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The rise of digital PR - supercharging the role of the comms pro!

Posted: Mar 2024
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Evolving PR strategies in the digital age

It's no secret that technology has changed the game when it comes to communication. With the rise of social media, influencer marketing, and digital storytelling, the way we connect with our audiences has shifted dramatically. As a result, PR strategies need to adapt to keep up with these changes. It's more important than ever to understand the changing landscape of communication and adopt effective strategies that help us reach and engage our target audiences. Whether you're a seasoned comms pro or just starting out, it's time to think outside the box and explore the best digital strategies.

We explore the impact of AI, social media, and digital storytelling and speak to Paul Dalton-Borge, Chief Executive, Innovation & Development at media, marketing and communications agency Four about the ways digital transformation is reshaping the industry.

The role of social media in PR strategies

With billions of people using platforms like Facebook, X, and Instagram, it's no surprise that social media has become a crucial tool for reaching and engaging audiences. It's important to use social media effectively, which means more than just posting updates whenever you feel like it. You need to have a solid strategy in place, including creating engaging content, monitoring conversations, and responding to comments and messages in a timely manner. By doing so, you can build strong relationships with your followers, establish your brand as an authority in your industry, and even boost your SEO. So, take the time to learn the best practices for leveraging social media platforms effectively – your PR strategy will thank you!

Influencer marketing in the digital age

Essentially, influencer marketing involves teaming up with individuals who have a large following on social media or a blog, and they'll share your products or services with their fans. It's like getting a personal endorsement from a trusted friend, but on a much bigger scale. So, how do you find the right influencers to work with? Start by looking at your target audience and finding influencers who align with them. Then, make sure to check their engagement rates and past collaborations. Finally, measure the success of your campaign by tracking things like website traffic, sales, and social media engagement.

Digital storytelling: enhancing brand narratives

By leveraging multimedia elements like videos, podcasts, and interactive experiences, brands can tell compelling stories that resonate with their target audience. But what exactly is digital storytelling, and how can you incorporate it into your PR efforts? Simply put, digital storytelling is the practice of using digital channels to convey a message or tell a story. It's a way to bring your brand's narrative to life in a way that's engaging, informative, and memorable. One effective strategy is to repurpose traditional press releases into engaging digital content, such as video news releases or infographics. This can help increase visibility and engagement, while also providing valuable content for journalists and bloggers.

Embracing artificial intelligence (AI) in PR strategies

Our recent blog looked at how AI can help PR professionals to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness from automated activities such as streamlining workflows to enhancing customer interactions. However, integrating AI into PR strategies also presents challenges, such as ensuring authenticity and avoiding the pitfalls of automated responses. To overcome these obstacles, it's essential to strike a balance between human touch and AI-driven processes. For instance, using natural language processing (NLP) to analyse media coverage and identify trends can save time and provide valuable insights. Meanwhile, chatbots can assist with routine tasks, freeing up staff to focus on high-level strategy and creativity.

Managing risks and challenges in the digital age

With the constant evolution of technology and the internet, it's important to stay vigilant and prepared for any potential issues that may arise. One major risk is the spread of misinformation, which can quickly go viral and damage your brand's reputation. Another challenge is cybersecurity threats, like hacking and data breaches, that can compromise sensitive information and put your organisation's security at risk. To mitigate these risks, it's important to have a comprehensive crisis management plan in place, complete with protocols for identifying and addressing problems quickly. This includes having a dedicated team that's trained to handle crises and being ready to communicate promptly and transparently with stakeholders. Remember, in the digital age, speed and preparedness are key to managing risks and overcoming challenges. Stay alert, stay informed, and stay ready to act!

We spoke to Paul Dalton-Borge, Chief Executive, Innovation & Development at media, marketing and communications agency Four, about digital transformation in the industry. Firstly, we asked Paul how digital transformation is shaping communications.

“Communications has been at the forefront of digital transformation for the last couple of decades.”, Paul told us, and gave some fascinating insights into how far we’ve come and where we now find ourselves. “From the advent of the internet and its impact on the news cycle through to the power of online search, social media, content, and rich media we have had to rapidly adapt and evolve our approach to seize the opportunity - and counter the challenges - afforded by digital. We've had to learn to work in the immediacy, across a broader range of channels and media types and better integrate with our peers in owned and paid channels. In the current world the best communications professionals go beyond their wheelhouse and have a strong grasp of other parts of the marketing mix.

“We are yet again at a pretty significant inflection point with AI. Over the coming months and years, we'll start to truly understand the impact this technology will have. The smart agencies are already exploring how AI can improve every aspect of their business. At an operational level this can be as simple as cutting down on administrative time. At a strategic level this will involve providing better, more accurate insights to inform decision making. At a creative level it is augmenting and enhancing the creative ideation and development process. It is an exciting time and one that I think will supercharge the role of the communications professional and give us the ability to do even better work, in less time.

That said, this is a period of risk we are entering. AI has the potential to make our job harder too - with misinformation at scale a well documented problem. This may actually mean that over time trust in traditional media influence and corporate / brand channels grows as people put their faith in what they feel they can believe as opposed to what they perceive may not be true. Vigilance, preparedness and acting quickly will be important.

An interesting observation. So, with that in mind we asked Paul to tell us, as a digital pro, about the main challenge he faces with his stakeholders. Continuing to highlight his concerns on the topic, Paul said: “The main challenge right now is staying on top of everything that is going on in AI. Every day dozens of new tools and services hit the market. Some useful, some not. We're on a steep upward curve and need to experiment, test, and work out what will make a positive difference within our businesses and for our clients. Back in the day it was a relative handful of digitally-savvy communicators that grabbed hold of social media, content, and the web but now I think it is on everyone to really get to grips with AI and use it within their work. This change will be fundamental and irreversible - you really cannot ignore it.”

Thanks for your views, Paul.

Remember, the days of traditional PR are behind us, and it's time to embrace the new norms of digital communication. Stay curious, stay agile, and most importantly, stay connected with your audience.

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