PR has historically been a very important part of most communications and marketing strategies. PR was a way to get in behind the armory of the customer. A way to disarm the customer of their traditional shielding and skepticism towards messages conveyed in advertising.
This has changed over the last few years.
PR, defined as the conscious and proactive effort of influencing the media towards more coverage and a certain positioning, is still very important and possibly even more important and relevant than ever. The change is in the form of control and direction.
Traditionally, a strong PR team was able to control the positioning of a brand through one-way communications. Communications happened through a few media and if you had a good relationship with them, they wouldn’t be too harsh on your product or brand most of the time.
With the rise of social networks, a company can no longer achieve the same impact by influencing journalists of a particular list of media . News and opinions are democratized, but this is old news.
This democratization means that communications today happens across a number of channels, most of which are controlled by the masses. With everyone potentially being a contributor or curator of the news streams online, it is no longer enough to have a good relationship with a few journalist. Distribution follows from the right message, so your news need to be appealing to get in front of the audience. It doesn’t hurt to have a good relationship to journalists and sometimes you may need a little help from them, but it won’t secure your success.
PR has traditionally been focused on announcing new products, store launches and other one-off events, but if these don’t have appeal, they won’t get distribution. Instead, companies like Nike or Apple, have succeeded in making advertising so exciting and appealing to their audiences that the audience has facilitated its distribution.
We are past thinking of silos. The new world is not about a social media strategy, a PR strategy, a content marketing strategy and a newsletter strategy. It’s fundamentally about defining a content creation strategy and a content distribution strategy.
As for everything else in marketing, understanding your audience is the foundation for great content creation and distribution strategies. Such an understanding allows you to craft a tailored message in a tailored format that suits the audience.
The Example of RunRepeat.com
A friend of mine, Jens Jakob Andersen, demonstrated this prioritized order in building up traffic for his platform for runners, RunRepeat.com.
In essence, by understanding his audience he crafted stories that appealed uniquely to his target audience – runners. An example was his comparison of marathon performance across countries or the comparison of men and women on the technicalities of running a marathon. RunRepeat increased traffic more than 12x and was mentioned in multiple high-profile media including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and more, but none of the articles had the traditional PR angle. He didn’t mention his site, except as a reference.
In the end, traditional PR is still relevant. It is not entirely dead – it has just been reborn as part of something bigger. It’s integrated with new channels, but the aim is still the same: Control and influence the public’s opinion and view on a certain product, brand or problem.
Photo credit: Huffington Post