What is the role of Public Relations (PR) in the digital and social age? Should we merely hustle for media coverage while producing corporate annual reports?
Well, the answers to these questions may surprise you. At least according to Gini Dietrich (above), author of the book and website Spin Sucks.
While media relations remains an anchor for the PR professional, Dietrich suggests that the digital components of the communications mix will take on greater prominence. These include content, email marketing, social media, crisis and reputation management, events, social advertising, and more. As a long time PR professional turned content and social media marketer, I couldn’t agree more.
Let us dive more deeply into some of the key lessons from the book.
Unlike PR professionals of the past, digital age publicists must tell their corporate brand story without spin. Stalwarts here include Zappos and their story of delivering happiness, Virgin and their larger-than-life founder Richard Branson, and Red Bull’s unforgettable dive from space featuring Felix Baumgartner.
Here, you can use the formula of fiction writing to tell your story:
To be a blockbuster on screens large and small, your content needs to be valuable, searchable and shareable.
When creating content, consider how your target audience would search for content online.
Be mindful of the following:
The best forms of content – be they blog posts, articles, web copy, ebooks, white papers, newsletters, videos, images, or case studies – are those which provide value. They are trustworthy, written by experts, free of typos/spelling/grammar mistakes, reflect original thinking, and helpful to customers and prospects.
By regularly sharing such content, your website will rise in authority on the specific topic and be rewarded by Google with higher site rankings.
This brings us to the question of media. According to Dietrich, you can make use of the four different forms of media. They are as follows:
Have a look at how these four circles intersect in the infographic below (courtesy of Spin Sucks).
Unfortunately, digital PR life isn’t always a bed of roses. There are various unsavoury characters and things going on.
The first are called whisper campaigns. Usually initiated by a specific party but disguised as a grassroots communication campaign, whisper campaigns are a form of astroturfing. The trick here is to avoid doing these at all costs as the truth will eventually be discovered.
(See my article on Influencer Marketing Ethics to learn more about ethical online behaviours.)
Trolls and attackers can also wreck havoc on your online properties, and they need to be managed. The best way to stop trolls is to establish clear policies on communication on your platforms, actively police it by deleting inappropriate comments, and block people who persistently flout them.
As a general rule to managing online criticism, Dietrich suggests these seven steps:
Citing that PR is “a marathon, not a sprint”, Dietrich suggests that you should follow the following steps if you do not wish to hire a PR professional:
Personally, I found some of these ideas pretty useful and would try to apply them if I can.
The best form of digital PR strategy is to build and empower a strong community of online supporters. By doing so, you can harness the collective influence of your brand community to leap to your defense should push come to shove.
Begin by paying attention to what people are saying online, participate in the conversation, and allow your community to help you with customer service, new product development or market research. Finally, be honest, open, active, consistent, creative and proud of who you are online.
Once again, Spin Sucks provides invaluable tips for the strategic, thoughtful and targeted management of issues to prevent them from erupting:
As we have recently seen with the Nikon Photo Contest PR Fiasco, the speed at which online issues explode into crises is blinding. Without a good knowledge of the digital and social media, PR professionals often scramble while trying to manage their organisation’s reputation, spread goodwill, or parry off online attackers.
With Spin Sucks, we now have an invaluable guide to accompany us through both our darkest and brightest days. Covering the key issues faced by communication practitioners, it helps us to navigate the choppy waters of the digital and social age.
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