PR Goes Multichannel

Traditional public relations is losing its effectiveness. In the past, it mostly depended on getting your story out through key traditional media consumed by your target audience. For a mass audience, this usually consisted of mass circulation print publications and licensed broadcast stations. For a targeted audience, it consisted of trade publications, newsletters, and trade shows/conferences. Now, print publications are losing their audiences and sometimes closing, while broadcasting has become narrowcasting and audiences are fragmenting. Even trade shows are finding attendance way down in our challenged economy.

Where are these audiences going for their information? Increasingly, they’re using a diverse set of digital information sources, including news-oriented sites, such as Yahoo, Google News, the Drudge Report, CNN, and “The New York Times”; and social media, such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Or they’re spending their valuable time checking community and news on Web sites dedicated to their idiosyncratic interests. According to a November 2008 Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Nielsen study, users spend 45 percent of their time online consuming content.

What’s a marketer to do? One answer is to integrate multichannel PR into your marketing plans. A multichannel PR approach has three essential benefits: it improves branding, enhances search optimization efforts, and extends customer contact points and interaction. Further, by expanding your PR initiative online, marketers become part of the broader conversation, yielding additional benefits in terms of reputation management.

The Five-Step PR Approach

For an effective multichannel PR campaign, follow this five-point framework:

  • Determine marketing goals for your PR program. PR programs often include one or more of the following objectives:
    • Build brand awareness across a variety of media platforms.
    • Validate marketing message in other channels, as consumers may need to hear your message multiple times and in different communications formats before they take action.
    • Provide a means to engage with your audience through diverse online media; social bookmarking and sharing; online functionality, such as comments, alerts, and forwards-to-friend; and links within the press release for interaction and tracking.
    • Enable reputation management by listening to what’s being said and participating in the online conversation.
    • Extend investor relations through a variety of online options, such as Webinars, online video, podcasting, and slideshows. An online investor relations center provides another contact point.
  • Consider the audience for your PR efforts. Your PR audience may be broader than your traditional target market. Each PR effort may target a select subset. Among the readers for your press are:
    • Customers, prospects, and former customers who are in your target market.
    • The general public, since how your brand, products, and company are perceived can have an impact on your customers.
    • Investors who have a financial interest in how your firm is portrayed publically.
    • The press, including online media, traditional media, and bloggers, since they use the information in your press release.
    • The government, since every business is regulated in some way.
  • Develop a content strategy for your press releases. Provide newsworthy information to attract media attention and help journalists engage their audience. To this end, have a good hook to meaty content, preferably one that goes beyond promoting your organization’s latest transaction. Think like an editor to create content that’s bait for news entities. Here are some ideas for content:
    • Build company, brand, or product awareness by providing a new spin that’s engaging, even if the information may not be new or newsworthy.
    • Offer senior executives and area experts as thought leaders.
    • Promote product launches to build awareness. Incorporate trackable links, such as discounts and whitepapers into the news release.
    • Extend investor relations.
  • Target appropriate media outlets. Unlike advertising, a news release doesn’t ensure that your company’s information will get picked up. Take into consideration where you want your content to appear:
    • Online media options include mainstream media sites (e.g., “The New York Times,” CNN, and BBC), niche sites (e.g., iVillage and TMZ), bloggers, and social media sites (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as social bookmarking sites like Digg). These entities may be reached via online press release distribution services or directly via press relations.
    • Offline media options encompass trade shows and conferences, television stations, newspapers, magazines (including mass and niche markets), and radio.
  • Measure the results of your PR efforts:
    • Determine branding improvement.
    • Count media placements across channels, and assess both their quality and quantity.
    • Assess search impact, especially in terms of in-bound links.
    • Monitor traffic and/or downloads where your press releases have included trackable links to promotional offers or whitepapers.
    • Calculate revenues generated, where applicable.
    • Track costs, including staff time, outside agencies, and placement services.

Three More Ways Multichannel PR Extends Marketing Reach

A multichannel PR approach provides marketers with an additional boost to the rest of a marketing plan. Three more factors that maximize your efforts’ impact:

  • Have a press center on your Web site. At a minimum, include company information, press contacts (with phone numbers and e-mail addresses), past press releases, and published articles.
  • Use Social Media Press Releases to expand the forms of information provided to enhance your potential for being covered.
  • Consider PR’s search optimization benefits by including keyword-rich content and linking.

For marketers, PR is more important than ever to help build and promote brands in an environment where traditional media organizations are having an increasingly difficult time aggregating audiences. PR helps marketers get their message out across platforms, particularly online where information sites always need fresh content and where the long tail provides search benefits.

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