The building blocks of next-gen PR

The building blocks of next-gen PR

By Kristen Tischhauser and Chathri Ali | Posted: November 5, 2013
If you’re a PR practitioner, you know the world is changing. The question is: How do you successfully change with it? 

The days of press releases doing the heavy lifting are dead. Today’s PR pros are using more methods than ever to garner coverage for their clients. From advertising and traditional PR to social media, content marketing, and speaking engagements, those who best bridge the online and offline worlds in their PR campaigns are yielding the best results. 

Is paid content for you? 

Advertorials in magazines and newspapers were once a tried and true method to get readers to learn more about your company or product. The article style of advertorials gave people the impression they were reading a piece produced by a journalist, and the narratives captured the attention of those who were inclined to gloss over traditional ads. 

Today, advertorials have morphed into paid, online content (e.g., blog posts, articles, and other editorial-style pieces that draw in readers). 

No matter what your product or company size, both big brands and small are opting to take advantage of this new PR trend. From Mashable to Business Insider to VentureBeat, many popular websites are publishing sponsored content. Don’t think, though, that placing an ad is the same as placing paid content. 

Regardless of whether you’re paying for publication of your story, most online publishers have strict guidelines on sponsored content. First and foremost, the story should provide value to the website’s readers; it should not just be a PR pitch for your latest product. 

Any content that you produce in the hope of placing on a popular site should enlighten readers in some way or help them solve a problem. A content strategist can be a valuable asset as you ramp up, and sustain, your publishing empire. 

Should we still care about ROI for social? 

When social media first started becoming mainstream, the question that nearly every businessperson asked was, “What’s the ROI?” Although, today, many in the C-suite still care about ROI, those on the front lines in PR and marketing are realizing that social media is about much more. 

According to the February 2013 CMO survey, from 2010 to 2013 the percentage of marketers who used a revenue-per-customer metric on social media went from 17 percent to 9 percent. Furthermore, the percentage of brands tracking conversion rates dropped from 25 percent to 21 percent. 

However, top marketers expect to devote 9 percent of their budgets on average to social media spending in 2014; jumping to 16 percent by 2018. It’s easy to see that those who use ROI as the sole measurement of whether they should invest in a social media presence are quickly becoming dinosaurs. 

It’s a delicate balance, though. Although fewer companies are exclusively using ROI to determine their activity in the social media space, as a PR professional you still have to have some idea of what’s getting results and what’s not. 

Creating offline and online stories 

The PR pros who are not only using a variety of tactics, but those successfully bridging online campaigns with offline components will succeed in the new world. Gone are the days that your press clippings can sway a client to choose you over another PR agency. Clever approaches that drive brand awareness and enhance customer relations are the future of PR. Case in point: Keurig. 

Known for its single-serve coffee brewing systems, Keurig recently did a stellar job of marrying online promotion with offline engagement. How? By ringing doorbells across Los Angeles and delivering free Keurig coffee systems to unsuspecting residents. The campaign created great social buzz under the hashtag #BrewtheLove as new and loyal customers shared photos of their new Keurig systems on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

The importance of quantitative and qualitative data in PR 

As with most things in PR, a balanced approach in both tactics and analytics is likely to yield the best results. Instead of all black or all white, the sweet spot frequently lies in the middle. The same can be said about the data we solicit and use. 

Quantitative data is all about the numbers. PR pros and agencies must be armed with tools that analyze not just impressions of a news release, but instead the traffic that was derived from a thought leadership piece or mention in a roundup story. Agencies will be able to gather not only which outlets perform best for each client, but also which outlets are not worth the pitch. 

So, what does that mean for your next campaign? In short, it means you must employ a wide array of tactics and measurement tools to be successful in today’s media landscape. 

The number of unique visitors to a client’s site and the ranking for their top three keywords is important, but so is raising awareness through speaking engagements, paid content, and offline activities. 

[RELATED: Learn how to create content that sticks for the long haul at our December NYC summit.

What will your agency’s efforts look like in 2014? Are you willing to break the mold and adapt? 

Kristen Tischhauser and Chathri Ali are managing partners at talkTECH, a technology-focused boutique PR solutions and communications firm for innovative brands.