soldiers into battle, and drive public support for the war effort.
By the 1940’s, public relations had become a legitimate occupation that was being taught in academic institutions around the world. Despite pushback from some sceptics who questioned the ethics and credibility of the profession (cue the stereotype), the permeation of public relations and its value in maintaining brand equity continued to pulse through corporate, government, and not-for-profit institutions.
Fast forward to today, and the fundamentals of public relations remain largely unchanged, but the scope of the profession has become far more malleable as digital technology evolves and public discourse reaches further than ever.
So, What is Digital PR and Why is it Different?
Unlike traditional PR tactics that rely heavily on the established media to control the narrative, Digital PR encompasses any online or digital channel in which a message or conversation can be delivered or take place. And it should come as no surprise, through the advent of social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube, that the general public now plays an overtly active role in how a brand or organisation may be perceived in the wild.
Who Benefits From Digital PR Exactly?
Thanks to today’s technological landscape, it is no longer just the corporate monoliths that require a helping hand with favourable publicity and crisis management. In fact, just about any business, organisation, or entity across any number of sectors should be investing in some sort of PR activity to remain propitious and profitable.
What are the Key Elements of Digital PR?
Glad you asked! While many strategies may be deployed in a Digital PR campaign, many of the core objectives remain the same and often centre around the following areas:
Content Creation and Circulation
The term ‘content creation’ has become somewhat ubiquitous these days, so it may be difficult to unpack what exactly this means in the context of a Digital PR campaign.
In the world of PR, content refers to anything that is published, posted, and circulated online. This may be in the form of social media posts from an organisation’s handle, press releases distributed and picked up by the media, website copy, or even SEO articles that link back to your brand. Just as the late writer, Nora Ephron, once quipped, “Everything is Copy,” except in this case, everything is content.
There are four buckets to consider your media content – also known as PESO.
Paid Media: Any content that has money behind its distribution, such as social media ads, paid influencer partnerships, paid search ads, and other lead-generation activities.
Earned Media: This is content that has been produced organically by a third party, such as stories that appear in the news media, link building, and word-of-mouth.
Shared Media: This is content that is shared via partnerships, like co-branding, or media that is physically re-distributed by users online – like organic social media posts and unpaid reviews.
Owned Media: This is any content that is produced by a brand itself, such as website copy, search, and social content, employee or customer testimonials, and webinars.
This refers to the monitoring and management of any online conversation to enhance the image of your brand. This might involve engaging with your social media communities by responding to post comments, visibly addressing any negative reviews or feedback, or becoming an ‘industry expert’ by engaging with, or, producing content that speaks to your enthusiasm and knowledge of your field.
Remember – the conversation will happen with or without you, so it’s always a good choice to participate!
While we’ve touched on the reputation management benefits of responding to social media commentary, the value of social media and other online engagement is vital to any successful Digital PR campaign. This is where you get to give your brand a little spark and personality and showcase yourself as a business that cares. Some of the most successful publicity to come out of the digital era often stems from witty, tongue-in-cheek, humanised brand engagement on social media – and that strategy might just land you a bit of free press while you’re at it!
Just take this viral sensation between fast-food chain Wendy’s and a nugget-hungry customer, or for another bit of inspiration, check out the US National Park Service’s Instagram – it’s a crash course in turning the mundane into something truly magical.
Whatever you do to engage, try to have a little fun with it!
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Whether you’re creating content, managing a crisis, or trying to improve your visibility on Google, the key thing to remember is that no situation or circumstance will ever be the same. Therefore, it is important to identify your audience and the stakeholders in play before crafting your message. It is also vital that you maintain authenticity when engaging with the public as these savvy consumers will always have the last say.
PR has evolved exponentially over the last Century, and it’s an exciting time for just about anyone to get in on the action and drive their brand equity through the roof. So the next time anyone asks if there’s a spin doctor in the house, you can respond with no, just a killer Digital PR campaign!
Are you looking for an agency to help you grow your online presence? Want to make sure that your brand is front and centre when customers look for your services on search engines? As a full-service digital marketing agency with a wealth of experience in SEO, SEM, content marketing, web development, social media marketing, and more, Trafficon can help. Contact us today, and find out what we can do to give your business a boost.