What Every PR Practitioner Needs to Know About Digital Marketing

Coming from a traditional PR background, I used to think PR and Marketing would forever be separate entities, but not anymore. As the rise of the Internet has disrupted the way we connect and live, consumers today are far more empowered and well-informed, discovering brands even before they reach the shelves. In turn, clients are increasingly expecting agencies to deliver integrated communications strategies that cover both marketing and PR. So how can we evolve with the times and ensure we’re delivering effective solutions?

A session from General Assembly (an education organisation that focuses on data and digital-related courses) opened my eyes to how PR and digital marketing are not only complementary, but are both essential in growing brands’ online presence and connecting with consumers.

Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies (e.g. the Internet, mobile phones and any other digital medium). It can seem like a daunting task to incorporate digital into your marketing and communications strategy for the first time but it’s where we are all spending most of our time watching and listening, which has an impact on our consumption choices. So rather than avoiding it, here are my three key takeaways on what every PR practitioner needs to know:

1. Get your basics right: Understand the (digital) consumer journey and define what to achieve at each stage

a) Awareness: be discoverable online. The consumer considers an initial set of brands based on perceptions and exposure to recent touch points. Get your owned channels (website and/or social media platforms) up and running, supported by SEO (search engine optimisation is about getting the right keywords to increase your visibility on search engines – like Google). All these require a strong story and content to create assets and set the ball rolling.

b) Consideration: influence the consideration. This is where a consumer starts gathering and evaluating what they want. Earned media influence – such as media or influencer reviews (via press coverage, blogposts, social media posts, etc.) – is critical. If budget allows, paid ads help increase exposure of your brand to your target audience. While paid ads usually fall outside the realm of PR, effective brand storytelling plays a part in making ads engaging too.

c) Preference and purchase: close the deal. Ultimately, the consumer chooses to show favour to a brand at moment of purchase. Ensure there’s a link at this point to a strong e-commerce platform or point-of-sale to support the purchase.

d) Loyalty and advocacy: sharing positive experiences attracts new consumers. The consumer builds expectations based on the purchase experience, which will inform their next decision process. So how do you keep the relationship going? Now that 1-1 relationship has been established, you could continue engaging with your consumer through email marketing, for example, giving them first dibs on deals or access to exclusive offers or events. Building a community of loyal advocates is also important because they become your mouthpiece and generate more talkability.

2. Choose the right channels and context

In digital marketing, we tend to think of ‘channels’ first. From SEO to social media to display ads (ads you see on websites) and blogs, there are a myriad of things we can do. But context matters too. To help set the context right, you’ll need to have the fundamentals defined properly:

  • Who your target audience are: demographics, lifestyle and behaviour
  • What your objectives are: awareness, engagement, sales (make it as specific as possible)
  • How you measure success: metrics will depend on objectives and channels used

3. Make storytelling an integral part of your content

At the heart of an effective digital marketing strategy sits content. And storytelling helps craft good content. Whether you’re writing a blogpost for your website or LinkedIn Page, a caption for Instagram or an emailer to your regular repeat consumer, engaging content is key.

At MullenLowe salt, we’re passionate about driving positive change through communications. We work with clients to unearth their brand truth and authentic stories to connect emotionally with consumers.

Great content can come in different formats and lengths and across channels – such as infographics, blogs, videos and newsletters etc. We have created video content to drive awareness around recycling through the eyes of the Karang Guni, collaborated with influencers to prove that being bold helps young people win the dating game as well as helped brands develop social media strategy and global content creation and management.

As the lines between communications and marketing continue to blur, it’s time to consider how we can marry these two disciplines to drive greater awareness and deeper, more effective engagement, driving both value for brands and for their consumers.