Let’s pretend that we’re taking a time machine back to 1999, just before Y2K (if you can remember that far). If you’re younger, think back to your earliest memory of the Internet. Could you imagine that the world that you’re seeing today is what your ‘every day’ was back then? To further freak yourself out, hand your smartphone to a toddler (one who you trust very well, of course)—you’d be surprised to see these tiny humans handle their mobile devices better than any adult.
When you take a step back and notice (really notice) the technological changes to the world around you, you’ll feel blown away. But you know what will blow you away even more?
The fact that some things in PR haven’t really changed at all. Behind our computer screens, we’re all still human beings. Even though we have access to new digital communication channels, we still have a lot that we need to figure out.
What is the best way to build distribution and market to new audiences? What is the role that PR should play? How should companies communicate with journalists? Are publicists obsolete?
These questions run rampant among the marketing world today, and the truth is that there is no “right” answer. The world of digital media communication is changing too quickly for “rules” to catch up. Sometimes, the most efficient path forward is to focus on the basics. Here are 3 timeless, priceless concepts to keep in mind as you build out your PR strategy for 2016.
Pay Careful Attention to Micro-Touch Points
What is the first thing you think about when designing your PR pitch? It’s probably your brand story. What image are you putting out into the world and why? What is your core messaging? What do you care about most as a company?
All of these details matter, and most likely, you’ve done an amazing job forming a cohesive narrative. But unfortunately, you’re facing stiff competition: publicists, PR pros, and marketers are all competing for the same audience attention spans. Just take a look at this report, which says that as of 2014, publicists outnumbered journalists 5 to 1—a jump from 3 to 1 from back in 2004.
Given this digital communication context, one thing is clear: marketers need to know their audiences and keep every touch point in mind. Make every interaction count by including as much information as possible in key places. Jargon aside, you basically need to create a super-checkbox for your outreach campaigns (i.e. if you’re sending cold-emails or corresponding with a journalist). Here’s a basic one to help you get started.
- Make sure that you have a meaty, information-rich headline in your communication (‘checking in’ or headlines that read like all the others out there won’t cut it).
- Keep your outreach emails scannable and easy to read.
- Make sure that all logistical details are available and easy to access (i.e. that your readers don’t have to hunt you down for names and information about interviewees).
- Ensure that your pitch is always about your customer. Have a few friends or industry contacts proofread your messages for any tone or statement that might come across as salesy.
Here are some resources to help you get started with the steps above:
- This Q&A on PR Pet Peeves from Onboardly
- 33 Easy Ways to Write a Headline that Will Make You Successful from Coschedule
- How to Write Good Headlines [INFOGRAPHIC] from HubSpot
Prioritize Your UX as Much As Your Messaging
Equally important to your messaging is the context in which you deliver it. That’s why, when planning out your content, you need to give equal attention to your UX. What type of screen will your audience be using to digest your messages? How can you deliver a clear and effective value proposition that helps you reach and engage your widest possible audience? The following tips can help:
- Read user research data to understand current user behavior across devices. The Nielsen Norman Group is a great place to start: you can find thousands of analyses and reports that are available for purchase, a la carte.
- Understand the UX principles that carry the greatest impact for hooking readers with content marketing. There’s a great article from ContentMarketer.io here, which breaks down several high-level UX tips to keep in mind when creating content.
- Figure out how content translates to different screen sizes and experiences. After all, you want to eliminate all redundant operations and make sure that you’re not duplicating efforts (or creating content twice). This article from The Content Strategist offers some great pointers on ‘bringing content down to mobile sizes.’
As great as your content and messaging are, they’re secondary to the needs of your readers. There’s a whole backstory that comes with why they’re reading your content in the first place: maybe they’ve been looking to solve a problem for a while, or maybe they came across your writing (and resonated with it).
This perspective will help you assess whether and how your audiences are interacting with your content from multiple devices. Find creative ways to maintain a connection, and the right mobile responsive UX will fall into place.
Focus on Building Deeper, Longer Term Relationships with Your Audience
Changes in media tend to come and go in cycles. What’s popular now may change in a heartbeat: trends are fleeting based on too many variables to track. The one thing that you can hold constant, however, are the powerful human relationships that you’re building both offline and in person.
Digital media is continuously opening new doors for people to interact and connect online. Just take a look at how social media has diversified within the last few years: audiences can pick and choose their favorite content consumption patterns from Facebook to Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, email, YouTube, and even blogging.
Audiences are in charge of their own communication.
That’s why it pays to build relationships rather than noise. Get to know the person on the other side of the computer screen: understand his or her personality. This empathetic process will guarantee that you’re always listening and uncovering new ways to add value.
Here are some resources with step-by-step pointers:
- This article about how to build online relationships into meaningful networks by entrepreneur and VC Mark Suster
- This article about setting up PR systems for success. With so many low-hanging benchmarks and immediate-term milestones, it can be tough to lose sight of the bigger picture. You’ll be stuck in endless systems instead of learning: a key still that you need to continue to build long-term relationships. To free up your brain-power, check out this resource with systems and processes. Focus on opportunities to learn about and build connections with the people on the other side of the computer screen.
In a world where communication is changing at lightning speed, the basics count more than ever. When looking for tools, technologies, and software, look for resources that can support you and help make your processes smarter. Let’s find ways to make things simpler.