REPORTER: HOW TO BRAND IN A DIGITAL AGE

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A couple of decades ago, the word media meant newspapers, television, and magazines.  Then came the Internet and the meaning evolved. News organizations started experimenting with websites and creating online content. Soon after, the emergence of online social channels such as Facebook and Twitter added another layer to the definition. Almost instantly, media became interactive.  A brand or business can bypass newspapers and television stations and connect directly with their consumers. Finding ways to connect with those consumers became the new job of public relations professionals. Public relations as an industry had to evolve with the media to maximize a message’s reach in an ever-changing digital world. Reporters have had to fight for news time and the interest of their audience, which has had its own repercussions.

Today, media collectively means all communication outlets or tools used to deliver and disseminate information. While this still includes the traditional outlets like newspapers and television stations, each day it seems the definition grows and expands to include a new tool or avenue as technology advances.

Branding

New digital targets for the brand

In the digital world, public relations professionals have to stay abreast of these changes. That means thinking outside of the confines of traditional media outlets and seeking out new, creative ways to propagate a message. Nowadays, bloggers and, more recently, social media influencers have become a target for brands looking to reach their ideal audience online. The burden of identifying and connecting with those digital influencers once again falls on the shoulders of public relations specialists representing those brands.

Branding

While bloggers and social media influencers can be great at helping raise awareness of a business or brand, these digital “journalists” or public figures operate differently than your mainstream media. The field of perspective digital influencers grows exponentially every day and public relations professionals must be able to sift through the digital clutter to figure out which influencers will have the most impact.
Beyond that, many in this online influencer community expect compensation in return for any exposure given to a product or business. Your approach as a public relations specialist when pitching to these influencers will differ greatly from the approach you take when pitching a client or brand to a traditional media outlet. Still, these niche channels shouldn’t be overlooked simply because the publicity isn’t free.

Why PR pros shouldn’t ignore social media influencers and bloggers

  • Content Creation: Bloggers and social media influencers essentially create content for you. That content gets your message out to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of unique followers and readers. Whether it is a business review, a company recommendation, or a brand ambassadorship, these digital influencers are taking on much of the work by producing the written content and publicizing it on their social media channels.
  • Engaged audience. Another benefit to working with these online channels is that they come with a built in audience that is specifically interested in what they are sharing. While traditional media outlets might have a larger overall reach, these digital media creators reach a targeted audience… an audience that may be more interested in your client’s brand or services. And their readers trust their opinions. In a study conducted by Nielsen, surveyors found more than 90 percent of people trusted peer recommendations more than advertisements.
  • Backlinks: Bloggers can be an important aspect to search engine optimization, especially for companies that are just starting out and still trying to establish and grow their digital platform. Any blog or website that mentions your client’s company or brand in a sponsored post will likely link back to the client’s website. Those backlinks will ultimately help that business to rank higher in search engines, allowing potential customers to find your client’s products or services easier.

Although new forms of online publicity can help businesses expand their presence in their respective market, traditional forms of media aren’t going away either. As a society, we’ve never been more connected than we are now. There are increasingly more ways to build your brand as digital media evolves, but doing so however, takes determination to evolve with it.

By Melissa Newton-Smuzynski

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