New PR Approaches for Outbound Communications Strategies

It’s time to rethink public relations.

PR is in a state of flux. Advances in technology have contributed to the rise of social and digital media, which are fundamentally changing the way businesses communicate with customers, prospects, investors and the media. For the public relations professional, doing “business as usual” in today’s digital age isn’t effective. As the storytellers of the business, public relations professionals must take advantage of these new communication channels to get their client’s stories into the marketplace and stimulate audiences’ appetite to learn more.

Regardless of how the environment is changing, public relations remains critical in influencing audiences to shape public opinion and behavior. Audiences are expanding, fragmenting and becoming more varied. This makes it even more important for public relations to not only maintain its effectiveness, but become even more so to ensure clients’ messages are received by relevant audiences who are poised to act. Public relations professionals today need to consider whether their strategies can help clients reach this larger, more diverse audience. In this article we share insights into adaptations you can make in how you develop and execute your clients’ communications strategies to better help them attain their goals.

Frequency of communication is important for brand awareness

The concept of content marketing is not new. An effective content marketing plan will attract and retain customers by consistently creating and disseminating relevant and valuable content. It’s an ongoing process designed to engage audiences and make them more intelligent, not sell to them or pitch a product. The intended outcome is that they will reward you with their business and loyalty. Consider incorporating the principals of content marketing into your PR strategies to achieve wider distribution of your content and maximize its exposure. When strategizing to maximize distribution of outbound communications, it’s important to think about frequency. Most PR professionals agree that it’s imperative to establish a steady cadence of news releases. Not only is this principal foundational to a sound content marketing strategy, but it’s a basic tenet of good PR. If you don’t maintain a steady presence for your client, they will get lost in the avalanche of content available on the web.

While PR professionals want a steady stream of communications out the door, many clients object. The primary objection is they feel they have nothing newsworthy to announce. This is an opportunity to change thinking. PR is no longer limited to releases about new executive hires, new product launches or earnings releases. As an advisor to your clients, you can help them evolve from the “press release,” which is typically targeted at the media, to the “news release,” which includes new topics, distributed via multiple channels such as the wire, to reach new audiences.

New content ideas to fill perceived gaps

  • Promote your thought-leadership content Thinking creatively, many sources of non-traditional content can be compelling and are worthy of being shared. Other types of content the PR professional can help clients make widely available to audiences include white papers, eBooks, blog posts and infographics, among others.

  • Turn an aspect of your business into an interesting news hook

  • In addition to creating new content offers, brands can mine their existing content for newsworthy angles to promote. They can also look for opportunities to generate earned media with their owned content. The ability to earn media and extend the life of owned properties is a growing trend in PR and is becoming an important success metric.

    Let’s use a survey—an owned media asset—to demonstrate how to make this happen for clients. Start by pulling out an especially interesting finding from the results and writing an engaging and visually captivating press release. The release garners extensive media coverage. In addition to media hits, the story has high email share statistics, which is an important indicator of reader value. The story further generates clicks from audiences accessing the full survey. Since search engines pay attention to stories that generate interaction, search rankings for the story will improve, thus amplifying its visibility. This scenario illustrates a PR home run in terms of earned media and search engine visbility. All from a single piece of existing owned media.

New distribution ideas to drive demand

Businesses can push content out on their own, without help from PR agencies. They can post it on their owned media properties, use paid media, and include it in outbound demand generation programs. While these methods are valuable in driving traffic, if they are the only methods businesses employ today their visibility will be severely limited.

To expand beyond current audiences, companies should consider other, non-traditional distribution channels. Wire services, for example, offer untapped ways to drive media coverage of your clients’ messages. Typically thought of as an outlet solely for the press release, wire services can play an important role in distributing news that supports content marketing objectives. Using wire services as another spoke in your distribution channel wheel should be a standard step in how you release all new content offers to the public.

Newswire services can be a very effective distribution channel because they are, by nature, structured for mass dissemination of information. The point of a release is to get your story told. Expanding your content distribution network to include wires strengthens your content marketing strategy by extending your reach to new buyers. They make your message available to prospects, customers, media and investors so they have the opportunity to act on it. Delivering consistent, ongoing messaging across all channels increases the likelihood audiences will reward you with their business.

Tips to improve reach and performance of press releases

A successful content marketing plan requires more than just maximum distribution, it also needs compelling content that audiences will want to read. Public relations professionals can help their clients’ outbound communications strategies deliver stronger results by enhancing the content they create. You can tweak format, style and substance to better leverage today’s information infrastructure.

  • Format: The easiest change to make in the short term is to format. Your piece should be visually pleasing to the reader, and easy to read on the small screens of mobile devices. It should encourage social sharing, and appeal to ‘browsers’ who tend to scan information. Use bullets and bold fonts to draw the eye to the key points you want to make, and include a visual element. Long blocks of text are no longer a good fit because of the smaller screens of mobile devices.

  • Style: Style is another element that is relatively easy to update. All content, regardless of type, should be written for today’s audiences, in the way they consume information. When creating content, write with potential sound bites in mind and make headlines tweetable. These will enable social sharing and generate earned media to amplify exposure of your message. Always encourage media shares to magnify exposure of the message among the target audience. If a piece is easily sharable, it will be forwarded, re-posted and shared on social networks.

  • Substance: Including a visual element is a must. This can be a video or image, call-to-action or call-out box. The data supporting the effectiveness of visuals is irrefutable—releases with more visual elements get more views. According to PR Newswire, a news release that includes one visual asset performs 92% better than a plain text release. A release that contains multiple visual assets performs 552% better. While those numbers are impressive, surprisingly today, only 14% of releases over the wire include a multimedia element. This points to a huge upside opportunity to increase readership of the content you share and click-throughs to your owned properties.

One of the reasons messages with multimedia elements get more views is that search engines and social network algorithms give preference to visual content. They will place releases that contain them higher in search results and news feeds. Another reason content with visuals generates better engagement with audiences is that it gets their attention and keeps them on the page longer. This is especially true in the case of video. The more time readers spend on a page, and the more engaged they are with its message, the better able the brand is to connect with them and inspire them to take important following actions. Additionally, the more time audiences spend on a web site and interact with its content, it sends a powerful and positive signal to search engines indicating that the web site content is valuable. This, too, will contribute positively to search rank.

Put your customer’s audience first: Tweaking format and style and including multimedia are “quick fixes” in the quest to enhance messaging. Changing the substance of your content requires more effort. Your content should tell a story, and be presented in the context of your audience’s business environment and challenges. Acknowledge the problems your readers want to solve and convey how you can help them.

One way to do this is by adding narrative elements to your piece. These can humanize the brand and make a more personal connection with the reader. For instance, a video clip of a customer describing a successful outcome or demonstrating how a product helped them gives the reader something tangible to relate to. Or an infographic illustrating potential savings or efficiencies that can be realized can prompt the reader to think about how those same savings or efficiencies can be applied to his or her business.

Putting this customer point of view in messaging makes your client’s brand feel accessible, interesting and relevant. If it’s compelling and engaging, it will be interesting and useful to your audience. If it provides value, readers are more likely to share, comment on, and re-post it.

Results you can expect from utilizing PR best practices

Making these changes to improve your PR sounds good in theory, but is it worth the effort? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. The biggest benefit to be realized is an increase in earned media. Earned media drives new traffic to your owned and paid for media properties, at no additional expense. Earning media—inspiring someone not associated with your brand to spread your message—is confirmation that you have created compelling content that appeals to consumers in a way that aligns with how they consume media.

Earned media is critical to marketers and PR professionals alike because it is the best way to maximize consumption of your message and grow your business. And because it adds no incremental cost, it increases your ROI. Audiences that like what they hear will be advocates of your brand and spread the word, exponentially broadening the reach of your message by mentioning you on Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels, posting a product review and opening dialogue within online communities. If you’ve optimized how you present your content, it will be easier for audiences to do so, and thus expand your client’s marketing reach.

Communicating with a known and established audience is fine if your goal is to maintain your market presence. To grow, you need to spread your message beyond your existing footprint and attract new audiences to convert into new customers.

If you incorporate all these elements into your clients’ outbound communications strategies, you will help them build the larger, more loyal customer base they seek. You will position your clients to consistently serve up relevant and valuable content, engage a broader audience, and attract and retain loyal customers to their brand. Implementing these practices will solidify the necessity of PR and the wire release in today’s evolving business environment and keep your agency viewed as a valued business partner by your clients.

In this article we share insights into adaptations you can make in how you develop and execute your clients’ communications strategies to better help them attain their goals.

An effective content marketing plan will attract and retain customers by consistently creating and disseminating relevant and valuable content. It’s an ongoing process designed to engage audiences and make them more intelligent, not sell to them or pitch a product.

Owned channels only allow businesses to communicate with their existing audiences and paid channels will only drive engagement with the small fraction of contacts that click on the ads.

By leveraging all available distribution channels, you will connect with the largest audience possible. There is a greater likelihood your stories will be picked up by the media and drive more traffic to your offer or what is being promoted. Trying new distribution channels opens the door and lets new audiences in.

ABOUT PR NEWSWIRE

For more than 60 years, PR Newswire has helped PR, corporate and marketing communications, and investor relations professionals achieve their communications goals – from building awareness with new audiences and gaining media pickup, to managing reputation and inspiring investor confidence – by sharing, targeting, tracking and enhancing their messages to make the most of their communications campaigns and content investments.