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Unlocking the Power of Digital PR: Strategies for Success Part 1

As with many aspects of marketing, the PR landscape has changed significantly in recent years. If you’re familiar with our approach here at Smoking Gun, you’ll know that we favour the disruptive, immersive approach to brand awareness. We believe in going big, making bold moves, delivering assertive statements and moving in daring directions. As such, we’ve been at the forefront of the digital PR movement for several years now. 

But where this was once a ‘nice to have’ reserved for businesses brave enough to do something different, it’s now essential for growing brands looking to maintain a positive presence online. 

New to digital PR? Not sure what it is, how it works or (let’s be honest) whether it’s worth spending money on? In this two-part guide we’ll cover all essential aspects of digital PR, including:

Understanding digital PR – What the heck is it, what does it involve, and how can harnessing the power of digital PR support your business growth?

Online reputation management – Including preventative and protective strategies to help you maximise the good stuff (and minimise the not-so-good) 

Building media relationships – Discover the art of nurturing relationships with journalists, influencers and key opinion leaders in the digital sphere as cost-effectively as possible. 

Leveraging social media platforms – Ensure that your social media presence reflects a positive public image for your brand. 

Harnessing the power of digital storytelling – Bringing this all-important aspect of PR into the digital space, we’ll share tools and techniques to help you engage and attract customers through the art of storytelling. 

Measuring digital PR success – Powerful techniques to enable you to clearly assess how your digital PR efforts are performing and optimise accordingly.

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started. 

Understanding digital PR

What is digital PR and how does it differ from traditional PR?

In its simplest sense you could say digital PR is an online version of traditional PR as it involves engaging publications, journalists, bloggers and influencers who operate online. The aim is to introduce your brand to these highly followed channels to increase awareness and secure impactful media coverage and mentions. 

Where it differs is the speed at which content is published online, and how anyone, at any time, can become a publisher simply by leaving a review or commenting on a post.

Digital PR needs to monitor these nuanced customer interactions, quickly head off the negative messages, and amplify the positive.

Therefore, most channels that enable you to promote your business online (including content marketing, influencer partnerships, SEO, reputation management and social media engagement) fall under the umbrella of digital PR.

Ultimately, digital PR specialists create great stories that the media, influencers, and customers want to share. 

Why is digital PR essential for businesses in the digital age?

Much of what we do day-to-day is taken care of via a digital device or platform, from booking a doctor’s appointment or organising a trip abroad to ordering groceries and arranging repeat prescriptions. This means interaction with brands and businesses tends to be predominantly digital. This opens up a whole new space for consumers to discover and interact with your business. 

This is good news, because it provides more opportunities for you to get your business in front of your target audiences. 

But it can also pose a significant challenge, because poorly managed digital PR can spell disaster for companies who fail to recognise its importance and can necessitate an entire clean-up operation before any positive results can be achieved. 

That’s partly why digital PR is complex – it’s easy to get it wrong without professional support, as it encompasses many different elements of your company’s online presence. 

Although offline advertising and PR is still important, companies can quickly find themselves suffering slow sales and being left behind by competitors when they neglect the digital element of their PR strategy. 

What are the key goals and objectives of a digital PR strategy?

Like any PR strategy, each company’s goals and objectives will be unique based on the nature of your business and your target audience. But overall, the common key goals of digital PR include:

  • Increasing online visibility and brand awareness, and in turn, increasing revenue (obvious, but important)
  • Enhancing audience engagement 
  • Securing more and better quality media coverage 
  • Building lucrative partnerships with brands, public figures and influencers
  • Enhancing reputation
  • Lead generation and increased revenue/ROI 

How does digital PR fit into your business’ broader marketing and branding efforts?

Digital PR has many standalone benefits – but it also lends itself perfectly to working in conjunction with your company’s broader branding and marketing efforts. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that it should be an essential aspect of your wider marketing strategy. 

As you can see from the list above, there’s plenty of crossover between digital PR and general digital marketing. Digital PR feeds into and complements other aspects of your broader promotional efforts. For best results, it should be taken care of in conjunction with other marketing strategies rather than being managed in isolation. 

Online Reputation Management

You may have already heard of online reputation management (often known as ORM for short). It’s actually a specialist skill in itself which involves monitoring and managing the online perception of a company, brand or even an individual. 

There are usually several scenarios in which companies actively seek support with online reputation management:

  • They realise they have negative reviews impacting overall public perception of their products or services.
  • A recent event or statement has resulted in bad press which is dominating public perception. 
  • A company has rebranded or been through a recent M&A and needs to polish up its public profile.

In short, bad public perception is harming sales and business operations.

When this happens it can mean a long and complex rescue mission is needed to put things right – which is why adopting a preventative, holistic approach to ORM as part of your wider digital PR strategy is key. 

Your online reputation really is a crucial aspect of how you connect and engage with your target audience, and in most cases, it requires specialist attention to maintain a positive impression. 

These statistics on buyer behaviours illustrate just how important it is to pay attention to your company’s public image:

  • 95% of consumers look up a company online first before buying, even if they’ll be interacting with them offline.
  • 93% of users make buying decisions based on online reviews.
  • A 2023 survey revealed 94% of consumers avoided a company based on bad reviews or reputation, whilst 91% said they would not engage with a company with an average of 1-2 stars.

How can digital PR help monitor and manage online reputation?

So the bad news is a mismanaged or neglected online reputation can do your business serious harm. The good news? Effective digital PR strategies actively drive customers to buy. 

OMR can be tricky, though, and does throw up some challenges. If you respond to a review in the wrong way, let negative feedback pile up or neglect positive reviews, you’re doing Online Reputation Management wrong. 

Common risks and challenges can range from negative reviews and feedback, deliberate attacks on your reputation, social media crises involving viral content which paints your brand in a bad light, or data breaches. 

What tools and techniques can be used for online reputation tracking?

As is the case with most aspects of digital PR, online reputation management looks slightly different for every company depending on their unique situation and concerns. But there are some commonly employed tools and techniques to be aware of:

  • Reputation and review trackers (to help you monitor and collect reviews and review data from multiple sources)
  • Sentiment listening & analysis
  • Social media monitoring
  • Customer feedback
  • SEO tools including SEMRush and Google Analytics (these can monitor user activity on your site or online platforms, helping you to understand customer experiences and journeys better and shape them accordingly)

Most Online Reputation Management requires a combination of analytical tools, surveys and data collection, with a unique blend applied to each business. The number of tools used and their nature vary greatly and depend on your specific situation. 

How can positive online reviews and testimonials be leveraged for PR purposes?

Gathering glowing reviews is a key consideration for most businesses because they are a gift that keeps giving. 

Besides the positive impression a review creates, testimonials can be shared across other platforms to increase brand engagement and awareness. 

And ultimately, they help generate revenue by providing social proof on your social media content and advertising campaigns (we’ll cover this in more detail in Part 2).  

The issue most companies face is that consumers tend to be almost equally motivated to leave a review when their experience was negative as they are when they had a positive experience. In a survey of common reasons to leave reviews, 56% said they would leave a review in the case of an excellent product or service, with 41% leaving a review in the case of an unsatisfactory product or service. 

Again, this illustrates the importance of maximising those positive reviews and generating as many as possible. But of course you also need to proactively address any negative reviews you receive in a timely manner. 

Another concern for businesses is finding strategies to encourage a steady stream of positive reviews when consumers are frequently bombarded with review requests from every brand they interact with. 

Have you ever been hounded by ‘leave us a review!’ emails almost immediately after you purchased a product? Annoying, isn’t it?  But there are many creative and innovative ways to encourage reviews that your digital PR or ORM team can put in place for you. 

Ideally, you want a sustainable long-term Online Reputation Management strategy for your business, which continually feeds into your digital PR efforts.

That brings us to the end of Part 1 on the foundations of digital PR. In Part 2 we delve into the other key areas of digital PR you need to be aware of – with practical tips and advice on how to implement them effectively within your business. 

Want expert PR advice and support tailored to your business? Get in touch with our award-winning team.

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