Tips for better use of PR in the digital age

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By Gita Ghaemmaghami, Regional Marketing Communications Manager at Sony Mobile

With countries in the GCC recording some of the highest smartphone usage rates in the world, making public relations work in a digital environment has never been more important for brands operating in the region. But rather than group the term digital environment into a single category let’s start by exploring what the digital environment is. The digital environment, among other things, varies from platform to platform – from a website to a blog to a specific social media channel. Similarly, how consumers access mobile media varies and so too should a brand’s approach to PR in a digital environment. Too often, however, companies, agencies and the media repurpose the same content across all channels rather than tailor it for the audience, platform and device.

When it comes to a website, for example, you cannot have the same execution or treatment as when you want to communicate on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Each platform has a very specific way of working, communicating and engaging users which in turn requires a tailored approach to your digital PR strategy. Therefore, it is very important these days for PR agencies and the internal departments that manage a company’s public relations to know how to understand these platforms rather than use the same content and approach across all channels.

Let’s look at Facebook, which recently recorded 8.4 million monthly active users in UAE [source] – a country that also saw mobile phone usage increase to 228.3 phones per 100 people in the first quarter of 2017 according to statistics released by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE [source]. How you package your PR content and post it on your Facebook page will – or should – differ to what you share on Instagram. Our recent Super Slow Motion campaign for Middle East and Africa is a case in point.

For the campaign we partnered with a number of local Middle East influencers who shot a video using our Super Slow Motion feature on the Xperia XZ Premium smartphone. A key consideration here was how the influencers shot their videos. Why was this important? When you want to post a video on Facebook and Instagram the same video cannot be used due to the way the platform allows you to view the content. For example, when people watch it via Facebook on their mobile device they watch it vertically so if the video is taken horizontally it means the video is cropped. Consequently, understanding how to execute on each of these platforms is very important when it comes to communications. Moreover, understanding the content and asset that you create on each platform in a digital environment is the key success point for brands.

Equally central to the success of any digital PR push is knowing your audience. It is important for any brand – whether they’re local or international – to understand the consumer and any cultural differences that might impact a campaign. You cannot simply apply one formula from one city to one city, one country to another country. Instead, spend some time on research – R&D is extremely important for any online PR activity. That in mind, understand your consumer, what is important to them, what is their background, what is their culture and what is their perception of your brand before communicating anything to them via any channel – online or offline.

When we advertise we will do our research to understand the market and audience. Our recent campaign, #SuperSlowMotion, was a global idea and a feature that the phone has. However, we needed to find out if it was interesting in this region so we polled 2,000 consumers in Saudi Arabia and 1,000 consumers in UAE. We asked them if they like slow motion as a feature on a smartphone and if they would take a video using this function. Based on the results we invested in localization and a campaign centred on this feature.

More broadly, digital public relations is very important to Sony Mobile. As a company we started changing our strategy two years ago, shifting our budget to increase our digital marketing spend – which demonstrates how important digital marketing and advertising is for us.

Moving forward, it isn’t only brands and PR agencies that have a role to play in delivering successful communications in a digital age. Media companies also need to step up more – they have to educate themselves much more when it comes to communicating to consumers. When they receive information from brands, for example, they need to find the best way to communicate it to their readers. Often the press releases that companies share with media are shared online without any input from journalists, without any value add or without any point of view on the release. This puts more pressure on us as a brand to make sure that any news we share is as consumer-friendly, eye-catching and interesting as possible.


The views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.