The nature of Public Relations has undergone a major transformation in recent years.
With the resurgence of reactive PR campaigns, the increasing speed of news cycles, and growing understanding of ‘promotional’ content from consumers, an effective PR strategy in 2022 is more complex than ever.
So, how do you decide where to focus your investment?
This week, we spoke to 3 PR experts across Traditional, Digital, and Integrated PR to get up to speed with the latest trends in PR, and learn how to build a strong, measurable PR campaign in 2022.
This article contains key learnings from our virtual workshop, ‘’Traditional’ or ‘Digital’ PR - Finding a Strategy that Works for You’. To join an upcoming event, take a look here.
In this run-down:
- Defining PR - ‘Traditional’ vs. ‘Digital’ PR
- PR Trends - How PR strategies are changing in 2022
- Planning your PR strategy - Objectives and Key Considerations before you start
- Measuring the performance of your PR strategy
- When to engage PR support - Specialist, Lead and Integrated Agencies
Defining PR - ‘Traditional’ vs. ‘Digital’ PR
PR as a discipline covers a wide range of areas of your wider marketing strategy, across channels, platforms and objectives.
The Standard Definition of PR
Broadly speaking, Public Relations is the discipline of managing your brand’s reputation or perception through the sharing of particular content, industry engagement and brand awareness tactics.
Beyond this, there are a few different approaches in 2022.
Defining ‘Traditional’ PR
Despite the name, ‘Traditional’ PR doesn’t necessarily mean the traditional idea of what PR means.
We asked Sophia Stewart, Associate Director at Brazen PR, to share a more contemporary definition for marketers in 2022.
‘Traditional’ PR is defined by your Audience and Objectives
“There are two ways to look at what ‘Traditional’ PR is now - what our audience is, and what our objective is.
When we consider who our audience is, it’s primarily your customer - ‘Traditional’ PR is really focussed on reaching both potential and current customers.
From an objective point of view, Traditional PR is most commonly going to be delivering on objectives that hone in on elevating your brand reputation.”
With this in mind, Sophia’s definition of ‘Traditional’ PR for marketers in 2022 is: Targeting potential and existing customers with activity that build your brand reputation.
Read more: Modernising your PR strategy - Blending a Traditional and Digital Approach
Defining ‘Digital’ PR
The evolution of PR into more digital channel territory has also led to a surge in requirements for what’s known as ‘Digital’ PR.
Lora Thornton, Head of PR at Flaunt Digital, shares her definition of Digital PR as: Public Relations activity that's focussed on gaining online coverage.
‘Digital’ PR will have different objectives and tactics to ‘Traditional’ PR strategy
“Whilst there may often be an overlap between online and offline coverage - for example featuring in newspapers or publications with a presence in both - Digital PR may have other KPIs drawn into it, like building backlinks.
Digital PR may also mean working with different partners - for example online influencers like social influencers and bloggers - to amplify your message.”
In summary: Whilst you may have overlapping objectives and outcomes when working on Traditional or Digital PR, how PR is defined within your organisation will depend on the tactics you employ, and the objectives you’re seeking to achieve.
PR Trends - How PR strategies are changing in 2022
So, what are the key updates and changes to the way marketing leaders frame their PR strategy in recent years?
PR Trend #1 - The integration of PR into other channel strategies
For Victoria Tidmarsh, Head of Digital PR at Hatch PR, the growth in creativity in the industry as well as deliver channels for PR initiatives has led to the role of PR within a strategy expanding exponentially.
“We're seeing fantastic use of innovation and new technologies, and it's really taking PR out of this little box of press releases and maybe a photo that goes alongside it.
It’s also interacting more with different marketing channels within the mix, whether it’s social or content or performance - PR isn't just siloed by itself anymore, which is really exciting.”
PR Trend #2 - Speed of delivery with PR strategies
For Lora, one of the more noticeable changes has been the speed at which PR strategies and tactics have to move.
“With how quickly news cycles move now, it’s impacted PR with the resurgence of needing to being reactive.
From a digital perspective, that means having things like quotes and images pre-approved. Everything needs to be ready to move quickly.”
PR Trend #3 - Integration of PR agencies with in-house comms teams
Alongside the pace of delivery changing, Sophia adds that this has also changed the way in-house marketing and communications teams work with their PR agency support.
“The agility, and the sort of ability to jump on newsjacking opportunities is so important now.
For us as an agency, it's now crucial for to make sure we're part of those conversations that might be happening internally that will allow us to make the most of these stories."
Read more: Hatch PR round up the latest PR trends
Planning your PR strategy - Objectives and Key Considerations before you start
Ok - we’re up to speed on the new definitions of PR, and the way the discipline has changed. Now it’s time to plan your PR strategy. Where do you start?
Setting the Objectives for your PR strategy
With so many ways to activate PR as part of your strategy, it’s key to ensure you’re not firing everything in every direction with any campaign.
Depending on your wider strategy, PR can hit a number of objectives
As Victoria shares, “We’re in such a privileged position now where there are so many metrics that we can measure, we almost have no excuse but to make every strategy completely bespoke to every client.”
Traditional PR - Example Objectives
Traditional PR will primarily focus on objectives tied to your reputation as a business, but these can be drilled do
- Brand Awareness
- Positive Brand Sentiment
- Direct sales (for example with a new product)
- Sharing Information
- Building Interest and enquiries
Digital PR - Example Objectives
Whilst Traditional PR objectives may be broader in scope, Digital PR, will most likely leverage more granular KPIs from other channels:
- Inbound Leads
- Backlink building
- Share of Voice
- Keyword Rankings
Choosing your Objectives
As Victoria explains, the variety of objectives that a PR effort can support often mean your strategy will blend both Digital and Traditional for an integrated PR strategy.
“Some clients have many more traditional objectives and some are very digital-focussed, but for the most part, we integrate.
There's a combination of the two across most of our clients now. It’s a good thing, because it means that more and more brands are starting to understand a little bit more about how everything works, and what everything means.”
Key considerations before you start a PR campaign
As PR is blurring the lines across other areas, it’s important to remember that this also means your PR strategy will rely on other channels being up to scratch.
Here’s 3 key considerations to think through before you get started on your new PR efforts.
#1 - Does your business have the capacity to support your PR strategy?
According to Sophia, ‘it's having your house in order. By that I mean, knowing who’s going to be able to contribute.
What we often find with an integrated campaign is that everyone needs to work on it - but those people or teams might not be able to actually support.’
So look at your house, look at who you've got involved, who can be fully involved and is invested in it financially or otherwise, and then take it from there.”
#2 - Are your driving audiences to something you’re proud of?
If you’re running with a Digital PR strategy - or even trying to drive awareness with Traditional tactics - Victoria says it’s crucial to ensure your website, brand, and other audience-facing collateral is in order.
“If we're tasked with building links, we can build all the links in the world.
But if the website build is bad technically, or the content’s poor, our links are going to have no impact. At that point, you’re essentially spending money for no reason!”
#3 - Have you actually got something to say?
Sophia shares that a common misconception amongst in-house marketing teams can be the understanding that PR isn’t there to advertise your business - it’s to share a story.
“It's just making sure you've got the assets at the other side, that do have that new newness.
If you’re sharing a story, don’t just go to a location link or a homepage. Let's have something that they need at the other side to activate or to obtain or download.”
Measuring the performance of your PR strategy
With PR integrating heavily into other channels, or focusing on broader metrics that may not be as easy to pinpoint, we asked our experts the best way to effectively measure the success of your strategy.
Decide your end-point before you start
Sophia recommends building a checklist of the objectives you choose, and defining how you will measure your PR performance against them before you start.
“For example, with Traditional PR activation, you need to know your end point.
If your goal is brand perception, you might want to run a brand survey at the end - if it’s depth of messaging, you might be measuring frequency or inclusion of quotes from your business.”
Find a ‘control’ for your measurements
When your strategy relies on leveraging external influences, what do you do when those outside influences impact your results?
For Lora, it’s about finding a ‘baseline’ for those targets, and identifying causation instead of correlation.
“if you've got a PR campaign that's doing really well, you tend to see an increase in followers increase in online mentions, increase in a kind of positive sentiment.
But then you could have something else - for example with a product launch, we've had campaigns where that product then sold out online.
What were the levels of traffic to that product page before you did any activity, how has that changed?
PR touches everything, so it really comes back to what the activities been, and what you've focussed on.”
Download: The Ultimate Guide to the Digital Brief
Keep your KPIs flexible
Victoria reminds us that with a discipline as reactive as PR, it’s important to keep your KPIs flexible too.
“Yes, there are definitely some metrics that remained more consistent through a six or 12 month period, but when you look at the traditional stuff, actually, that can vary month to month.
Maybe we've got an event next month, that becomes the KPI. And maybe we're launching a rebrand next month, that becomes a KPI. From a more traditional perspective, those metrics do vary, it’s just important to acknowledge that.”
Next steps: When to engage PR support
PR is a vast specialism, with a huge variety of approaches to take and blend to your own business objectives - and the types of agency support available reflect that.
Whether you’re looking to hit objectives linking to a wider Digital strategy, boost your brand perception, or blend the two into your wider awareness goals, our experts emphasise the need to have an open conversation.
In Lora’s words, “Ask yourself - what are you trying to achieve, do you have the time to do it, and do you have the time to be available for your agency? Be transparent from the start.”
If you’re looking to boost your PR strategy but aren’t sure where to start, or want to ensure you’re on the right path, GO! offer free, confidential trust calls to discuss your options and share best practise advice. Book a call with the team here.