Bolstering Your Communications Tactics in the New Year

January 2011

As 2011 unfolds, many PR, communications and marketing professionals are beginning to examine their strategies and determine how they can be applied in the New Year. It's a time to lay the groundwork for future campaigns that are designed to increase brand and client exposure, drive traffic to websites, create quality leads, build communities, and enhance relationships with The Media.

Both technology and The Media are evolving and, as a result, so too are the preferences and values of audiences. Still, many communications and marketing practitioners defer to the same old tactics, failing to keep up with the platforms and outlets of the audiences upon whom they rely on for brand or client success. Communication professionals must remember that they are engaging users in the users' communities or space, rather than a platform controlled by the company.

That's one reason that digital audiences seem to be increasingly careful when posting about a company, product, or service; they fear getting inundated with mobile and online spam solicitations. As coined by Marie Baker, co-founder of PRBreakfastClub, "blogger bombardment" is running rampant as The Media-scape shrinks and "PR Pros are scrambling looking for new places to get their clients visibility." She goes on to write, "Bloggers are getting just slammed, and sometimes too much of something isn't always a good thing." (2011: The Blogger Revolution, 1.6.11)

In essence, audiences, journalists, and bloggers who aren't appropriately targeted do just the opposite of what media professionals desire: The audiences disengage and The Media overlook what could potentially be a worthy story.

Winning Tactics for 2011

The cautionary tales presented above should make public relations practitioners especially mindful to regularly re-examine their communications tactics. Such careful planning can produce particularly valuable benefits at this time because, with the domestic economy rebounding, many are predicting that 2011 will be a stellar year for PR. If communications professionals are to actually reap the benefits, however, they will also have to get truly strategic and smart (read effective and efficient) about the tactics they employ. Some in the industry have already seen the light. In a November 2010 post, Priya Ramesh, CRT/tanaka's The BuzzBin, highlighted "five things PR and marketing should break free from in 2011." Others offer media-relations resolutions for the coming year, as seen in an article from Englin Consulting.

In the spirit of sharing practical ideas, we'd like to suggest some common tactics and tips. The following six tips highlight tactics PR and marketing professionals can use in their 2011 strategy.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While SEO has long been an important part of communications, it has taken a back seat to other forms of online marketing over the past few years. However, when asked in a recent Online Marketing Blog poll, "What three online marketing channels and tactics will you emphasize in 2011?," respondents answered "search engine optimization" as the number one tactic — beating out both social media and email marketing. To pack the most punch from SEO, optimize your tweets and online updates with hashtags and use relevant keywords if participating in good-old search marketing. Always remember to highlight the content that is most relevant to your audience and business. In other words, resist the urge to "keyword stuff" (tagging content with inappropriate or irrelevant keywords). Failure to do so can result in steep penalties, particularly when it comes to paid search. As you look for further ways to enhance your online exposure and reach, you may also decide that it's time to redesign your website and/or blog. In the process, research plug-ins or other services that can enhance the SEO and tagging of your sites. And don't forget to include relevant and compelling copy or content on your pages that keep your audience both engaged and informed.

2. Measurement and Reporting
Many media professionals understand that measurement is a vital component of their communications activities, though they may not always know how to incorporate metrics that highlight the success of their initiatives — particularly if those campaigns occur online or in social media. PRSay, a forum for PRSA members and other PR professionals, recently asked members to contribute their predictions for 2011. Jennifer Anne Starkey, APR, reminds practitioners that many social media platforms already include analytics and statistics such as demographics and visitation figures. She notes: "This will be beneficial for public relations professionals to further communicate ROI to their employers. Measurement of engagement, relationships, and brand awareness are becoming easier than ever with the advent of these applications."

While free social media measurement tools can be beneficial, they are only one aspect of the reporting game. Whether you're demonstrating return on investment or measuring the impact of your messages on your community, you must use both qualitative and quantitative metrics; such a holistic approach to measurement enables you to see the full picture of your online, print, and social media coverage. A service like BurrellesLuce WorkFlow provides access to automated media reporting that lets you measure, over time, by articles, media type, prominence, sentiment, impressions, automated share of voice, and other pre-defined metrics. And when automated metrics aren't enough, you can benefit from the human analysis of BurrellesLuce Custom Measurement.

But whether you are using a free or paid measurement program, it's imperative that you ask the right questions — including understanding how reporting ties to your organization's goals and objectives.

3. Media Monitoring and Engagement
"There will be no substitute for companies constantly monitoring and assessing their unique audiences' expectations, needs, and participation in Social Media," asserts this Social Media Today article. That being said, media professionals must continue to be respectful of how they interact with communities. Train your team on how to best respond to requests as well as to know when it's appropriate to interject a comment into a conversation in which they're not directly involved. Refresh the procedures as your activities evolve or your team gains feedback on their online and social media engagement. And don't forget to monitor and respond to other forms of The Media. Professionals who are adept at the ever-changing rules of community outreach will find that The Media and their audiences will respond more positively to online interactions from the company, brand, or client.

4. Digital Media
Whether online, social, or mobile — digital media usage has exploded during the last few years, and the popularity of specific digital tools has fluctuated right along with it. Even platforms that we think will be here for the long haul (like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) have their fair share of kinks and may become irrelevant as media preferences change (think the on-going case with MySpace). As a result, you need to consider the benefits and risks associated with each: Are updates being made? Will there be ongoing support? You will also need to revise your strategy to include tactics for handling or replacing a preferred social media platform should your existing choices no longer prove to be a viable resource for your community. In addition, decide how much "do it yourself" you're willing or able to take on. Remember, targeted efforts are more important than volume messages.

5. Newsletters
A newsletter can be a very effective way to deliver key messages to clients and prospects. As commonly utilized, however, many newsletters are little more than a rehashing of marketing or PR material and offer very little value to readers. Content needs to speak to the readers' areas of interest and should help keep them informed of the latest industry trends and best practices; if executed correctly, a newsletter can also assist you in meeting your own business's goals. For example, you may want to experiment with linking your newsletter to your blog and other social media platforms. Debbie Weil provides some blog vs. e-newsletter content tips on her own blog, as noted in the BuzzBin article cited earlier. Weil states, among other things, that "the objective of a business blog is similar to that of an e-newsletter: to build credibility and an ongoing relationship with your customers and prospects so that your product or service is top of mind when they're ready to buy." At BurrellesLuce we're providing this newsletter with the intention that it services as a resource to our peer-audience.

6. News Releases
There's been a lot of debate about news releases. Are they dead? Should they be retired or do they still have a place in the media mix? News releases certainly have their place, though their style and structure are changing. If you haven't done so already, try creating or beefing up your online news center. Include plenty of multimedia content and be sure that the design is easy to navigate. Better yet, make a mobile version that journalists and bloggers can access while on the go. Research suggests that as The Media expands to include more hyperlocal channels that a new breed of journalists, called "mojo" or mobile journalists, will become more the norm. Providing them with a mobile solution, that puts them in touch with your most relevant info, could prove beneficial to your outreach efforts.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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