How PR and digital can together benefit a brand

By Zeina Akkawi, Managing Director, PAZ Marketing

Influencing, impacting and effecting are precious words used today in our media industry that we hear a lot. But what are they all about?

As public relations (PR) agencies, we are lately being asked not only to generate coverage for brands and organisations, but also to build relationships that influence behaviour – and this is where digital media comes into play.

Many have written about the changing nature of PR and its move from traditional coverage, celebrities and ambassadors to influencers who have enormous reach and are trusted within social, demographic, or values-driven networks. PR is also known to be a specialised practice where certain trends are powerful in some cases, but weak and non-existent in others. It has always focused on delivering the right image, insights, messaging, reputation, brands, cohesive marketing communication, ROI, strategic communication and CSR projects.

Change in the offing

Most experts following these rules, therefore, have services that are limited to media and media relations, and they passionately believe publicity will produce a good outcome always. But today, PR views are changing and agencies see the new digital media as a revolutionary power that changes the way the public react to campaigns and yet upsets the way agencies practice PR.

Social media, on the other hand, has transformed to become a support and how it’s changing the way PR campaigns are distributed and measured should be studied further. Online platforms are revolutionary tools that have changed the way PR is practised, becoming an essential part for many companies, offering PR specialists some new challenges to explore.

The image problem

PR, unfortunately, is also being perceived as an old marketing method that has relied on the same tactics and formulas for a long while, which have only been measured by the number of coverages, ROI and AVIs.

Let’s admit it: prior to the digital blast, everything was print-based. It was all about securing coverage. If a person wanted to be famous, they were promised by their agency coverages to make them what they want in print, TV, radio and many other mediums.

Yet, the success of a PR campaign is no longer measured by the weight of clippings it has achieved, but by the number of blog posts, conversations, comments, retweets, Instagram comments, etc., that it gathered online. From traditional PR practices, our industry has evolved rapidly to accommodate constant change and new digital tools, creating opportunities for new, successful campaigns.

The transformation

The growth of digital marketing also has many consequences for media agencies, which are now always in search of unique and engaging content. This in turn has transformed the role of PR and made it more challenging to create interesting and appealing content.

Successful PR campaigns are now increasingly dependent on their ability to create content that people want to share and talk about online. This has forced PR agencies to work and focus a lot more on new channels and to be more open to things, not only in terms of measurement but also in relation to deliverables, promoting better marketing tools with better outcomes.

We can’t deny that social media offers new channels of communication between companies, brands and the public that are beneficial. It doesn’t only offer an opportunity for direct and instant communication, but also a chance to get back to the ideal basics of PR: building and maintaining relationships, and changing some of the negative categories typically associated with our industry.

Innovative digital

Digital has certainly become an innovative tool that has quickly changed the way PR companies practise their deliverables; but this doesn’t mean PR has died. It’s a platform that has become an important part for many companies in helping PR experts explore new areas to research and use tools that can be integrated within their existing PR practices.

I still believe, though, that there is an amazing link between both practices (PR and digital) that can make a brand more powerful and play an important part in the market. We just need to know how to use it and sell it.

On the other hand, most of the social media platforms can be a waste of time. They’re great platforms to post photos, announce opinions, like, comment, follow, unfollow and other harmless endeavours. Social media can void hours, if not days, out of our work, time and energy. Using this method for PR professionals and entrepreneurs can be useful for connecting brands on the web with other new customers.

Two-way street

Today, we can use social media to support PR and vice versa through many ways.

Mixing social media with press releases is beneficial and, when writing down any news, it’s good to find a way to support and extend the message via online platforms. This will help a lot since journalists nowadays rely heavily on Twitter to source, monitor and research stories. So, professionals can reach them by sharing a story online, instead of interrupting their inbox constantly.

Creating online campaigns around some case studies is another format, where most of the PR agencies build case studies or infographics to highlight successes and build credibility. While some stories make a good write-up, most people aren’t willing to invest their time to read long-form articles. Instead of sharing the full study on social media, picking out the key facts from the success story and highlighting those across the board will make a difference.

Executives, brand managers and others are recommended to publish news on LinkedIn. When CEOs or other executives actively engage online, they’re playing an important role in building trust with others, inclusive of their media exposure. Since it’s a small percentage of managers that are active on social platforms, it’s time to educate and encourage them to change that.

Social media also offers a major way to offer expert observations and make an immediate impact on the audience. Yet, press releases might take time to reach readers and are most likely to miss some opportunities here and there. So, to support print news, online can be of assistance. For example, in the case of breaking news or crisis management, executives must proceed with caution to ensure they are adding value online to the conversation and not being completely egotistic or trying to exploit a catastrophe.

If we, as agencies, will always work on relying on traditional PR tactics, then it’s time for us to breathe in a new format and apply it to our efforts. By focusing on online platforms in conjunction with our PR practices, we will be able to communicate our messages directly and more effectively.

Additionally, clients who use this format will be able to connect with media and influencers who are proactively looking for news and resources, instead of spamming the press with press releases and other documents that they either simply don’t want or cannot share immediately.


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