Public Relations in the Digital Age

medium_6495437857With all the other marketing changes taking place around us, is it any surprise that public relations (PR) has gone digital? Consequently, you need to reevaluate the old methods of PR and incorporate new media strategies into your marketing plans. Your audience is online, and journalists no longer have the same level of “gate-keeping” power they once did now that businesses and individuals can also reach out to people directly. While connecting with journalists is still important, it is now only one part of the PR equation.

However, regardless of the online, print, or broadcast media channels available to you, the problem still can be stated as:

Doing business without public relations is like winking in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but no one else does!

After all, the primary job of PR is to attract attention, delivering high visibility with something advertising simply cannot match: credibility. When a third party such as a journalist, blogger, or even a chat-room member says nice things about your company and/or product, your credibility soars. This is because someone else, not you, is saying the nice things. Let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather be advised to “check this out” than be told to “buy, buy, buy”? Sure you would. And if people say bad things about you, you need to be listening to the conversation and respond quickly. Social media and online sites make it so much easier for your customers and critics to complain, but also much easier for you to respond (on a real-time basis in some cases).

How PR Has Changed

Not so long ago, PR professionals measured their effectiveness by the number of press releases sent out, number of calls made to journalists, and other quantifiable tasks. For example, getting a major magazine or top network news show to run a feature story about your company is an achievement, yet the PR department always correlated the amount of print space or broadcast time to the amount of advertising dollars it would have taken to generate the same amount of coverage.

In some cases, this helped justify the PR budget. For example, our PR person generated a five-page feature article about a small New Jersey software company in Wired magazine which is valued the same as a $350,000 ad spend! But that kind of visibility is hard to come by on a regular basis. The new way of practicing PR in the digital age has changed the measuring stick.

Today, it’s much more common to see marketing and PR specialists counting how many people actually opened an email newsletter containing a press release or how many people found a press release by searching Google, Bing, or Yahoo! News. You can even track how many people saw your pages mentioned in the release, filled out a form, downloaded a white paper, or signed up for one of your services. Southwest Airlines, for example, way back in 2005 sold $2.5 million dollars’ worth of tickets from a series of SEO-optimized press releases. This is a major improvement in measurement of the effects of PR!

How do you leverage PR in your day-to-day?

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

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