The lines between public relations and digital have blurred. Does that mean, though, that the convergence of traditional PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) has hatched a brand new profession where only tech-savvy professionals can thrive?
What you get is a job that, thanks to this post-digital amalgamation, requires a slightly tweaked skillset. Because of this overlap, those who work in PR and marketing must now have a comprehensive understanding of both analogue and digital elements, which may include aspects that wouldn’t previously have fallen under their remit.
In 2016, they must:
- Build relationships with online influencers to gain maximum coverage
- Understand the ways search engines work, especially backlinks
- Be social media-savvy
- Appreciate the importance of SEO and understand how this fits into the marketing mix
- Be able to write engaging blogs, press releases, social media posts and outreach emails
All are central to what we now call ‘Digital PR’.
If you’re a traditional, ‘old school’ PR professional, don’t worry. It’s not that daunting. As with anything these days, there are tools out there to make the job easier – just think of the millions of apps in the App Store.
If you want to get the best results, you should familiarise yourself with the following tools and tricks.
Useful tools to become acquainted with
Hootsuite – for social media community management, outreaching and fire fighting bad press.
Social media is a minefield when business isn’t going well. Why? Well, for all its positives, social media provides the general public with a platform to vent their frustration in real time, in front of anyone who cares to look.
There are ways to stem the tide, though. Hootsuite, for instance, helps you firefight when things are going wrong. If you utilise its features – including activating streams for all of your social accounts – you can keep an eye on who is saying what about your brand and respond accordingly.
Monitoring brand mentions, both positive and negative, is just one aspect of Hootsuite. If you’re implementing a more thorough social media strategy, you should be building relationships with journalists and bloggers who could help spread your brand’s message.
There are a number of hashtags you can utilise to do this, including:
There are, of course, more specialised hashtags depending on the sector you work in, such as:
- #FBloggers (fashion bloggers)
- #LBloggers (lifestyle bloggers)
- #FDBloggers (food bloggers)
Learning how to use Hootsuite properly is key to successful digital PR, whether you’re reaching out to influencers using the hashtags above or protecting a brand in the face of unwanted criticism.
Buzzsumo – for generating ideas and finding key influencers
Buzzsumo is a content marketer’s best friend. It displays the most shared content during selected time periods on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
It’s easy to use. Simply input a keyword, key phrase, domain or hashtag to find material and hot topics. It’s ideal for finding what’s trending in a specific sector or on a particular topic and shows what type of content is performing successfully across all platforms.
It can if used correctly, aid your content creation process and ensure the topics you’re writing about are the topics your target audience wants to read. What’s more, you can get a free trial!
CoSchedule – for all-in-one campaign management
CoSchedule is an all-in-one content and social media planning calendar which has loads of handy features designed to make digital campaigns run smoothly. After being introduced to it by Neal Schaffer at MaximizeSocialBusiness.com, we discovered how useful it could be for PR and marketing companies that are working on integrated campaigns.
The programme is particularly useful for helping with content promotion on social media channels. Handily for teams, it allows for efficient collaboration in one central location, with all social media activity listed alongside scheduled content, whether the latter is created in WordPress or other content management systems.
Google Alerts – for keeping your finger on the pulse
In 2016, the news is 24/7 and it’s no longer enough to read the daily newspapers each morning to get your fix of current affairs, sports or celebrity gossip – depending on your interests.
Instead, tools such as Google Alerts give you live updates and help you filter out irrelevant news so you only get the ones you need.
As well as keeping a close eye on trending topics in the industry and general key terms, you should set up alerts for:
- Your brand
- Certain staff members’ names
- Key products
- Competitors’ brand names
It’s also possible to set up Twitter alerts using Tweetdeck, so you should always be aware of what people are saying – positive or negative – about your brand.
More-than-useful things to know and do
It’s great knowing about all the helpful tools that will make life easier; however, there are some other elements you should have in your toolkit…
Reach out to key influencers
Millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites – Symphony IRI Group
SEO and PR have rapidly merged. Some might say PR is in the midst of identity crisis. While it’s always been central to a strong business, content marketing is now just as important – 93% of marketers say so anyway.
As described in our August post, because of this crossroads, PR professionals are adopting strategies that one time would have been the bread and butter of SEO professionals, including the tactic of outreaching to seek blogger coverage.
Sending physical press releases to newspapers won’t cut it. That’s because it’s not 1992 and PR isn’t an analogue profession anymore. Digital’s the word and online bloggers with strong social media presences can become as influential – if not more so – than journalists.
PRs must be savvy and open to new trends. Great content is great content, whether it’s an article posted on a national newspaper website or a guest post on an influential blog.
Many PR and SEO agencies are now offering overlapping services. Because of this, PR professionals should know how best to gain coverage, whether it falls under the traditional PR remit or not.
Create an awareness days calendar
Every single day, somewhere in the world, there is an awareness day – so it seems anyway. There are serious days, not so serious days and days that your brand if you’re on the ball, could utilise to generate positive publicity.
For example, these international days take place during October and November:
- World Mental Health Day – 10th October
- World Food Day – 16th October
- World Toilet Day – 19th November
- World Television Day – 21st November
Brands can use such days to their benefit. However, it’s no good waiting until the actual day then rushing to create a last-minute, below-par campaign.
Avoid that by setting up a calendar containing all the relevant awareness days, months and years. Get everyone involved by sharing it with your team or pinning it on the wall of your office. It’s a great way of inspiring creativity and ensuring everyone is able to plan ahead for these events.
Public relations agencies should take a look at websites that list all the awareness days out there, such as awarenessdays.co.uk, and incorporate the appropriate events into your calendar. If to create your own calendar, you can download and print our version here.
The ability to write
The last point is an old-fashioned skill which, despite the rise of text speech and opinion-dividing emojis, is still a much-revered ability that PR professionals must have if they want to forge a long career in the field.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In PR, that’s still true. A PR professional must be a competently written communicator and should be able to use language effectively to sell a good idea to colleagues, prospects, customers and anyone else that needs to know.
Strong creative writing skills should tie in with everything covered here to make up a complete and multi-faceted PR campaign that protects and promotes a brand in equal measure.
Are you using any tools that your fellow PR professionals should know about? Use the comments below to let us know why they’re so helpful.