It’s not news to say that the “spray and pray” method of mass press releases, batched pitches and blanket media kits is gone. But now the industry can truly take to heart quality above quantity, approaching brand awareness and reputation management with a new level of precision and personalization.
The symbiotic relationship between the media and PR practitioners will never go away, of course. And storytelling, at the core of a public relations guru’s work, has been in existence since Edward Bernays (the father of public relations) associated cigarettes with “torches of freedom” for the women’s suffrage movement. But who we define as “media” has significantly changed. And how we reach our audience has, as well.
Go to your audience
The increase in online content has led to media fragmentation, meaning there isn’t one place where people generally get their news and entertainment. As a result, audiences are smaller, yet mightier. Great relationships with target media—say, a bi-monthly boaters magazine or a lifestyle blog focused on the Carolinas—are more beneficial than a name drop in an NPR piece with millions of impressions. Why? Because that mention won’t motivate the reader and won’t benefit your reputation. First, it’s likely neutral in sentiment—meaning it isn’t contributing to the positive (or negative) reputation of your brand. And second, the oft-sought-after “brand awareness” piece can be achieved more thoughtfully and deliberately through other means. It’s the editorial equivalent of shouting your name in Times Square during peak commuter traffic when you could be walking up and introducing yourself to make an impression.
The highly sought-after national press hit may not be the best fit for your efforts (and is that much harder to attain). The most successful campaigns—and even those who achieve the brass ring of a Times piece or other national hit—start with a smaller, targeted audience and strong relationships with their related media outlets. National publications often turn to smaller, localized platforms to gather story ideas and sources that have legitimacy. Outlets want stories that serve their readers, so your PR consultants are storytellers and matchmakers working hard to craft your message and pair it with the audience that wants—and needs—it.
That’s the reason why quantity (of hits and impressions) is no longer the most effective way to measure ROI. Plus, we know where our target audience lives in part thanks to our friends in social media, digital media and content marketing (check out Mike Reed’s piece on analytics-driven marketing or Adam Wingate’s post on gathering marketing data for more on that). When marketing and advertising efforts are increasingly more precise in definition and measurement via analytics, it’s negligent to focus on results that aren’t catered to your client’s niche.
Take storytelling to a new level
Storytelling doesn’t end with a good pitch to your targeted publication. Public relations also can take charge of the story because of the diverse media landscape. PR practitioners often play the role of (or, in an integrated agency’s case, working alongside) brand journalists, creative artists and content marketing experts. With a mind that’s part journalist and part brand champion, PR experts are an invaluable source when it comes to creating engaging content. Good storytelling will never go out of style—we must have our finger on the pulse of how and where to deliver our message. And our message must be authentic, especially because we’re creating content in house (or in agency). Readers expect thoughtful, genuine pieces regardless of the source. Therefore, “marketing speak,” whether it’s a written or visual piece, almost never performs as well. In fact, the more you try to sell your brand—versus offering informative, useful content—the worse it often performs.
Leverage built-in audiences
Platforms rich in visual content (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat) have encouraged photographers, bloggers and vloggers to cultivate a following and monetize their influence.
Micro influencers, those who have a modest but loyal following and are the opinion leader of their community, can be leveraged in a smart PR campaign. They have incredible relationships and understand your audience because they are a brand ambassador themselves. The best micro influencers partner with brands only when it feels organic and are fiercely protective of their own brand. They recognize their audience craves authenticity and can sense phoniness (à la detox teas and gummy vitamins many celebrities push on Instagram).
Again, the goal is quality over quantity. It’s important to cultivate your relationships with key people in the space—which is not just limited to journalists on your beat. In addition, you could work with your PR team to position a key member of your organization as a micro influencer in your space. Creating forward-thinking, valuable content served directly to your community can position your company as the go-to for thought leadership. This result is great relationships with journalists, other influencers and, most important, the audience you serve.
Above all, be collaborative
Taking your PR efforts to the next level means collaborating with your digital doyens. PR is at its mightiest when it’s coupled with a strategic integrated campaign that leverages social media, creative, paid search, SEO, content creation and data analytics to amplify your content. If you can’t diversify to that level, start small. Develop an authentic, quality story. Know where your audience is, and execute it (with the help of your friendly neighborhood public relations expert).