“The digital age brings pace to communication, drastically altering how organisations tell their stories. As such, corporate communicators can’t afford to sit on the fence.” – Mr. Noel Nutsugah, Lecturer, Faculty of Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing, University of Media, Arts and Communications – Ghana Institute of Journalism (UniMAC-GIJ).
Today, almost everyone has a blog, a Facebook page, or another social media presence. That means that any company will have no trouble finding potential customers online. But that doesn’t mean that these virtual platforms can replace real-life Public Relations (PR). This new reality actually makes Public Relations strategies more important than ever before. Whether you call it PR, communications or digital marketing, businesses must adopt an integrated approach to promoting their brands, products and services.
In the world of social media and online marketing, however, many businesses don’t think they need a dedicated Public Relations team or an outside agency to handle communications work. Fortunately, that is not true. Even in the era of blogging and tweeting, PR remains essential for helping companies achieve their business objectives through third parties such as journalists, opinion leaders and potential customers.
- What Is Public Relations (PR)?
Public Relations is the art of managing perceptions. For a company, it means telling your stories that get published in newspapers, magazines, and online publications. It also includes building the capacity of your employees to act as influential representatives of your brand. Public Relations is not advertising – which is paid promotional material – or sales – which focuses on customers. Instead, PR is the management of communication between an organisation and its various publics. Public Relations is a strategic, long-term approach to enhancing the company’s reputation, increasing the visibility of its brand, generating positive media coverage, and influencing customers’ buying/decision-making process.
- Why is PR still important?
The Internet was supposed to level the playing field, democratising information and erasing the advantages that big brands have over small businesses. But it didn’t. In fact, the rise of digital has only made Public Relations more important. Good PR will give your brand visibility in a way that no other method of marketing can achieve. With PR, you gain credibility, trust and an affinity with your audience that will last long after the ads stop running and the posts stop being shared.
Here are some reasons why Public Relations is still important in the digital age:
Public Relations helps build credibility and trust with consumers: As indicated earlier, Public Relations is about building trust between your brand, its publics and stakeholders. consumers are bombarded with marketing messages from every direction. As a result, they’ve become quite sceptical of brands and businesses, especially those that try to sell them something directly. This is where trust comes into play. If you want people to buy from you or use your services, they need to trust you first. And one of the best ways to build trust is through strong relationships. Digital PR can help you build these relationships by creating opportunities for two-way communication between you and your target audience. When done right, this kind of engagement will help foster trust over time. it’s about showing your publics that you care about their needs and wants. This might mean reaching out to your community to find out what they need or want, or supporting a cause that’s important to your demographic. With Public Relations, it’s all about connecting with your audience and offering them the products and services that will best serve their needs. This ensures that you will have long-term, loyal customers who trust you enough to recommend your brand to others.
Public Relations allows for continuous brand awareness: If you are not actively taking advantage of your many social media accounts, chances are that nobody knows that you exist. Luckily, there are plenty of paid and free tools available to help you build a brand presence and increase your online exposure. Whether it’s using a professional-grade agency or hiring a business communications consultant, there are plenty of low-cost ways to keep your brand top of mind. This allows you to continuously promote your products and services and generate brand awareness. Once you have done this, you will be able to use your business communications to tell your story and grow your customer base.
Public Relations creates growth through partnerships: Many businesses rely solely on paid advertising to generate revenue. While this can be an effective way to reach a large audience, it often leads to a one-sided relationship where the business is solely responsible for the success of their campaign. With good Public Relations, however, you can create partnerships with companies and influencers that support your brand and help generate a return on investment for your marketing. This can be done through sponsorships, where a brand pays an influencer to use their products in an Instagram video; or through collaborations, where two brands team up to create a product that’s sold to the public.
Public Relations shows that you care about your audience: From a business standpoint, Public Relations is all about building trust between your brand and the people who use it. However, this isn’t just a one-way street. You, too, need to have a level of trust with your customers, otherwise you risk losing them to a competitor. This is why in this era, when you engage in Public Relations, you’re showing that you care about your publics. There are a number of ways to do this; from creating content that’s focused on solving a real problem to partnering with brands that align with your values. The best Public Relations campaigns are those that are authentic and help your brand stand out from the crowd. By engaging in public relations, you’re showing your audience that you respect them, their needs, and what they want from life.
Public Relations provides a means to an end: Public Relations is far more; it is a way to connect with your publics and create long-lasting relationships. Through content marketing, public relations, and strategic partnerships, you can build a brand that people trust, have a positive relationship with, and want to continue to support. This is what will propel your business above the competition, and keep it profitable long after paid ads have come and gone. It’s not just a way to get new customers; it’s a way to maintain and grow the ones you have.
- Ways PR is more important than ever
Scarcity: In this new digital age, there is an abundance of information. That means that people don’t have the time or attention span to pay attention to everything. PR is the best way to cut through the noise and get noticed.
Speed: Articles now go viral at an incredible pace. The average piece of content reaches thousands of people within 24 hours. By leveraging media relations, you can reduce the time it takes to reach a wider audience.
Competitive analysis: A PR competitive analysis is an excellent tool for identifying and evaluating specific industry players’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategies in the media and other external channels. The process can reveal insights that present a chance to create more contrast. It also guides what it will take to outperform a competitor as a thought leader. The competitive analysis may also reveal unexpected plans from other companies or provide more insight into how they approach the market.
To conclude, as the world increasingly moves online, Public Relations is an essential tool for businesses and organisations of all sizes. When you look at Public Relations as a strategic, long-term approach to enhancing the company’s reputation, it is easy to see why it is still important in the digital age. For businesses to thrive in this era, it is critical to recognise that Public Relations continues to play an important role in successful communications strategy; today’s companies must adapt their approach to meet the needs of consumers who now spend a large portion of their lives online. In the digital age, Public Relations is no longer about simply getting your name out there – it’s about engaging with your publics and stakeholders, and building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
About the author: The author is a trainer and digital communications strategist. He has over seven years of experience in various communication roles with impact consulting firms across Africa. He adds value to organisations by building capacity and making their projects visible, audible and influential through tailored strategies, content and channels.
LinkedIn: Cecil Ato Kwamena Dadzie
Email: [email protected]