Why a brand cannot ignore Digital PR!

I remember working on communication campaigns for marquee brands, about 10 years back, and the communications world was very different then. Digital PR did not even get a hearing in those times. If one recommended running a campaign on Facebook or an online portal then, it would most likely be turned down as something totally inconsequential. 

However, the times have changed today. The rise of internet and digital/social media has changed the way PR campaigns are designed. Today, a number of media publications are focusing on digital- first and there is a new bunch of new age media platforms that are truly digital. The online readership is growing by the day. Brands are realising that if they only focus on a traditional PR campaign in today’s times, they will definitely miss out on making the big impact. 

Lets take a look at what is digital PR

Public relations is increasingly becoming important for brands as it has evolved from only sending out press releases and building relationships with journalists, to understanding the target audience and community and build relationships with a range of stakeholders including journalists, bloggers, influencers and analysts. Also, it is about harnessing the power of data to prove the impact of PR on a business’s bottom line. 

Digital PR is focused on creating visibility for a brand in the digital world. It focuses solely on online publications, blogs and influencers. It is aimed at creating a positive brand image amongst its target audience and increasing its online presence. It aims to establish brand authority through reputation building and raising awareness. Also, it helps in building a strong online presence to improve SEO and generate referral traffic. 

A good digital PR campaign helps to build positive reputation for a brand and influences more customers to connect with the brand. The right approach to digital PR is to identify the right online journalists, bloggers and influencers and work towards building a good rapport with them. The brands need to keep them updated about the latest developments at their end. 

One of the key pillars of digital PR is content. It is imperative to do a thorough research, customise information in line with the brand and then create a compelling storyline for content. Hence, it becomes important for the brands to know their target audience well. It is equally important to know their preferred digital platforms. A good digital PR campaign will result in placements and coverage from publications which are the preferred mediums for the target audience, thereby capturing the right eyeballs.

Why digital PR is important?

There are umpteen advantages of digital PR in today’s times. Numerous brands have run successful digital PR campaigns to drive brand recall and build brand credibility. The best examples will be startups who have smartly leveraged the digital and social media to build brand credibility and connect with their target audience (primarily Millennials).

Here is why it is recommended that every brand focuses on digital PR:

  • Helps to brand identity and drive brand awareness

Similar to a traditional public relations campaign, digital PR can help a brand to build its identity and create awareness for the brand amongst the key stakeholders. With regular news from the company, the target audience have a better understanding of the brand’s vision and its products/services. The big advantage of digital PR is that what appears in the digital world can stay forever. Unlike traditional media, there is no specific shelf life for the news. 

  • Enhance business’s reputation

Digital PR can be instrumental in enhancing the business’s reputation amongst its stakeholders. It helps to position the brand in a positive manner and highlight its success stories. When renowned news portals report about the brand or influencers share a positive view, it goes a long way in driving positive brand reputation. Any success stories and customer experiences can go a long way to connect with the target audience and enhance the brand reputation and credibility.

However, it is important to note that there is a hindsight to this. It is more likely that someone will go out their way to tell people about a negative experience instead of a positive one. A disgruntled customer can post about his experience with a brand on his social channels, which if not managed timely can have a negative impact on the brand reputation. Digital PR comes in handy here as it has the power to swing such situations to opportunity for brand building.

  • Thought leadership

Brands can leverage digital PR to position themselves as thought leaders and community trend setters. By leveraging the right content based on business research and market intelligence, the brands have the opportunity to be seen as experts in their community and the ones who are ahead of competition.

  • Website backlinks and improved search rankings

This is a very new one for those who are accustomed to traditional PR and measuring success by the number of stories, the type of media, the overall reach as well as ad value. Digital PR can further increase the website backlinks and improve the search rankings for the brand. Gaining high quality links from credible and relevant sources (with huge number of followers) back to a brand’s website goes a long way in increasing the SEO. 

If the company’s announcements are published on renowned news portals, they can also positively impact the brand SEO and organic traffic on the website. Even if the brand contributes to an industry specific publication and manages a link back to its website, it can have a positive effect on its web rankings, as Google’s algorithms will see the publication as a ‘trustworthy’ source. 

  • Better relationship with audience

Digital PR helps to connect with the audience as it is not a pure-play push strategy. The brand can leverage social channels to connect with their audiences via innovative storytelling. The more ‘human’ or in-touch and relatable the brand is to its audience, the better the relationship will be.

There are numerous of examples of brands and how they have leveraged softer or trending stories to build a better relationship with their audience. Some of the examples include those by startup brands like Flipkart, Amazon and Zomato. Also, some big brands like Pepsi have done well to weave interesting Digital PR campaigns to connect with their audience.

  • Increased conversations

The advantage of digital PR is that it provides great opportunities for brands to drive engagements on social media and also start a conversation. It is recommended to create campaigns that are topical and encourage people to share their opinion, and hence, drive engagement.

  • Increase Sales

Yes, you read it right. PR can actually help increase sales. The simple logic is that when the brand’s audience is aware about the brand and its offerings and has also built a relationship with it, it is easier to sell the brand’s product to him/her. This is not a one-story wonder and hence, one needs to consider this as a long-term strategy

Increasingly, brands are understanding the importance of public relations. It has evolved from just getting some media coverage, to one of the most powerful tools for some brands. Public relations and communications professionals define the brand’s overall messaging and craft compelling storylines to appeal to all kinds of audience. Startups have come early to the party and there are many examples of startups that have been built primarily on a great PR campaign. As organisations transition to an integrated communications strategy, more and more communications campaigns will swing towards digital PR. In the near future, we will see digital PR becoming more important for all kinds of brands, irrespective of their industry or size of business.

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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