Before digital adaptation, the role of Public Relations revolved around announcing new services and products, minimising reputation damage and declaring the stand of the brand on business and public issues. However, since digitisation and especially social media became prevalent, the role of Public Relations has grown and evolved manifolds.
Now, PR professionals are expected to proactively contribute in reputation management, client relations, thought leadership and identify potential crises before they cause a threat to the company’s image. In other words, the growth of Social Media has allowed PR professionals to play a more nuanced role in the growth of their brands, making it one of the most critical tools in the arsenal of Public Relations.
Considering today’s business standards, one can easily say that digital is changing the face of Public Relations. Some of the most common ways in which it is influencing PR are detailed out below.
Tools to Recognise Potential Threats and Opportunities
Social Listening can provide real-time insights and help brands prevent possible reputation crisis. The changing face of Public Relations has made Social Listening to a vital element of PR. This change also works well in favor of the customers as the influence of Social Media on Public Relations has propelled organisations to focus on Customer Satisfaction and Services. Now customer dissatisfaction can be expressed openly on social platforms, which can lead to bad PR. Hence, Organisations are putting extra efforts to establish customer satisfaction.
There are many free and paid social listening tools available online like mention.net, IFTTT (for alert automation), Hootsuite, Zoho Social, Keyhole, Buzzsumo, native Facebook analytics and paid enterprise tools like meltwater, brandwatch and Awario.
Make Public Reactions and Counter Negative Press
An organisation can get bad publicity for various reasons like a management mistake, employee dissatisfaction or an unhappy customer. The best way to respond to negative publicity is through communication. In times of crisis, it is essential to communicate your stand to the vital audience and have a consistent follow-through. Social media is the fastest way to communicate with these audiences and counter negative sentiments spreading around your brand.
Organisations understand the importance of complaints people have with their products/services and formulate formal responses to the same. However, it is also essential to understand that digital should not just be considered a podium where brands can justify themselves, it is also a platform where organisations can publicly accept their mistakes and make an apology.
One of the best examples of the use of social media to manage crisis and counter bad publicity is the way Pepsi managed the kind of backlash it received for one of their commercials back in 2017. This commercial was known to trivialise protests and demonstrations and demonstrate white privilege. For obvious reasons, this ad got subjected to a lot of hate, and thousands of jokes and memes started floating on Social Media. What Pepsi did after this, was not only brave but also extremely smart. They made a public statement on Social Media, saying “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and we apologies.” The fact that they accepted their mistake and apologised made the brand even more relatable and gave it human-like characteristics, which helped the audience get past the issue and forgive the mistake.
To Stay Fresh in The Customer’s Memory
There is no doubt in the fact that digital is one of the best ways to engage the audience. Even in COVID19 crisis, it is the only way we all are connected while maintaining social distancing & honoring lockdown. Coming back to context, with the help of digital-first communication, you can develop a personal connection with the customers and help them communicate with you on a direct level. In addition to this, It is also an excellent tool to excite and engage the customers and potential customers and keep them interested in your brand. Millennials follow their favorite brands on social media; they feel connected and likely to recommend it to other people – leading to positive word of mouth.
Tools for Market Research and consumer dipstick
Digital can also be used to conduct market research and understand the requirements of the customers. This can help in making valuable decisions about portfolio expansion and guide brands in the correct direction. Another way in which social media allows brands in customers’ minds is through driving traffic to the brand’s website. With the growing dependency of Social Media and evolving dependencies on technology, Public Relations has absorbed a variety of digital opportunities. With the help of digital footprints, brands can communicate their stories and attract positive attention while countering negative sentiment. It is that platform where users consume interactive content and develop a direct relationship with the brand. On digital tools like SurveyMonkey, you can create a survey and run it through custom ads audience targeting on Facebook/LinkedIn. Another popular tool for also measuring the impact of PR & marketing is google Trends, and this tool can tell you the impact of any breaking story or marketing activities on search volumes of google. We often use this to measure the impact of integrated marketing campaigns. To summarise, the following tools can be utilised to understand the beat of the brand:
Survey Tools like SurveyMonkey, PickFu, Typeform, Survata
Research Automation: IFTTT, Zapier
Content Research: Google Alerts, Quora, SEMrush
Tools for Moment Marketing
Moment marketing is something that has evolved as the most significant bridge between online and offline media in real-time. A twitter trend or a post trend originated from Instagram; Social media is actively utilised to tap into moment marketing. This was very smartly conducted in the following example, where a political party grabbed the opportunity to drive conversations by interacting with a streaming platform, immensely popular amongst youngsters.
To conclude, it won’t be wrong to say that the application of a digital-first approach in PR can be extremely beneficial for the growth of an organisation. Now PR can easily monitor the impact of communication on the behavior of users. Beyond publishing a story, it can do a smart amplification. Now you can do targeted audience distribution by using stakeholders consumption behavior. The changing face of PR has made digital a vital element of public relations.
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