The Changing Face of PR: Why PR has never been more important for business

Public Relations: the professional maintenance of a favourable public image

Media Relations: the relationship developed with journalists / publications

PR and Media Relations have long been intertwined; one leaning on the other to impact the masses with meaningful messages that resonate with the public.  However, as the media landscape has altered, so too has the role of PR.
As the lines between advertising and editorial content in traditional media blur, so does editorial integrity suffer.  PR can therefore no longer afford to be confined to media relations alone; the traditional, coverage-generating, ‘production line’.  Instead, PR is at its best when focussing on the exciting and demanding space between an organisation and its public: Listening. Responding. Engaging. Debating. Agreeing. Disagreeing.

The evolution of the digital age has also been a major contributing factor to this changing face of PR. With worldwide, 24/7 access, available through a multitude of digital devices, the ability to consume information has never been so easy.  We’re no longer limited to daily newspapers to read the latest news; we’re bombarded by snippets of news from multiple sources, from the minute we awake to the minute we lay our head down to sleep.  In fact, only last June, Ofcom reported online media consumption had, for the first time, overtaken that of traditional print consumption.  The growth of social media and consumer journalism (blogging, vlogging) have been huge propellants to this ever-changing landscape, and PR has never been more important in this digital media age!

*2014 Survey of 4000 Consumers in UK and US

What does this mean for business?

PR is now at the epicentre of a brand’s marketing ecosystem; it’s the discipline that most closely aligns with creating and maintaining dialogue and conversation with the public.

As we touched on in our post Creating Conversation - the role of PR has become more than pitching news, it’s about generating communication that influences brand perception and awareness. To do this effectively, PR needs to be authentic, distinctive and engaging. 

We're entering an age of savvy consumers and 'truth-telling' is key.  PR is, without doubt, in the best position to strengthen the bonds between consumer and brand.  

How? Through the very pillars of PR: by creating compelling and creative content and making stories contagious, through the utilisation of the PR mix: social media, traditional media (print, radio, TV), digital media and bloggers.

If you would like to find out more about how your business can successfully integrate the PR mix into its marketing strategy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lil’ Spin:

t. +44 (0) 330 223 1409

PR: Creating Conversation

Businesses have long been guilty of relying on the somewhat antiquated product PR model to attract consumers.  It’s time to step-up the game! 

PR is more than simply pitching product news; it’s about generating communication that influences brand perception and awareness.

To be a successful business, it’s necessary to review your PR stance; you can no longer place all the emphasis on product to attain consumer loyalty, it’s about creating an emotional connection with your consumer.

We live in an age dominated by sophisticated consumers that seek more than mere product.  To succeed in this marketplace, the need exists for a business to act as a conduit through which ideas flow.  It’s about creating conversation.

While products still remain at the heart of the ‘conversation’, they do not and most certainly should not, form the basis of the PR effort.

It’s about leveraging the power of integrated media to conduct the conversation.  Such communication initiatives should not be seen as a side effect of the PR effort, but should be assumed the very point of them.

Public Relations provides the means to encourage dialogue, form opinion, and spur change.  Used well it should also act to defy the oft’ faceless company doing random deeds just to ‘look good’.  It’s all about forming genuine emotional connections, on a human level, to create a more authentic brand with a high level of consumer loyalty and commitment.

By becoming a conduit for communication about bigger messages, businesses can heighten the aspirations of their consumers.  When a business acts in its customers’ emotional interests, it builds a far stronger and more resilient business.

The key is honesty.  The conversation must relate specifically to your company and come from within.  A manufactured cause won’t work.  If you’re able to identify ideas and issues that are true to the business and its founders, they’ll be real to your consumers too; you’ll find common ground and the interactions that follow will become powerful tools to secure your brand’s market position and longevity.

Brands such as Dove successfully tapped into a core section of their market, with a message not about deodorant or soap, but a drive on positive body image, the 'Self Esteem Project'.  It’s something their target market could associate with and discuss.   It was the conversation starter; the conduit. The campaign has since driven much interaction between consumer and brand, and thus generated an alliance that is far stronger than a product alone could ever achieve.

PR done well can’t be measured purely on the number of press clippings, but are best represented by the opportunities provided to converse with your consumer.

It can be all too easy to become reliant on new products to aid the PR initiative but it’s becoming increasingly necessary to develop this, and ensure that the product is the secondary focus.

Facebook: Hello New Year, Goodbye Organic Reach!

Facebook algorithms have been playing havoc with the proverbial ‘organic’ reach (unpaid) of brand page posts for quite some time.  Until now, a typical Facebook page might enjoy an organic reach of up to 16% of their total fan base, with reports suggesting this to be as low as 2% in some cases.  This organic reach is ultimately governed by the quality of posts, according to preordained algorithms at play; like counts, story bumping, etc.
Last year, Facebook announced another substantial change which is being implemented this month (January 2015), one which will see the demise of organic reach almost in its entirety. This latest change will influence the kind of content fans and followers will see from the brands they follow.  It is set to have wide reaching impact, especially amongst smaller businesses which have traditionally relied upon organic posts to drive their business.  Even Dan Levy, Facebook’s Small Business Vice President, is quoted as having ‘a lot of empathy’ for business owners negatively affected by this change.
What’s behind the change? 
In their November 2014 statement, Facebook said they had surveyed thousands of people to find out what they want to see in their News Feeds. Facebook learned that people want to see more stories from friends and pages they care about, and less promotional content.
What qualifies as a post that is ‘too promotional’?
According to Facebook, it’s one of the following three things:
1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
The new algorithm will determine the posts seen by users based upon trending topics, as well as the time and rate when people like or comment on posts:
Trending Topics – Facebook currently displays a list of topics and hashtags that have recently spiked in popularity on Facebook aka 'trending'. This list is personalised based on a number of factors, including Pages you've liked, your location and what's trending across Facebook.  
Timing – Rather than simply relying on the ‘like count’ of a post, Facebook now considers when people ‘liked’ and commented to determine whether to show the post at the top of the news feed.
How will this affect Facebook Advertisers?
This change will not increase the number of ads people see in their news feeds. The idea is to increase the relevance and quality of the overall stories – including page posts – people see in their news feeds.
Businesses with Facebook advertising campaigns in place that enable them to expand reach won’t be greatly affected.  However, companies that rely heavily on organic posts to increase their reach may wish to reconsider their advertising strategy, as Return on Investment (ROI) of this approach may become insufficient to justify the time required to succeed in Facebook marketing.  This represents a serious issue, especially if Facebook is one of your main sources of online sales.  
Surviving the Change
According to Facebook, you should stick to posting strong content that’s relevant to your audience - not try to ‘game’ the news feed algorithm.  
  • Posts that generate lots of likes and/or comments
  • Experiment and evaluate the types of posts your users prefer e.g. photos, videos, or status updates
  • Posts that reference a trending topic 
  • Link posts
  • Videos uploaded to Facebook that receive a large number of views or extended viewing duration
  • Posts that tag other pages within the text
  • Posts that are liked or commented on by one’s friends
  • Posts from pages that one interacts with often
  • Post types that one interacts with often
  • Posts from pages with complete profile information
  • Posts from pages where the fan base overlaps with the fan base of other known high-quality pages
  • Images and videos that have not previously appeared in the Open Graph
  • Links that have not been posted before

  • Clickbait – Content which drives attention and draws visitors to a particular web page. A couple of ways Facebook determines clickbait include: If a user clicks through to a link and then comes straight back to Facebook.  If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like or comment on the story when they return to Facebook
  • Frequently circulated content and repeated posts
  • Like-baiting - Posts explicitly asking users to take an action on the post like commenting, sharing, or liking. These posts tend to get greater engagement but Facebook users don’t associate these posts with quality.
  • Posts that include spammy links
  • Text-only status updates from pages
  • Posts that are frequently hidden or reported (a sign of low quality)
  • Posts that contain the words ‘like’, ‘comment’, or ‘share’
  • Posts with unusual engagement patterns (a like-baiting signal)
  • Posts that receive negative feedback categorises as ‘meme content’
  • Posts that are classified as memes by Facebook’s visual analysis of overlayed text on image
  • Passive fans of a particular Facebook page may see that page’s posts bundled together in the News Feed, such that the user would need to click a link to see more from the page.
  • Overly promotional content from pages - pushing people to buy an app or service, pushing people to enter a contest or sweepstakes, posts that reuse the same text from ads

The Alternatives
Here are some suggestions of alternative marketing tools you can utilise to stay engaged with your Facebook audience.
Email Marketing – Email Marketing remains one of the most successful forms of organic marketing for businesses. Ideally you have been action-gating (campaigns requiring users to share specific information) to collect email addresses from people who have entered your promotions. If you haven’t tried action-gating to build an email list, don’t waste time!
Host promotions, giveaways and other campaigns on your website – Unlike Facebook where you’re effectively borrowing space on their site, your website is your own, an asset unique to your brand.  The good news is that it’s pretty simple to host the kinds of campaign that you may have been hosting on Facebook, through your website or blog by using software that lets you embed the campaigns. 
Explore other social networks - If your business has been reliant on Facebook and you've been dragging your feet about establishing a presence elsewhere, 2015 is the year to expand your horizons.  Social media platforms such as Pinterest & Instagram have experienced rapid growth in popularity, not forgetting Twitter of course. Do your research, and discover where your customers are spending their time.  Make sure you have a strategy for each network and you aren’t just spreading the same message around. Your audience will be more likely to follow you in different places, which means you have a better chance of catching their attention, if you provide value everywhere.
Keep on top of traditional PR methods – Media Releases, Blogger Outreach, InBlog Posts, etc. 
Advertise - If you've advertising budgets available and consider Facebook a vital part of your marketing strategy, it would be well worth considering assigning a portion of this to advertising through Facebook.  
How do you feel about these latest algorithm changes? Do you think Facebook has made the right choice?