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Are you PR perfect?

CN asked a select band of industry PRs and influencers for their insights on the changing face of PR

Andrew White, MD of Triggerfish says how we read information is changing dramatically:

Today’s journalism mixes online stories with quality long-form print features where the standout image of yester-year is being replaced with quick fix film and punchy visual informatics.

Andrew White
Andrew White

We consume information as voraciously as before, it’s how we read that is changing so dramatically. PDAs, phones, tablets and laptops are the new broadsheet and the advent of social media means that everyone is a journalist. A story is alive for a matter of hours before the next best thing comes along and for PRs this means that press releases are far more likely to be cut and pasted on to the daily news feeds. Therefore, getting in to the big features requires better pitching, a genuine news hook and a good relationship with the senior editorial team.

Press releases are old currency for PRs – the new equity is all about content, amplification and demonstrable results; be that enquiries or increased client web traffic. In the old days, media activity was broadcast far and wide. Nowadays activity is niche, narrowcast and no longer nebulous.

We advise clients to use the media that their target audiences are tuned in to. A client Instagram takeover can have as much impact as them placing a news story in a traditional association newsletter.

The interesting new area is around influencers and bloggers. They are the talk of every client and for me the jury is still out on the MICE industry’s bloggers. This sector is so niche we often know as many – or more - of the people within the blogger’s actual outreach. 

One thing that is a constant is the need to write well and be factually correct. 

The future? Content is changing – PRs are beginning to make more use of video, live streaming and social media as part of their clients’ comms strategies. Who knows, we may even start integrating more advanced technologies such as AI and VR!

Be clear and authentic, says industry PR firm davies tanner: 

What makes “news” isn’t very different from 20 years ago.

You still need strong opinions, originality, ‘firsts’, simplicity, difference, interesting facts and most of all, a strong sense of who you are and what you want to say.

Whether you are a new face in the market or an established brand, these criteria will always hold true.

But there are now three further challenges facing all of our clients.

Firstly, social media is proliferating and fragmenting rapidly. You need to achieve cut-through on each channel by tailoring your content appropriately and understanding which one is most effective for your story.

Secondly, the targets for your messages and the content they are interested in are rapidly evolving.

Virtually anyone with access to a smartphone can become an influencer. 

And, thirdly, people’s attention spans are getting shorter. 

Tackling these challenges takes a mixture of experience, skills and relationship-building.

It’s also important to set your messages against the bigger picture – the wider industry in which we all work.

People want to hear about trends, views and insights that will help them, as well as your individual news.

For any business seeking to get their message across through the media the most important starting point is a clear brand and an authentic story to tell in an engaging way. Sounds simple, but it’s often the hardest nut to crack.

Irina Graf, social media influencer:

Most PR professionals still treat influencers as traditional media outlets and send press releases or seek media collaborations that bring very little value to influencers’ audience. Influencers/bloggers want to write about their personal experience.

Irina Graf
Irina Graf

PR professionals should take a pro–active approach for influencer outreach and engagement on social media and look for creative opportunities to establish collaborative partnerships. For example, how about live coverage from an event, judging an award or speaking at an event? Just stop sending that press release!

At Traverse, a recent conference for travel bloggers/content creators/influencers, discussions suggested Twitter seemed to be back in the game, Facebook groups are where the real engagement is and LinkedIn is mostly used for connecting to business opportunities (conversion).

So, think about the customer journey, and Instagram is where you can get your MICE destination or event discovered and use LinkedIn in later stages of your sales funnel, and plan your content accordingly.

Influencers make money either by monetising brands or their audience, and in the long term influencers could offer a subscription model to sell their services or offer exclusive content. 

Katie McPhee, Eventbrite head of marketing for the UK and Ireland, says check out the followers to comments ratio:

No matter what niche your event covers, there’s a micro-influencer who can help you plug into the right networks without a corresponding hefty price tag. The new reality is less is more. Those with smaller followings are as, if not more, valuable for your event because they can drive authentic engagement. This approach is particularly important when people can lose interest and click away in a second.

Katie McPhee
Katie McPhee

When you’re working with micro-influencers, you need to be prepared to give them the freedom to create content and bring it across in an interesting way that resonates, and makes them feel part of it. Many will create event vlogs and it is important they feel they have your genuine support in creating content over a period of time, so a personal approach and good communication is key. When your time is limited, there are agencies set up to help you identify contacts, shape a strategy and take the hard work out of your hands.

If you opt to find-your-own, then start by looking close to home: your business page, existing social channels, relevant hashtags for people who have under 60K followers and are already fans. Once you start ‘social listening’ you will be able to determine who your micro-influencers are, what they’re saying and where they’re sharing it. A useful ratio is followers to comments. If someone has 40,000 followers but only four comments then that raises a question on relevance.

Your desired event audience should be their audience, whether that is through geography, interest or age. Yet they have the ability to tell stories about your events, ideally turning followers into event attendees.

Jill Hawkins, director Aniseed PR:

I first started handling public relations for the events industry in 1997. In that time a lot has changed but an awful lot has actually stayed the same. The number of magazines serving the sector has decreased massively, with some going online, and others closing. The introduction of websites and social media has meant that it’s easy to self-publish and share your own content. Although this is positive, the removal of journalistic approval and integrity has enabled the creation of a fog of misinformation and blatant company sales pitches thinly disguised as informative articles.

Jill Hawkins
Jill Hawkins

Email has also created the ability to send hundreds of press releases out at the click of a mouse - which I consider a bad thing as it depersonalises the contact between a PR and a journalist, results in the creation of huge mailing lists and can create a ‘throw enough mud and some will stick’ scatter gun approach to distribution.

Opinion pieces and letters are now often published as blogs, but the premise is the same. When you publish a blog, you are asking the reader to give you something very precious; the investment of their time. My pet hate is a blog that starts out as informative and then dissolves into a sales message; this approach isn’t going to fool anyone and actually ends up frustrating and disheartening the reader. The very thing you’d hoped would attract a customer will actually end up pushing them away because no one likes to be tricked into reading a sales message.

It sounds so obvious but I would advise taking a collaborative approach; really get to know your target titles and the journalists. Read them every day/every month so that you can understand what will and won’t be of interest to them. Some may say I’m old fashioned, but I still send out a press release individually to my contacts because it’s often the start of a dialogue as I discuss other things that they are working on. I see it as a more personal interaction between friends and colleagues both working towards the same goal of informative journalism.