Don’t Replace Your PR Strategy With Social Media Just Yet

With the hype around social media’s proliferation, we would be forgiven for believing that the age of public relations is in demise. Business leaders, consultants and self-proclaimed gurus are quick to denounce the necessity for well-crafted PR strategies. Instead, brands have actively been looking to the world of social media as the singular platform through which to convey their message. And whilst accessibility and immediacy are its strengths, social channels cannot replace the credibility that public relations offers.

If there is one key thing that 2018 has shown us thus far is that the rise of ‘fake news’ highlights the gaps in our communication channels and how, if anything PR has become even more relevant in this digital age.

The need for heightened discernment between genuine content and unfiltered information has never been greater.

Public Relations is evolving not dying. It is responding to the disruptive nature that technology brings. Digital platforms now offer us greater opportunities to communicate with journalists, to generate conversations with consumers rather than communicating through one-way messaging. It allows us the accessibility to real-time feedback and insights. And in all this, the lines between PR, influencer marketing and social media are quickly becoming blurred. The 2017 Global Communications Study highlights that 60% of marketing executives believe that PR and Marketing divisions will become much more aligned in the coming years. One function will not be able to work in isolation of the expertise of the other.

We as businesses will need to learn to master the art of drawing on both marketing and PR for superior engagement and brand building or face the reality of getting drowned out.

We live in a world where instant gratification and fast results are the barometre by which we gauge the success of any campaign. We opt for quick marketing growth hacks whilst ignoring the basic foundation that authentic third-party validation and strong press are the only true way to get a brand story told for long term benefit. If there is one trend that reflects this mindset then the overwhelming rise of ‘influencer marketing’ is it; the notion that everyday people can become authorities in their sphere of influence without much vetting. And whilst influencer marketing has its merits it has transpired that most influencers do not really have the reach they claim and often times their questionable behaviour directly impacts the brands they peddle. From everyday conglomerates like Unilever to luxury hotels operator Dusit Thani brands are quickly discovering the importance of having an effective media strategy to scrutinize their social media marketing campaigns.

Through digital channels, businesses now have a more refined way of getting the job done. Endless tools are now at the disposal of marketers to ensure that they can get the most out of PR and the campaigns they run. We have better ways of finding reporters that write in our fields of interest, influencers that can be meaningfully measured and media opportunities that best fit the current socio-political environment. In today’s environment, we have a more refined way to develop our PR plans,

Much of the information in the digital space remains uncorroborated. This is where PR can play an indispensable role. By investing in quality, verifiable content from reputable sources, you are better able to win at the social media game, a game where too much content is going after a limited audience. Businesses must shift from the mentality of getting anything and everything out there to investing in high-quality, relevant content that audiences actually want to engage with. More than ever, face-to-face media interactions, be it interviews or events are giving rise to a deeper level of interaction with stakeholders. This ultimately translates to coverage that is informative, credible and has a level of trustworthiness that surpasses content simply pushed out through the social media space.

If there is one standout campaign that exemplifies the need for a paradigm shift, then undoubtedly it is Heineken’s World’s Apart campaign of 2017. In a time where communities have become more divided by prejudice, the brand seized the opportunity to take a controversially topical subject to ask the question ‘can common ground unite people with fundamental differences’? By tapping into a well-crafted media strategy to launch it coupled with well-placed digital visibility the campaign went viral globally. Publicity from the USA to South Africa, the UK to Japan lauded the brand as relevant, inspiring and engaging. With an innate understanding of how to market in this new era, Heineken drove a global message that spoke to the heart of every local community.

Ultimately, the value of PR lies in businesses that can see the benefits of building relationships with the media and communities that generate content. By investing in these relationships brands are better placed to grow the reputation of their businesses, identify new opportunities and in the immediate term score higher in the digital game of getting more visibility through search engines or social media algorithms. Our new channels of communication are simply just that, channels and businesses must seek to analyse the messenger not just the message if they are to evolve and thrive.

This piece featured in the Business Daily on July 12th 2018. Authentically developed by SHK Consulting.