What can PR do for my business?

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or… the Independent to cease publication in print. 

The last print edition of the Independent newspaper will probably be published on March 26th.  What has this got to do with PR and what it can do for your business?

I was working at the Guardian when the Independent was launched.  How we worried about this newcomer and the threat it would pose to our sales. None of us knew there was an iceberg forming in the water ahead of us which would hit the bottom line of every single newspaper, the internet.

Explosion of media channels

While the print edition of the Independent has been sunk, the number of media channels has exploded, and the need to employ a PR agency to manage reputations or meet targets has increased.

News comes from hundreds of different places now, with competition just as intense online as it was in print, as this quote about the Independent’s situation shows:

“The online version faces almost as tough a task in competing with the excellent online offerings of other established news organisations,” said Charlie Beckett, director of the London School of Economics’s Polis journalism think-tank.

“As well as the new digital kids on the block such as BuzzFeed and Politico, the international news brands such as the New York Times are edging into the UK market.”

More skills required

With this proliferation of media channels, it is becoming much harder for any one person to have the skills required to manage communication effectively.

Businesses need to monitor and manage their profile across a much wider range of channels, or work much harder to identify the ones which really make a difference, if they are to change behaviour in their favour.

It requires a team, focused on different tasks, across different channels, repeating activities and learning from them day after day to keep ahead of change and help products or brands be heard through the noise.

One good piece of coverage in a national newspaper can still transform a business – for good or bad – but what is also different now from a communications point of view, is the long tail of the internet and the volatility of opinion.

Good management and preparedness

The volatility of opinion is a particularly new phenomenon which needs careful management and preparedness. A corporate error or mistake can be magnified a thousand times over if it takes off on social media, and a ‘mistake’ can take so many forms now.

At the extreme end it can be a true disaster such as an industrial accident, but it could also be ‘doing nothing’ when challenged with a question on twitter from a member of the public, which is picked up as a sign of indifference or arrogance, which then gains momentum online…

It might be a well-intentioned response to an email which is then publicised on a blog post which is shared a thousand times online until the mainstream media picks up on it and it becomes a crisis you have to deal with.

Proactive communication and marketing

This is just the reactive side of the communications business.  What about proactive marketing and campaigning? Last year, ad blocking grew by 82% in the UK, and by June 2015, 12 million internet users were actively blocking ads.  This makes the need for editorial profile more important than ever, and is where a PR agency can really help, both to create the content and also ensure it can be seen in the right places.

A good PR agency will be able to integrate your communications and help you manage it effectively across the many different channels now available.  Here are some questions you can ask to find out what a PR agency can do for you:

  • Will I have a team working on my account which includes a variety of ages, to give me experience across many channels rather than just one? A very young team for example may cover social media channels brilliantly, but can they also handle broadcast or board level communication?
  • Do they have all the skills I need in-house, for example SEO, video production, content writing, Google goal-setting and analysis, and well as brochure writing? If many or all of these are outsourced, you could be paying twice for a service. Don’t be afraid to ask who is doing what and ask for examples.
  • Can they integrate different marketing channels? For example, can your PR agency deliver and measure the results of an email campaign, which will dovetail with your new product launch and exhibition activity? Can they help you survey customers and harness their opinions?

Integration and relationship building

The one thing that doesn’t seem to change in the communication world is the importance of a good relationship.

A PR agency should help you achieve your business objectives, and should give you the tools to measure how well they are doing this.  Because they work as a team across all media channels they should be a well-spring of ideas for you, able to anticipate your needs and offer creative solutions and ideas.

The better they know you and your business the more they should be able to help, and the more you know about how they work, the greater return on investment you should see from them.

 

 

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