We’ve entered a new age of communication, an era of digital storytelling in which modern businesses have access to multiple channels to build their profiles and sculpt their reputations. TV, radio and print are now sharing the spotlight with blogs, forums, video sharing, webinars and social media as channels for B2B and B2C communication.Whoever their audience may be, companies big and small can communicate with their markets in ways like never before.

However, despite audiences becoming ever more accessible through online channels, businesses are challenged to find the right communication channels for the right purpose and the right audiences. And, with new channels continuously opening up, marketing teams are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with new developments and opportunities, or to appropriately target their communication to modern audiences – audiences that have greater control over the messages they choose to receive.

In this brave new world of digital communication, brand positioning and developing public profiles is becoming less about pushing messages and more about building relationships with audiences and influencers. Within this context, specialist public relations skills continue to have a lot to offer business.

Where PR value lies

PR is about building relationships and opening up communication between a business/brand/individual and their market. PR experts often do this via a more traditional media relations campaign which secures coverage in priority media that can help influence public opinion about an organisation or brand. And guess what? Nothing’s really changed, despite a multitude of channels opening up. In fact, while it may be increasingly difficult for marketing teams to stay up-to-date with the latest communication trends, PR folk are in their element exploring news tools to help businesses build stakeholder relationships and communicate with the wider world in a variety of ways. Where once a PR expert might have used a targeted press release and secured some media interviews to push a message to an audience of hundreds, now they help businesses reach thousands and thousands of people by integrating traditional tactics with social media channels, webinars and blog posts on valuable media sites.

As the digital communication world opens up for consumers and businesses alike, it’s vital to utilise new media avenues to position yourself as a thought-leader. It’s important to educate your market about what you’re doing, why you’re an expert in your field, why your consumers or stakeholders want or need your services and products. This is where the right PR approach can prove invaluable to your business. From an objective standpoint, PR heads can think strategically about how your business can provide commentary on industry issues, and where the real news value is for media. And because they’re across the issues relevant to your business, they can also position your spokespeople as experts in their field by picking up on relevant media conversations and finding regular opportunities for guest blogging, well-placed online articles and interviews with subject experts.

Getting tactics right from the beginning

Now that we’ve covered some ideas about the role of PR in the current digital climate, let’s look a little closer at some tips for handling some of these ever-changing communication channels.

Holistic management: Using their knowledge of the media landscape, PR experts should be helping your business build great social media habits. What do healthy social media habits look like? Well, it’s absolutely critical that you keep messaging consistent and take a co-ordinated approach, where one person or team is handling your blogging, tweeting, branding and publicity. This is the only way to build brand consistency and ensure that your audience isn’t getting mixed messages from different facets of the business. If you don’t have a dedicated hat in the business ready to take care of it all – then get one. It will prevent many-a-problem for you and your business over the long-term.

Dedicating the right resources: My second comment about managing digital media PR relates to resourcing. And I’d ask that you pay close attention to what I’m about to say. Channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (you’ve heard the list a thousand times) require a lot of input from your communication team. You’ll need to allocate adequate resources to the task if these tools are going to be functional and fruitful components of your marketing program. Think one person dedicating one third of each of their day to the job, perhaps. It depends on your company size, how much news you have, how busy your events calendar is, your marketing goals, etc but you get the drift. It’s easy to set up things like social media accounts but it can be a rod for the marketing team’s back to use them all effectively if you don’t have enough time and energy dedicated to the job.

Blogs, blogs and more blogs: Once upon a time it might have been acceptable to ponder the prospect that blogs are a passing fad – something that only a select few will dabble in and then, that’ll be that. How wrong we would have been! Everyone’s blogging. It seems we can’t talk, share, embellish, illustrate and excite enough. Is it because we’ve all finally found a short cut to becoming somewhat of an author? It may be an element of that but I think it more closely relates to my opening comments – that our audiences are using many different ways to absorb information about organisations, brands and people. And so, there’s now abundant opportunity to capture your audiences’ attention by sharing insightful thoughts, experiences and information via blogs.

What’s most important to note at this point? That your blogs are insightful. It’s the only way to make your mark in the digital world and garner the right kind of attention. So, I’ve put together some questions you might like to consider next time you sit down to write your masterpiece:

  • What’s your key message and how will you make sure it remains the main thread of discussion in your blog?
  • Is the topic or issue you’re going to address relevant to your audience? Why will they be interested in reading about it?
  • How can you throw in elements of interest, insight and excitement to engage your reader without drawing away from your main message?Has someone else in your industry already blogged on exactly the same topic? If so, how can you provide a different point of view on the issue.

When it comes down to it, you need to understand what will strike a chord with stakeholders to get you the exposure you need to build your profile in a strategic way.  The possibilities aren’t endless, but they are ever changing so it’s important to draw on both traditional and new media strategies to make the most of communication in today’s digital age. Just make sure you arm yourself with the right amount of resources and the right skills to do the job…. and don’t forget what you want to achieve with each ‘story’ you share, whether via a blog, press release, webinar or LinkedIn discussion thread. That’s the key to great stakeholder communication, today.