From Zoom to Facetime, we have all learnt new ways to communicate – and do business – in 2020. This digital fluency has also become a lifeline for businesses connecting with their customers and partners in an increasingly remote environment. And this is likely to continue into 2021.
As a result, the remit of PR and marketing has dramatically shifted – with agencies competing to find new ways for their clients to stand out online. To achieve this, businesses are creating innovative content and interactive programs aimed at revolutionising digital interactions, reaching new audiences, and driving more sales.
But how does this actually work in practice? Ellen Widdup of Prominent PR explores.
Start at the beginning
Most businesses have a digital presence of some sort. This could be a website, a social media profile or a listing on a search engine or online directory. But in the last year, having these – and using them properly – has become key. If you don’t have a website, get one. If you don’t understand social media management – pass it over to someone who does. And if you are not creating content, you need to get started.
In order for your online shopfront to be as powerful as possible, you need to be regularly updating your website and social media channels with your latest offers and new products. You also need to keep on top of SEO by blogging or adding to your news pages to ensure that your business ranks well in search engines. This is not only important for technical purposes, but also to keep audiences and customers engaged with your business.
Get your staff on board
Most good business owners understand that their biggest asset is the people who work for them. Happy staff make for happy customers.
Many companies are prioritising internal communications as part of their wider PR strategy this year. This will involve businesses improving the way they pass on information to their stakeholders – whether through regular team meetings, email exchanges, staff newsletters or simply sharing success stories with the people on the ground.
As uncertainty persists, being transparent about the state of business with employees, stakeholders, and customers is crucial. For this reason, creating strong PR networks are going to be vital during this time.
Repurpose your PR
Most businesses would have had to completely scrap any 2020 PR campaigns and instead focus on adapting to new ways of communicating with customers. This way well have meant emptying the PR diary completely.
But although starting from scratch can be refreshing, there are steps you can take to adapt long-standing ways of working. For example, many PR teams will have discovered the previously overlooked benefits of live video events now that traditional business conferences can no longer go ahead.
What else can you do differently?
Online content that successfully added value to consumers’ lives in 2020 included online classes, webinars, e-newsletters, video tutorials and informative blogs. But we have also seen the popularity of podcasts skyrocket, something that may well continue in 2021. Regardless of industry or size, podcasts can help position companies as thought leaders whilst boosting brand awareness and purchase intent.
On top of this, there has been a real push towards the value of influencer marketing. Since social distancing restrictions began, consumers are spending more time engaging with social media platforms and seeing more influencer content as a result. In 2021, PR firms are likely to solidify influencer marketing strategies as a golden ticket approach to engage audiences digitally and bolster sales.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there are lots of people who had no PR support in place when the global pandemic hit this year. PR professionals do not just help businesses celebrate good news – they are also there in the event of a crisis. Having experts on hand to help you draft statements, manage fallout, and generally protect your reputation, often makes an ongoing retainer with an agency well worth it.
One thing that hasn’t changed when it comes to PR trends is the desire for brands to demonstrate innovation. Big ideas that drive media attention will certainly get you attention. But if your budget is smaller, there are still many ways you can make a difference – the key is ensuring that you’re agile and open to new opportunities. Look for simple but effective ways to bridge the virtual and physical gap and keep your customers engaged.
About the Author
Ellen Widdup is Editorial Director at Prominent PR, a multi-award-winning PR consultancy, brand and reputation management agency that delivers dynamic, creative and strategic solutions across all sectors.