If Traditional PR is “Earned Media”, I define Digital PR as “Earned Social Media”! – I

Time flies and I realised this is the 14th Vox Essence column – week after week and what fun it has been to assimilate thoughts and put them across to the communications tribe! Over the past columns, I have tried to set the tone and share thoughts on various aspects of our community. It feels good as many of you have reached out just to have a chat, agree or challenge some of the hypotheses I have laid or simply suggest topics. Since a lot of you specifically asked for it, let me touch upon my experiences on “Digital PR” in this edition. 

Incidentally, I was invited to the ICCO Global Summit 2019 in Lisbon couple weeks back to do a key note on Digital PR and the digitally driven change that’s rapidly happening across the PR landscape. I got an opportunity to share how we have set up India’s first in house Digital PR vertical, the outcomes, the change in mindset required and future competencies that will increase our relevance. Do write to me if you want a copy of the deck. 

Having defined it as “Earned Social Media”, our experiments with digital PR have yielded significant results. In fact this has become one of our key tools for launching products and creating a digital safety net for brands and related causes. The ability to reach significant number of social platforms through compelling content (videos, inforgraphics, text, images) has become a reality and will only grow further.

I am absolutely delighted to share the 7 mantras of setting up an effective Digital PR vertical in your own organisations! These look like simple stages but are actually the good looking extracts of the arduous baby steps that we started taking about three years back. Experimenting with a new process, building networks, relooking at the way we engage with influencers was truly exciting and today having done over 100 digital PR projects for brands  across the Godrej group, I feel quite bullish that soon digital PR will occupy a larger portion of the PR pie for any serious brand.

So here you go… The 7 mantras!

  • Establish a realistic vision

I would sincerely urge PR teams to sit together with business heads and brainstorm on the “Why” part of Digital PR, first. Let this not be a “keeping up with the Joneses” game. You need to set the end objectives right. What is it that you are wanting to achieve out of this vertical, what gap are you trying to bridge and how does it fit in your PR arsenal. Let me share our thought process. At Godrej, we touch about 750 Million consumers in India and about 1.15 Billion across the world. Being a significant consumer facing player, our vulnerability to unfavorable narratives on social media is large and the need, as ever, has been to authentically engage with all our stakeholder segments. With the social media space bubbling with energy, we had to engage with them there and that is beyond the traditional media which had been our prime focus. Our vision for the Digital PR vertical reflects that;

“Create a strong digital safety net that protects our brand equity in the online space, allows us to transform static news into conversations and bypass traditional media and speak directly to our target audience.”

Everything now flows from here. It just evolves. You shall realise.

  • Identify the Landscape – The playground, the players (read influencers)

Having framed the vision, it is imperative to recognise the platforms where your stakeholder segments are consuming data. It’s not a straight equation. Different stakeholders consume data basis their own demography. Some like the social media sites (FB, Li, YouTube, and Twitter, just to name a few), some thrive on thought leadership blogs, and some devour e-news portals. The landscape is large and the players are many. It is a process in itself to prioritise where you want to play so as to maximise your reach. Metrics are important, data plays a serious role and good news is that it’s all doable easily! 

It’s no breaking news that influencers (read bloggers, Key Opinion Leaders, subject matter experts, etc.) have started to become contributors to your brand narratives. The power of well-informed influencers/advocates who can connect their followers with your brand is unmatched. In fact, I feel that just the way PR consultancies used to maintain databases of journalists, time has come to start maintaining lists of bloggers and influencers, the difference being, the later would be humongous! Well, we have been doing this. Believe me you, it is absolutely central to a successful digital PR gig!

See this is such a cool subject, I did not realise that my word limit has been crossed!

In Part 2 of this column, shall share our strategy of influencer engagement and the next steps of establishing a super strong Digital PR missile in your PR arsenal! 

A very Happy Diwali and my best wishes for the festive season to you and your loved ones!

Sujit M Patil, ABC on FacebookSujit M Patil, ABC on LinkedinSujit M Patil, ABC on Twitter
Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit is a IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) accredited business communicators and a three time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award. He has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book, the definitive guide to PR industry’s most influential operators around the world. From 2018 to 2022, he has been listed every year on Provoke media (erstwhile Holmes Report) Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. Sujit is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society..

Sujit is a qualified Instrumentation engineer with MBA in marketing and a Diploma in advertising and PR. He is a regular speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the World Communication Forum, Davos, AMEC, ICCO, PR Newsweek Asia, Public Affairs Asia, etc. He volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines. He is passionate about Sparrow conservation.

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