Digital PR can be a disruptive tool

Digitisation is touching all facets of our lives- from smartphones, tablets, fitness gadgets, laptops, home assistants, voice recognition systems, personal health and financial tools, to other new age gadgets. 

Over the last few years, the emergence of smartphones and the rise of the internet has changed the ways of public relation campaigns. Today, communication is more integrated across mediums, and multiple channels are used to make maximum impact. Brands are increasingly blending the digital and non-digital tactics to create a robust communications campaign. 

The communication approach has evolved over the last few years, with PR professionals leveraging social media channels to connect and communicate. Digital has added a whole new dimension to public relations strategies for organisations, irrespective of their size of geographical reach. 

How it all started?

Digitisation first disrupted businesses with technology emerging as a key enabler for brands to connect with partners and consumers. Take the example of new age brands like Ola and Zomato. An extensive network of millions of cab users and drivers would not have been possible without the use of technology. Restaurants have been around for years but who would have thought that one could get an app that can give you a view of the restaurants in an area, that lets you order without making that call, and allows you to even track where your order is.

Digitisation has truly transformed the way we used to do the most basic of things, like buying grocery, paying our bills or ordering food. It has given rise to newer businesses that have written their own success story.

The Communications and PR community has also reinvented its approach and more and more PR professionals now leverage all forms of media to connect with their target audience and create brand recall. Four different types of media are integrated in communication campaigns. These include: (a) Paid media that is primarily sponsored social media posts and content, (b) Earned media which includes media stories, blogs, influencer and analysts generated content, (c) Shared media that includes social media, co-branding and partnerships and (d) Owned media that includes thought leadership, testimonials, employee and customer stories, webinars and other media.

Digital PR can be disruptive and the reasons are aplenty!

Digital PR can go a long way in increasing a brand’s reach and visibility and in turn can have a positive impact on the search engine visibility and drive referral traffic. Digital PR can take advantage of key search term trends and maximise coverage/reach on what internet users are searching for online.

Digital PR includes a number of tools, like online press releases, connecting with blogger and influencers, organising online reviews, and pushing impactful content on the right online mediums.

Some of the advantages of digital PR 

Connect with a larger set of audience

The biggest advantage of digital PR is its ability to connect with a wide set of audience at the click of a button, without worrying about their location. The communication and PR campaign can be run at any given time of the day, and with minimal workforce requirement. This is because digital PR relies on Internet-based strategies such as search engine optimisation, content marketing, influencer outreach as well as social media. One post on the company’s social media channels has the power to reach millions of followers. Also, the information can be shared by the followers to reach many more new/ prospective customers.

Topical communication that helps create brand recall

With digital PR, one can push all kinds of updates about the company’s products or new developments across the brand’s social channels. This is very different from traditional PR where the company has to rely only on earned media to reach to the audience. The information can be shared quickly and across location. This helps to build brand recall over a period of time.

Conversations to ensure a more engaged audience

With digital PR, brands have the option to interact and communicate with their target audience. They can strike a conversation with their target audience, at any time of the day or night. Also, this is reassuring for the audience as they know that they can share their issues with the brand instantly and expect a response/ closure, unlike in the case of old school customer care/call center numbers. 

Digital PR works very well in case a brand wants to communicate its point of view, especially  in case of a crisis. There are numerous brands that have clarified their stance and shared their point of view on the social channels. The beauty of digital PR is the reach and impact it can create, at the click of a button.

Better data analysis

With digital PR, the Communication and PR professionals can do away with the conventional metrics of evaluating the success of their PR campaign (ad value and reach). Digital PR campaigns can be analysed in detail to better understand the tone of each and every social media conversation. Big data helps to better understand the customer needs and sentiment. It helps brands to anticipate the behavior of target groups. Based on such insights, PR and Communication professionals cam build communication strategy and craft brand messaging as well as redefine them as need be, in line with the change in consumer behavior.

Content that gives you an edge

The most important facet of any digital PR campaign is the content strategy. A well-planned blog strategy, coupled with personalised content for specific audiences can go a long way in creating brand awareness and recall. Content mediums have evolved to include videos and infographics, and not only limit content to text. It is recommended that the brands explore newer and interesting content mediums to connect well with their target groups.

Influencer marketing

One important element of digital PR is influencer marketing. Influencers could be individuals who have a huge follower base on their social handles or they could be business analysts. Companies are working with micro-, middle-, and macro-influencers to reach out to community groups and communicate the brand message. In this case, the messages are customised as per the influencer’s style. However, the advantage lies in communicating the right brand message to a large follower base which the brand could not have been able to reach easily and via one post.

Micro-influencers are also emerging as a good option for brands. They may not have a high follower base but definitely have a more engaged follower base. Hence, they can be more effective than traditional mass market influencer marketing which involves millions of followers. 

To conclude:

Digital PR includes working closely with online publications to increase brand awareness. It includes publishing articles and press releases, working closely with bloggers and influencers, affiliate marketing, impactful content marketing strategy, as well as working closely with online journalists to create brand visibility and recall. Over the years, PR has moved from earned media to earned influence. The future trends hint at the rise and increasing importance of digital PR as it has the power to be disruptive and game changer for a brand. There will be an increase in video-based content as channels like TikTok will gain more acceptance. Brands should focus on building a well thought through digital PR strategy to connect with their target audience. However, brands should be prepared for revisiting their strategy, as and when required. Additionally, the Communication and PR professionals should keep track of the upcoming trends in Digital PR and rehash their strategy accordingly.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha heads PR and Communication at BharatPe. She has over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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