Perhaps you’re on the fence about whether or not to hire a PR agency partner. You know in theory it’s a good idea, but the amount of budget you need for it is harder to justify when there’s no guarantee it will be an effective complement to your marketing communications program.
Here are four reasons that can take the ‘in theory’ out of the equation and help your organisation build a leadership position in your market.
Boost your reputation. Reputation is everything these days and there is no more effective way to build and manage a positive reputation across all communication channels—print and digital—than with a strategic PR program. The essence of PR is all about supporting a company’s efforts to make a good and lasting impression with the audiences they are trying to communicate with and reach. In a world where one misstep can cost a brand dearly, securing and maintaining a favourable reputation is priceless.
Support sales. There’s a lot of noise out there and more companies competing to garner attention and stand out amongst a sea of sameness. Your sales team needs extra support to find opportunities and to pave an easier path to getting a prospect interested in what you have to offer. PR is an effective tool for getting your company’s name out there in the industry and building a thought leadership position so the next time your sales team approaches a prospect, that prospect may at the very least have heard of you and this gets you one step closer to winning them over as a new customer.
Educate the marketplace. We all know you cannot just put a statement on your website or in a social post and expect it to resonate and matter to your audiences. The claims you make about a product or technology need to be rooted in something and PR can help drive this messaging by showcasing how customers are using your offerings to succeed. PR can also be used to secure opportunities for your experts to share the value of what you do with reporters writing about trends and news features where you can contribute. These placements tend to be more trusted by people and aren’t a sales pitch so they can play a significant role in making your company credible while educating audiences about the value of what you do.
Build brand awareness. Yes, advertising and attending industry events are helpful for building brand awareness. But PR can take it to another level and do it cost-effectively. If your PR program is based on thought leadership and credible information sharing, your brand awareness will grow exponentially and you will be a perceived as a leader in your industry. PR is often a more targeted, affordable approach to building up a brand.
If you’re interested in learning more about how PR can help your company grow and communicate more effectively with your key audiences, we’d love to chat with you. Contact us at email@example.com.
True: It is summer holiday time. False: No PR work is getting done. It wasn’t always the case, but in a world that is always on 24/7 there isn’t a slow news cycle phenomenon anymore. In fact, there are now more opportunities to share news and garner news placements than ever before.
This time of year is also valuable for planning. In order to finish the fiscal year strong, work should begin on communication materials to support the big campaigns that will carry you through the fall and winter holiday season. The further in advance you have strategic discussions and coordinate activities the more likely your PR campaigns will be successful.
If things do happen to feel a bit slower, take advantage of this time to re-visit PR ideas that had to be pushed to the back burner because other things took precedent. Running a PR campaign via social channels or hosting a twitter chat feel less time intensive when your to-do list isn’t so long.
And creative PR campaigns are extremely well-received during this time of year. For example, a campaign focused on providing tips to IT departments to avoid “sweating” about IT concerns during the summer and it garnered a lot of placements in their target media outlets and created positive awareness for their brand. The campaign was timely and seasonal and the media was more receptive to the engaging content.
While we definitely support everyone taking a holiday and enjoying the summer season, we can attest to the fact that our team keeps the PR fires burning brightly for our clients all through the summer months. We’d love to get working for you. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have raised questions about whether robots could eventually do some of the jobs humans currently do. This question can apply to the creative industries and PR. Recently, MarketWatch published a list of 10 jobs it suggests robots can do better than humans. The list included journalism, with a caveat that creative media roles are safe as machines are poor at creativity. The same get out clause may apply to PR.
After years in the development stage, AI is now seeing the creation of complex algorithms designed to mimic, enact or replace human behaviour in the workplace and other areas of everyday life. Computing models exist to deal with a multitude of scenarios, enabling robots to make decisions independently. The reality is, the MarketWatch list is nothing new - we have seen the development of robotics over the years, in areas such as automation for car production and algorithms designed to predict behaviour online. However, these technology advances are now being applied in an increasing number of different areas.
So what parts of PR can be automated? Well, social media interactions, search engine optimisation (SEO), information dissemination and tracking media coverage can all potentially be done by a machine with the relevant programming. Online media tools such as Hootsuite can already schedule tweets and plan online activity well in advance. Media tracking tools can track coverage for clients, at the press of a few buttons, but they do come with a price tag. Incorporating an element of AI will take basic algorithms to an advanced level which includes predicting and analysing online behaviour.
With SEO, identifying key search terms and phrases which help boost a company's online presence, can be carried out by an algorithm at the design stage. This can, in theory, be continuously tracked and updated by a machine, to improve SEO as business needs change. With media coverage, one can create a programme to track, analyse and collate client coverage without the need for a human interface, until presenting this analysis in the actual client meeting.
Where does this leave creativity and originality?
It is highly implausible that a robot can supercede the thought processes required to come up with an original campaign or idea. This idea is of course not new either. The same argument is used in other fields such as music, literature or art where expecting a robot to be creative is unrealistic and should remain in the realms of science fiction. The innate and intangible ability to think differently is something only humans possess and perform.
This also brings us to the other aspect of PR where AI may have a limited use - relationships. The client relationship and likewise the interactions between PR professionals and their various audiences, is the lifeblood of the industry. To understand the nuances, history and subtleties of the relationship, is something a machine can never replace. Unsurprisingly, I'm hoping this doesn't turn out to be one of those 'there will only ever be five5 computers in the world or that TV is doomed to fail' insights.
To think how a robot would handle a journalist relationship, consider this. Journalists write about stories for their readership and PRs help them with this endeavour by creating suitable content. What is newsworthy and valuable to a readership or online audience, can only be better understood by regularly talking to that audience.
For the PR professional to build trust with a journalist, it takes time to understand what the journalist is working on, their interests, and the publication's style and tone. The one-to-one relationships determines how well the PR person understands these factors. A characterless pitch, lacking human interest and created by a series of algorithms won't cut the mustard.
So, for this writer, other industries may succumb to the rise of the machines, but for PR, the computer says no.
In order to show true leadership, tackling the diversity challenge is crucial for the PR industry. If they meet this challenge, PR firms will have one of the main tools to gain competitive advantage in an evolving industry.
As industries and economies change, so do workforces. Businesses in sectors such as technology become international entities. As a natural consequence, they need to include a diverse range of employees for a number of reasons. There are valuable benefits to be gained with a deliberate strategy of creating a diverse workforce.
Chief among these benefits is the view that a diverse workforce helps firms get closer to and understand a wider array of customers and win potential new business, from different countries with a variety of languages, cultures and needs. Having a progressive attitude to hiring, helps companies attract talent from a wider pool. At the same time, by selecting talent from different ethnic groups, PR agencies start to redress an imbalance in the industry - the reality is that the PR industry is over-represented by some sections of society and far less from others.
Parts of the PR industry have in recent years made moves to reflect modernity but progress is slow and a lot still remains to be done. Industry bodies and individual PR agencies have implemented policies to attract employees from ethnically different backgrounds. The PR industry is still, by and large, an industry predominately comprised of white middle class, university-educated people. According to the last PRCA survey, published in 2016, 91 per cent of those questioned identified themselves as "white British" or "other white", which includes those from the United States and Europe, while only three per cent identified as "Asian" and two per cent as "black".
The statistics reflect poorly on the PR industry. The Office of National Statistics revealed in 2011 census data that 87 per cent of the population is white, seven per cent is Asian, three per cent is black, two per cent is mixed race.
The efforts of some firms and industry bodies have yielded positive results and highlighted the scale of the challenge. Any results that have been achieved are small scale. The Taylor Bennett Foundation (TBF) aims to increase the number of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) working in public relations. It puts people through a training programme which is sponsored by PR agencies. Other steps include agency internships and industry leaders promoting diversity in speeches at industry events and forums.
While these approaches are obviously a positive step in the right direction, what is also required is for PR agencies to address the challenge with new thinking. Agencies need to put diversity at the heart of recruitment, educate decision-makers about the importance of a diverse workforce and implement employment policies which not only recruit the brightest and best from all walks of life but ensure these individuals are retained and progress in their careers.
Agencies also need to consider which qualifications and skills are most valuable to their business. Creative thinking, organisation and strategic planning are skills which can be gained without having gone to university. To promote new ideas, creative campaigns and share experiences of different cultures, its out with homogeneity and in with plurality.
At the same time, other challenges also need to be addressed - retaining staff and helping progression for BAME staff. Those agencies with a London-centric approach are hampered by not seeking talent based out of the capital. This is one area where a freelance structure works highly effectively - the best client team can be made up of experienced people from outside London. It's all about the need for agencies to be flexible so they can look beyond employing people with the same, experience and backgrounds, living in London.
Once the more pressing challenges of diversity are addressed, the PR sector can focus time on the next steps; progression and retention of staff from ethnically diverse sectors of society. Looking at the makeup of the largest technology PR agencies in the UK, up to board level, there's still a long way to go. One needs to access not only which ethnic groups are joining the PR industry and what is being done to attract talent from these underrepresented groups of society, but how far they progress and start to become the leaders in the industry. Only then will there be true diversity in the PR sector. Only if the industry does this, can it move away from any accusation that it is merely paying lip service to diversity.
Tackling and identifying fake news is an enormous challenge and one that all businesses should routinely do when creating new content or sharing content online. Only then can they retain legitimacy and create the intended impact of genuine stories. If organisations don't deal with this problem, trust is quickly eroded. Following the five core tried and trusted journalistic principles is a good starting point: truth and accuracy is paramount, be an independent and unbiased voice, offer fair and impartial objectivity - reporting both sides of the story, respect the story’s focal point and remember that they are human, and accountability – if you make an error admit to it and retract the wrong statement/information. This last core principle is ironic in the case of fake news. So, how to first identify that the news you’re reading is fake?
Here are our five top tips for spotting fake news stories:
- Do your research. Do your due diligence on social media and news sites to find out background information about the story or the writer. If no other media outlets are covering the story, or it is only being covered by non-reputable news sites, the reason could be because it's fake. Be aware that some news sites are purely satirical – for example The Daily Mash, The Poke, News Thump and News Biscuit are just some of the UK spoof news and satire sites online. There is actually even a ‘news’ site called bffn, which stands for British Fake News Network! Also recognise sources that are known, or have been known in the past, to be a bit shady and unreliable, and ignore anything shocking that they report on as the story is more than likely to be fake.
- Check URLs. Many fake stories imitate genuine stories albeit with a minor alteration of the URL. Comparing URLs will resolve this quickly.
- Read critically - the headline itself can be a sure giveaway. Only share and use stories which are genuinely credible.
- Check the evidence available. A lack of evidence and expert opinion is a sure sign that there may be a whiff of fakery in the story. PR professionals can play an important role in becoming fact checkers as well as their traditional role in s haping the news agenda.
- Any news story that predicts a future disaster or incident is not provable at this time so be careful about taking them too seriously, until after the forecasted date at least. Stories that reveal miracles, such as an easy cure for cancer or AIDS, should also be taken with a pinch of salt as most are simply not true.
By following these tips, audiences not only get more context about stories so they can make more informed decisions about what to read, what sources to trust and what to share, they also develop an investigative ability to identify fake news straight off.
‘A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots’, a famous quote from Mark Twain. Unfortunately, it's research has shown little evidence that Twain wrote this. There's no record of it anywhere in his works. The fact checkers really do have their work cut out in the post-truth world.
In the last year, there's been a lot of talk about 'fake news’. From the last U.S. presidential election, where made up stories were routinely circulated on social media, designed to sway opinion and influence voter behaviour to probes into potential false allegations being made in the French Presidential election, fake news is rife.
So, what exactly is fake news? Simply put, fake news is a story made to appear truthful which in fact has no truth to it at all. In other words, misinformation or lies. It can include satire but will tend to focus on those items purporting to be news rather than comedy.
Fake news is a scourge for those working in the media industry or in creating content for media. It undermines public confidence in what is genuine news and what is made to seem real. It also erodes confidence in longstanding media organisations who are tarnished with the same brush as newer kids on the block, whose purpose is more focused on driving Internet traffic. With fact-lite stories, technology has made matters worse. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have resulted in unchecked stories being quickly disseminated around the world.
When Facebook received severe criticism for not dealing with the problem of fake news, it responded with specific measures. Facebook said the reason it was tackling the problem head on was because it erodes trust within its community.
Adam Mosseri, a VP at Facebook said: "All of us - tech companies, media companies, newsrooms, teachers - have a responsibility to do our part in addressing it.”
PR professionals can and should also play a part in combating fake news stories. The reason why we should combat fake news is self-evident but may well need repeating. As the PR sector evolves in the digital economy, customer stories and insight are at the heart of creating content for many agencies. To maintain relevance in the technology sector, PR professionals need to continue with creating compelling client stories. These stories are circulated on social media sites using traditional and digital channels. PR agencies must therefore ensure that their campaigns are based on analytics, consumer and business insight, an d checkable facts that stack up.
How to go about tackling fake stories is the tricky part. Stay tuned for our next blog on how to spot and manage fake news, which will be posted on our site next week.
As the winter season finally gets underway, it’s going to be the end of the four quarter before we know it and 2017 planning will be in full swing.
Many companies spend several man hours every quarter planning for the next three months, let alone creating their annual plans which can take months in the making.
And of course, this will include some form of communications strategy of which PR will likely be an incremental part. Following the recent announcement of the PRCA, ICCO and AMEC collaborating to set up a global working group to provide feedback on AMEC's Integrated Evaluation Framework, the importance of understanding how to set your objectives in the planning process becomes even more evident.
So where to start? The first questions to ask yourself are, what do I need to achieve? What are the challenges and how can we overcome these? How will these help support my business objectives? And ultimately how will they help drive sales pipeline?
Once you are clear on exactly what it is you need to achieve, you can then start to define your objectives with regular reviews to ensure alignment with overall business objectives.
So let’s talk about how to define your PR objectives. In addition to the list below, I would advise that you use SMART objectives as a guide to ensure they are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely.
First and foremost, agree a budget, so you know what you are working to.
Timing: agree a start date, review date/s and completion date.
The team: discuss and agree responsibilities. Ensure everyone feels comfortable in what they are signing up to.
Specific goals: ensure these are realistic, in that they are achievable, but at the same time, a challenge. Objectives could include metrics such as the number of clips in target media, journalist interactions, driving awareness of new product solutions and stimulating demand, perhaps even journalist perceptions on your company, if you undertake a reputation audit.
Measurement: agree at the outset how your PR objectives will be measured. Having specific qualitative and quantitative based objectives will help avoid ambiguity. Try to avoid broad statements such as ‘position (company name) as the thought leader in the industry’ – it’s too subjective and difficult to measure.
Clearly defining your PR objectives will enable you to be more effective and remain focused on the goals agreed.