Audience interactions with a brand strongly influence how they feel about your business. By using traditional public relations principles and adapting them for the online space, businesses can strengthen their digital marketing strategies. Digital PR helps fine tune the customers perception of a business, builds brand awareness, and reduces churn.

What is Public Relations?

According to the Public Relations Society of America, Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. PR can look like many different things. An interaction between a clerk and customer at their place of business, a company thought leader chiming in on a industry topic through a local podcast or a social-media manager responding to a recent Facebook review are all great examples of real-world interactions where public relations should be at play.

Why Good PR Matters

A well executed public relations plan will help your business:

  • Gain trust: Sharing the story through third-party sources offers credibility to your business’s brand.
  • Build authority: Good PR positions your brand as a trusted advisor in your industry.
  • Grow traffic: Mentions on news, industry and social sites help to boost search authority and online ranking, driving more eyes back to the brand’s story.

Understanding Your Audience 

By nailing down who it is you’re trying to reach, you can target your brand messaging at every level. This ensures that your customers, brand ambassadors and industry groups receive the same impression of the brand, product, or service regardless of where those interactions take place.

First you need to clearly understand who you are talking to. From there, as you build that brand reputation, the foundation will continue to serve you.

“There are two key audience amplifiers you should be targeting. In the traditional PR stream you’re setting your sights on getting that message out to the news media. Secondly you’re looking to digitally target an audience online with social virality as the end goal.

Telling a Great Story 

Now you need to define the story you’re trying to share. Most times a story worth amplifying:

  • Exists at a point in time – is your story tied to an event or does it align with an accepted public agenda?
  • Matters to many people – your target audience needs to feel like they are receiving valuable or interesting information
  • Has a hero – includes a character with whom the audience can identify or feel endeared towards
  • Has heart – memorable stories are born from an emotional connection with the content

Identifying these elements as they relate to your brand will help inform tone, messaging, and communication strategy down the line.

Digital PR Tactics That Work

Tick off Key Motivators

There are five key motivators that can ensure your brand story connects with the largest audience. These motivators include:

  • Money
  • Health
  • Family
  • Safety
  • Community

When crafting your brand story try to link to as many of these components as possible. Does the brand or product help save the audience time and money? Does it use technology to keep people safe? Does the business model impact a person’s health or quality of life? These are all elements that touch close to home for an audience and you’ll guarantee buy-in by identifying how these motivators might intersect with your client’s brand in the campaign development stages.

Manage Listings 

Nothing can tarnish a relationship with a customer faster than inaccurate online listing information. Imagine it’s Sunday, a customer searches for a clothing boutique on Google and a store in their area comes up. That customer then spends 10 minutes reading other customer reviews, 20 minutes getting ready to leave and 15 minutes driving to the boutique location. Once they arrive they find a sign on the shop entrance saying they are closed for renovations, even though the online listing stated the shop was open 12pm to 6pm. It’s not an experience you would want any customer to have with your brand. By the time that customer returns home they’ve wasted an entire hour out of their day off to visit a business that wasn’t even open. Keeping your listings up to date makes for a smart business practice and good PR.

Position Yourself as the Expert 

Hop on Twitter or LinkedIn and pitch yourself as the local authority on hot topics. You can reach out to news reporters, freelancers writing for industry magazines, podcasters or bloggers in your area. Even if they don’t get back to you on that day – they may follow up in the future when the right headline comes along. Having this third-party syndication goes a long way towards building trust with your audience and grows the brand’s search-engine authority.

Lean on a press release as a tool and a vehicle of background information, rather than your only vehicle to reach media and other third party sources. In the newsroom, even well-written and relevant press releases are plentiful and your message will easily get lost in the noise. By making the effort to directly reach out to the individuals you want to tell your story, you’ll have a better chance of success. Attach your press release to a pitch email or send a link in a private message, but be sure to take time to craft a personalized message that shows the value of your angle to a broader audience.

Strategically Respond to Reviews

There’s a right and a wrong way to respond to customer reviews. Here are a few fast and hard rules:

  • Respond to every review, every time. It can be difficult to craft the appropriate response to a review, especially one that might not paint the brand in the best light. By responding to everyone, every time, it shows the audience you care about feedback and opens the lines of communication. Reputation management tools can help you keep track of reviews that still need attention.
  • In the case of a negative review, the customer is most often looking to be heard. Their interaction with the brand did not meet expectations and they’re often frustrated with the outcome of that interaction. In response, be sure to acknowledge and validate their viewpoint, and make the effort to connect with them directly to try and resolve the issue.
  • Reward a customer who left a positive review with a surprise and delight gesture. Once a month select your favorite review and reach out to that customer or client with a gift card, a handwritten note or even a discount code thanking them for their ambassadorship and positive feedback.
  • Encourage your customers to leave reviews. Whether it’s through signage inside the business, in a company email signature or in a series of social media posts that go up on a monthly cadence. Remind customers that a Google My Business (GMB) account exists and to leave you a review.

Organic Social Media Amplification

According to a Nielsen report, 83 percent of people trust recommendations from someone they know. If your aunt shares your Facebook post, or a former colleague, links to your article in his LinkedIn post, third-party syndication is happening on a micro but powerful level. Chances are if your aunt and your colleague found the content posted on your social media page interesting or relevant their circles will, too, with a result of growing re-share potential and organic traffic to your  social accounts and website.

Event Hosting

Even though a large in-person conference, workshop or event may not be feasible, it shouldn’t stop brands from being creative and leveraging this traditional PR tactic in an online space. Virtual events can still help you build awareness and increase website traffic. Host a one-hour complimentary session on a monthly basis. The event should have a great level of value for attendees beyond just a sales pitch for a product or service. The session should always end on a clear and concise call to action to ensure you are achieving your goals.

Creating Brand Advocates

As customers travel further along in their journey with your brand, each and every interaction forms that relationship and affects how they feel about what you do. Good PR goes hand in hand with creating goodwill, and where there’s ongoing goodwill there’s brand loyalty. Recommendations, reviews, word-of-mouth referrals and online engagement are all measurable and powerful tools that can help you succeed.