The New Age of PR: Getting Your Brand Noticed

The New Age of PR: Getting Your Brand Noticed

Aaron Agius
25 February 2016

PR is dead. Long live PR.

Okay, so maybe the old school public relations techniques and tricks haven’t completely lost their power.

But in the modern digital world, submitting press releases to journalists and hoping for the best is no longer the most effective way to drive attention for your brand.

With the current state of the internet, companies have a variety of more effective ways to get their message across.

These include:

  • Using social media to connect directly with customers.
  • Inspiring fans to become amateur brand ambassadors.
  • Directly addressing customer concerns in a public space to build a stronger reputation.

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In short, the internet has removed the middle-man in public relations: companies can now talk directly to the people who matter, inspiring them to develop greater brand loyalty.

Say Goodbye to the Old Ways

In the olden times, before social media, companies that were looking to drum up free publicity needed to befriend an established news platform.

  • Company PR staff would write a press release about their upcoming product.
  • This would be distributed to journalists and media agencies.
  • An outlet would write an article about the product (if they felt it was important enough).
  • The public would read the articles written by journalists, and maybe be inspired to take a closer look at the product.

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Sometimes, for the sake of time, journalists would use the PR press release word-for-word, but generally there were several layers of commentary and discussion before the public found out about the product.

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This model had two major flaws:

  • Companies couldn’t talk directly to customers
  • Customers couldn’t respond directly to companies.

That said, it’s important to point out that this method of PR isn’t gone: lots of big companies still rely on it because it’s familiar to them.

With the internet age, though, there’s no need to structure public relations efforts so rigidly.

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Companies can talk directly to customers, and customers are able to quickly and easily give feedback or opinions.

  • Moving these conversations into the public means PR has become a lot simpler.
  • That said, there are plenty of new problems that companies are facing as a result of not understanding the best way to reach out to customers.

So, let’s look at some of the pitfalls of new online PR, as well as how you can use quality content to get your brand noticed by the right people.

Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master

This new approach of talking directly to customers is certainly working well for brands who put their all into online PR:

  • 80% of internet users prefer to connect with brands through social media.
  • 28% of 18-34 year olds say that they’re ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely to make a purchase based on solely on reading a reading social media post.
  • 27% of young people turn to social media first for their customer service needs.

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But there are a couple of downsides to the ease with which companies can reach out to customers:

Together, these problems mean that new age digital PR can be difficult to perfect.

Grabbing Attention

The first problem that companies face in marketing their brands online is simply one of catching people’s attention.

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  • The reason old PR relied on media companies to work as middlemen was because this was the only way to get audiences’ attentions.
  • If a message made it onto an established media channel, there was a good chance that a large audience would see it.
  • With the internet, there’s a lot more content available online as everyone seeks to engage with users.
  • This means that a message can be easily drowned out among a lot of other voices that are constantly shouting for attention

So what’s the key to success with online, unmediated PR?

High quality content.

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The problem that users face online is the ever-flowing tide of distractions.

Some online content is good.

But most isn’t.

With so much content online that’s been quickly thrown together just to grab attention, audiences are becoming more savvy and cynical.

The only content that floats to the top of public consciousness – the stuff that gets shared on social media and produces viral success – is content that’s well produced, interesting, and engaging.

  • This is probably why so many larger companies still rely so heavily on old PR channels: it’s a lot easier to throw together a quick press release than it is to create high quality, unique content to market a brand.
  • Considering the growing popularity of social media advertising, though, it’s clear that even the world’s most powerful brands are aware of the importance of good new age PR.

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For this reason, it’s important not just to advertise online, but also to produce good content that gives people a reason to look at your brand:

  • 67% of B2B buyers are increasingly relying on content to help drive their decisions.
  • 66% of B2B buyers believe that too much online content is full of filler, and lacks quality.

Making Good Conversation

The second big problem that brands can face online is misjudging their content and getting attention for the wrong reasons.

  • It’s important to get internet users looking at your content.
  • But on the internet, not all publicity is good publicity.

There are plenty of examples of companies who bite off more than they can chew online, ending up leaving their brand with a less than stellar reputation.

Take, for example, a tweet from IHOP advertising their pancakes.

The tweet said that a pancake is ‘flat but has a GREAT personality’.

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While the IHOP social media manager probably thought this was a clever reference to a common saying, many internet readers were less than impressed.

Many tweeters took offense to the expression, arguing that it was misogyny and sexism in action – referencing the expression perpetuated the idea that a woman’s worth in society is connected to her bust size.

Sheepishly, IHOP removed the tweet soon after, and issued a public apology.

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No matter how carefully a brand monitors its promotional materials, in the online world it’s often difficult to spot issues that might offend people.

  • This is made more difficult because of the volume of content that companies need to produce in order to be seen online.
  • Companies often also have to produce content quickly to respond to a particular issue of public interest, and it’s easy to hit the wrong tone in the rush to capitalize on an important event.

There’s no easy solution to this problem: no marketer can possibly foresee all the possible responses to an article.

If there is one thing that can be done to make sure a piece of content sends the right message, though, it’s this:

  • Place quality of work over speed of delivery.

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Sounds simple, right?

But so many marketers get greedy and rush content out the door without taking a second to look it over.

  • This can lead to small errors (such as typos) that can damage your brand’s credibility.
  • It can also produce bigger problems such as user backlash, if an article isn’t up to an appropriate standard.
  • At the end of the day, internet users are only going to react positively to content that’s well produced, which is why cutting corners in content development can seriously harm your content’s performance.

In order to inspire audiences online and generate a healthy discussion about your products, you need to make sure that the content you produce is top notch.

With online PR, it’s easier to get an article published, but it can often be a lot more challenging to get it noticed among the chaos online.

Encouraging Brand Ambassadors

A big part of modern PR techniques involves developing a cult following around your products.

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  • We’ve all met someone who’s so dedicated to a brand that they’ll happily tell everyone they meet that their favorite company is better than the competition.
  • This is the kind of loyalty you want to inspire in your customers.
  • Doing so means gaining a legion of unpaid salespeople who will tackle a lot of your PR needs for you and will spread the good word about your products.

In the modern age, no company has succeeded in creating a loyal fanbase more than the electronics giant Apple.

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We all know at least one Apple loyalist who spends every waking moment telling other people how great their latest iPhone or MacBook is.

They’re the kinds of people who will happily fix any problem you have on your iPad, though you probably don’t want to leave them alone in a room with a Samsung user for too long…

So what’s the secret to Apple’s PR success?

How has the company turned so many users into brand evangelists?

  • Apple doesn’t just market its products, it also markets the ideology of simple, sleek devices.
  • Apple successfully turned the company’s founder, Steve Jobs, into a cultural icon: a visionary businessman and tech expert who could be trusted to produce excellent devices.
  • Apple provide personal, approachable tech support in the form of their ‘Genius’ store employees.

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These techniques are directly responsible for the success of Apple’s PR efforts over the decades. Use their example as a model for your own PR practices.

Communicating Your Message Simply

It’s important to note that Apple didn’t create their powerful brand overnight.

As early as the 1980s, Apple was trying to convince customers that their brand had a unique style and design that made their devices stand out from the crowd.

Take, for example, the 1984 Superbowl commercial for the first Macintosh computer.

In this ad, Apple:

  • Portrays their brand as being the only bright, inviting and exciting option in an otherwise cold, dull world.
  • Shows a colorful character destroying the established system, freeing the population from a world without diversity.
  • Uses imagery from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 to argue that the Apple brand is the only resistance against a tide of conformity perpetuated by then-market leaders in computing.

While the 1984 commercial is hugely different to more modern, simplistic ads, the same brand identity is visible in this old advertisement. Apple is about vibrancy, color and energy.

It took Apple 20 years from the release of their Superbowl Macintosh ad before they found a way to communicate their brand image that really resonated with viewers.

Their bright, colorful dance ads for the iPod communicated the same message as their 1984 ad, but did so in a far more simple and powerful way.

I don’t know about you, but even just watching an iPod ad makes me want to get up and dance.

The iPod commercials, which feature silhouettes dancing to upbeat music in front of colorful backgrounds, easily communicate the central Apple ideology:

  • Their technology is exciting, colorful and vibrant.
  • Anyone, regardless of taste, can use it.
  • Apple is a brand of creativity and originality.

By communicating this ideology, rather than focusing on the specifics of their products, Apple has built up a fanbase of users who personally identify with the brand, rather than those who are just making use of their products.

In a similar way, brands looking to use the internet for PR purposes ought to focus not on promoting individual products, but on spreading the ideology behind the brand, to help users associate the brand with a particular message or life view.

Providing the Personal Touch

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Traditional PR has always been about managing relations between a company and its customers.

  • Because of the structure of old school PR, there wasn’t always a lot of opportunities for customers to pass feedback up to the companies they bought from.
  • Certainly conversations between customers and companies were less publicized in a world before social media.

A large part of online PR in the modern era means making use of social tools to publicly engage with audiences.

This has many benefits:

  • Companies that openly reward their most loyal supporters gain popularity, as online users love to see a brand making an effort to be friendly.
  • Brands that engage online are able to