Publishers, Platforms, And The New Model For Digital PR by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Digital PR can and should help bridge the gap between the online and offline brand experience.


In January of this year, three major media companies—BuzzFeed, Verizon’s media division, and Gannett—announced major layoffs that collectively impacted more than 1,000 journalists and staffers.

Since then, the number of media industry layoffs in the country has grown to more than 2,400, according to Business Insider. The cuts hit people in both local newsrooms and at big digital media companies alike.

What’s behind many of these layoffs, of course, is the fundamental change that digital platforms like Facebook, Apple News, and Twitter have brought to the media industry. Initially, the problem was that advertisers were going online, which meant newspaper ad revenues plummeted. As the digital media world has evolved, the problem has too—not only are advertisers going online, but they’re going online to advertise mainly on Facebook and Google, as NPR reports.

That means that even huge companies like BuzzFeed, which boasts tens of millions of unique website visitors each month, aren’t getting the advertising dollars they need to stay profitable.

So why does this matter to brands?

Well, aside from the obvious fact that the fake news phenomenon is something that we all should care about, the shifting relationship between media publishers and platforms has serious implications for the way brands reach out to media—in other words, digital PR.

What used to be seen as a major PR “win” is no longer enough

Up until fairly recently, being written about in a major publication like the New York Times or Wired magazine was the ultimate PR goal. If a restaurant brand got a Dining section feature, that was it: they’d won. They’d arrived. They could turn their focus toward other efforts, knowing that their big PR push really paid off.

Now, while a feature in a tier-1 publication like the Times or the Washington Post is absolutely still a win for brands today, it’s not the end-all, be-all.

For one thing, for better or worse, traditional journalism and traditional publications don’t carry as much weight with consumers as they used to.

As the ad revenues show, people are looking to social platforms more than ever, so if the publisher doesn’t share that particular feature or article on Facebook or Twitter, the potential reach goes way down. (A takeaway for brands: make sure you share any and every piece of press you earn on your social platforms!)

For another, the trend seems to be that consumers are trusting traditional journalism less—at least, that’s according to a survey of journalists conducted by Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, in which 86 percent of journalists surveyed responded that they felt social media had contributed to a decline in trust in journalism.

In order to truly dominate an industry, brands must update their views on what digital PR efforts should look like. Sending out a press release to large and small outlets won’t cut it anymore.

What’s Now to What’s Next: What a successful digital PR push looks like

At Zen, my team and I have a mantra: we want to move from What’s Now to What’s Next.

In the realm of digital PR, What’s Next includes several key components, including:

Any digital PR effort must include an influencer element.

Influencers on platforms like Instagram have become an absolutely indispensable element of digital PR.

Today’s connected consumers trust influencers far more than they trust traditional advertising, and the rise of micro- and even nano-influencers, who have a wide reach within a very specific audience, has made it easier for even the most niche brands to find ready and willing partners to help them spread their message.

When we worked with Chase for Business to develop and launch the Chase for Business BizMobile during Detroit StartUp Week, we made influencer partnerships a core part of our larger digital PR strategy.

By partnering with influencers who were not only active in the small business space, but also local (and in one instance, hyperlocal) to Detroit, we were able to generate buzz around the BizMobile both before and during the launch.

These influencers not only tweeted and posted about the event, they also attended it, bridging the gap between online and offline influence—which brings us to component number two.

Digital PR can and should help bridge the gap between the online and offline brand experience.

Despite its name, digital PR doesn’t actually have to exist entirely in the digital realm.

In fact, it shouldn’t—instead, digital PR efforts should help brands connect their online and offline experiences for consumers.

Here’s an example. If a brand is hosting an experiential marketing event—say, having customers try out their new product at a farmers’ market—on-site staff at the event can and should be sharing posts and pictures via social media as well as with bloggers and influencers.

Those posts and images can also be packaged into digital press releases or press packages to be shared with both traditional and digital media outlets.

Digital PR requires understanding that the role of traditional media, as well as the relationship traditional media outlets have with social platforms, has changed drastically. If brands want to succeed with the connected consumer, they need to embrace What’s Next.

April 9, 2019 at 01:11PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs