By David Norcross, Managing Director of Lexicon
As a catch-all term, Digital Marketing encapsulates everything from achieving top ranks on Google to influencing opinion on Instagram; and from garnering positive reviews on Panthip to generating sales through Facebook.
A lesser-known subset of digital marketing, Digital PR turns its focus away from ROI, serving instead to build brand awareness, buzz, backlinks, web traffic, or any other clearly-defined objective related to reputation-building. Digital PR generally avoids pushing for direct sales, as it is designed primarily for the long game – essentially positioning itself as the ideal strategy for companies looking to be seen as thought leaders in their industry.
Thought leadership means that when audiences think of a particular product or service, they immediately associate your company with expertise in that field. If you think of an electric car company, chances are you’re thinking of Tesla – even though since its inception, the company has never paid for a single advertisement. Such a triumphant marketing achievement can be worth far more over time than a campaign focused on driving short-term sales.
Convergence of old and new
Press releases have long been a part of companies’ marketing playbook, taking advantage of publishers’ perpetual search for usable material that can quickly be turned around into quality content.
The modern press release, however, has evolved – and not just to incorporate hyperlinks and SEO-friendly terms into the most quotable portions of the text. Publications and other types of businesses alike now have identical interests and motivations in support of the growth of their brands: To become part of the public conversation (in a good way). As today’s culture is largely determined by trends on the internet, this alignment of incentives opens the door to profitable partnerships between businesses and online content providers.
The fruits of such partnerships can take many forms. Buzzfeed-style ‘listicles’ generate huge traffic and are easy to produce. Many online magazines would jump at the chance to publish a piece with a title like, “8 Reasons Why Your Company Needs to Adopt Digital PR Now”, if it were pitched well.
But Digital PR has the potential to go far beyond advertorials, and into the world of viral content. Heineken’s ‘Open Your Mind, Open Your World’ ad and Burger King’s anti-bullying PSA received invaluable free publicity from newspapers and magazines around the world covering the story, not to mention extra amplification from social media users who shared the content. That latter phenomenon of social media sharing is particularly important, as potential consumers then see the content endorsed by somebody they know and trust, rather than a faceless corporation or a publication they may not be familiar with.
How to create a unicorn
Online audiences value interesting and original content – and demonstrate their gratitude with likes and shares – but few people outside of the marketing world appreciate how much thought and care needs to go into the creative process in order to make these moments happen.
The process begins with companies reorienting their marketing budget away from a model that focuses purely on ad spend, and towards one that also invests in storytelling. Putting in the time initially to develop a clearly articulated content strategy ensures that your marketing department operates to a shared, distinct vision. In short: What looks to audiences like a simple video or irreverent cartoon, is almost invariably the end result of a highly intricate process.
Only after these steps are complete can the content creation itself actually begin. The first wave of content can be shared and amplified through your own social media channels. The beauty of social media is that you own the means of production and have a direct line to the eyeballs of your ideal customer.
Once you’re getting traction with your Digital PR efforts on the media you own, it’s time to turn to third party sources. Pitches and other outreach efforts, aimed at publications and other top influencers, can net you maximum exposure if done correctly.
Not every effort is guaranteed to go viral, but by engaging a company’s target audience with compelling content, Digital PR offers the best opportunity for businesses to demonstrate brand personality in a way that people can relate to. The right product and pitch produce the potential to be picked up by publications, building awareness, credibility and goodwill among your current and future audience.