Who Do You Engage: The Traditional Publicist, the Digital Specialist or the Social Media Strategist?

The definition of ‘public relations’ is constantly evolving and in my experience, it differs from agency to agency.

But is at its core it’s about the art of communication and navigating relationships. This is especially true in the highly specialist b2b worlds of maritime and insurance.

In communicating your messaging to the public, how do you, as a brand, then determine which approach is more effective – the traditional, digital or social media approach?

Taking the traditional PR approach

Traditional PR is mainly focused on media outreach. In other words, getting coverage in traditional media outlets: print publications such as newspapers and magazines, and broadcast medium such as television and radio.

Depending on the prestige of the media outlets covering the story, the success rate of raising your brand’s profile can be relatively high due to the audience reach / readership the media outlets have built.

However, the exact performance metrics associated to the placement are harder to track – relying solely on monthly average readership or potential audience estimations.

And agencies working with clients in the maritime and business insurance sectors would agree with me on this. It’s a blurry exercise with frankly little or no real measurement.

Other initiatives under the traditional PR umbrella include product launch events, trade show participation, speaking / sponsorship opportunities at industry conferences and industry awards.

And if you ask me, what makes the traditional PR appealing to businesses up till today? I’d say it is in its multi-faceted approach in increasing awareness.

Power of digital PR

PR in today’s highly digital environment requires an integrated approach (where the line between PR and marketing is increasingly blurred) and has the added advantage of impacting your brand’s search engine optimisation (SEO) and link building across the web. As the saying goes, ‘If you can’t be Googled, you don’t exist’.

On top of the traditional media outlets with an online presence, there are other players in the digital space: bloggers and influencers. Often with a loyal following, they garner engagement / authority as good as, if not better than the traditional media outlets.

And unlike traditional PR, digital placements are easily shareable content where its activity and level of engagement can be measured and monitored through link clicks, number of likes, shares and comments.

With the ability, through Google Analytics or other measurement metrics, to completely track a user’s experience from first clicking the link within a placement through to your brand’s site and how they engage with the site, the data collected allows you to review and make informed decisions in curating content for subsequent campaigns or postings.

Can social media replace traditional media?

The traditional shipping and insurance media are still very much relevant – for readers (who could potentially be your brand’s audience) to not only get their daily dose of news but also clarification on announcements (blame it on the era of fake news we are living in now!).

Social media strategies, as a sub-set of digital PR, act as an amplifier to your brand’s PR efforts and it is best to tailor your announcements for each social network through creative use of graphics, videos, quotes, hashtags, etc.

Another key differentiator is – traditional media puts your brand in front of an audience whereas social media allows the building of a community.

Therefore, you should utilise your brand’s social media platforms largely for marketing and promotion where greater conversions take place, as compared to placements on traditional media.

And while traditional media can connect your brand with clients and customers, sadly, organic interaction takes place more often than not, on your brand’s social media platforms through product reviews, feedback, comments on postings, etc.

But that does not mean you can eliminate traditional PR initiatives from your brand’s PR and wider marketing strategy – it’s all about having an optimum balance of both to support your business growth.

Who should  you engage?

What my time in PR has taught me is effective PR requires marrying of these three approaches. This especially relates to the conservative, rather slow moving maritime and insurance businesses where the mantra is ‘one step at a time’.

The allocation would depend on which platform(s) your brand’s targeted audience are active on, as well as what your business goals and needs are, in order to capture a wider reach for your campaigns.

The PR industry may have transformed since it first started but the core role of PR professionals like my colleagues and I @Helix_PR still remains – we are storytellers; and we are continually building mutually beneficial relationships.

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Fazirah Sa’im

Senior Consultant
Author