4 Ways PR Firms Can Cut Costs and Improve Productivity in the Digital World

Public Relations has always been an important contributor to any company’s branding and marketing efforts. According to the Global Communications Report, the industry is expected to reach $20bn by 2020. Further, the industry is largely controlled by Omnicom, IPG, WPP and Publicis group, which together account for around 34% of overall PR market at present. Yet, there is a lot of movement in the content distribution market and new trends are replacing traditional PR practices.

Should you invest more in SEO or in PR?

It’s obvious that creating a website is not enough; it needs to be marketed as well. In the world of digital marketing, traditional marketing tactics have been reinvented so many times that it is not rare for traditionalists to get disillusioned. While there are many online challenges faced by business today, content marketing, digital marketing, SEO and social media are all trying to achieve a single purpose – increase brand reputation and improve awareness about the company. Traditional marketing experts will find it similar to public relations – “a lot of what we do as “SEOs” is actually, well, PR”, says former journalist turned marcomm specialist Samuel Scott. This means guest posting, connecting with influencers on social media, email outreach etc. can all be labeled as PR activity.

On the other hand, those working in PR have to know their audience preferences to create engaging content for brands on a daily basis. They usually have spent years building relationships with media contacts for improving coverage for their clients. By placing your content on websites with high domain authority (DA), often including a backlink, they are essentially doing what marketers these days call backlinking. Hence, there is a need to view PR and SEO conjunctively. Further, viewing all your digital marketing from a PR perspective can help you improve your returns.

Having said that, digital marketing has evolved over the years and you may require specialists’ to achieve impressive results in the digital domain. For example, you can achieve higher visibility via Google’s Rich Cards and Rich Snippets, (even without having a very high ranking in organic results):

Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog

Snippets use schema.org structured markup to display content effectively and match user’s specific search query. It is seen that these results have a very high click-through rate. You will need the Structured Data Testing Tool from Google to examine on-page schema code, as well as test schema markups. You might also need several SEO tools to improve your website performance and visibility; here are the top 5 most popular SEO tools providers:

  1. Google Webmasters
  2. SEMRush
  3. ScreramingFrog
  4. MOZ
  5. GTMetrix

However, such tasks may be best left to an SEO professional. According to a HubShout report, for small businesses, SEO is the second biggest investment priority after website development. SEO professionals will help you identify lingering issues with your website content, site architecture, missing tags, meta descriptions, and website speed which are essential parameters affecting your visitor’s experience as well as the website crawler. As a business, you must take up these optimizations on priority, even before you start any outreach or PR campaign.

Bank on Social for SEO & PR

Social media has always been recognized as a strong customer service facilitator. Here’s a great example of how customer complaints and feedback can be converted into marketing:

“Apple responds to people’s tweets with entire commercials” – via Mashable

If you adopted social as an afterthought, perhaps it’s time to revisit your social media strategy. According to the 2016 Social Media Examiner survey, at least 63% of marketers plan on increasing their use of these social networks this year. Furthermore, 90% of marketers showed a keen interest in learning tactics for engaging their audience with social media.

As discussed before social media interactions are closely linked to both PR and SEO. It cannot be left ignored and needs integration with your overall marketing mix. It’s also important to choose the mediums wisely, especially if you are doing paid campaigns on social media.

Every social channel has its own flavor and audience expectations. While you can tweak and create content suiting every possible social channel, remember that “the medium is the message.” It is prudent to focus only on certain channels that suit your brand persona and are likely to engage your customers in the right context. For example, LinkedIn is most commonly used by B2B marketers while Facebook is commonly employed by B2C marketers (especially in the retail domain).

As omnichannel strategies are gaining prominence, you might have to consider reaching out to your target audience and eventually do business without making them leave their social platform. Higher engagement and effective promotions require full-time investment. To save time on social listening, scheduling, reporting, and analytics you may consider using the following tools:

  1. Cision
  2. HootSuite
  3. SproutSocial
  4. SocialOomph
  5. Buffer

Invest in Content Management Systems (CMS) for increased productivity

Creating a website is no more a complex task. You can choose between numerous freelancers and agencies depending on your budget to create a custom website. However, managing a website in the longer run is a bigger challenge. This is where you will require a CMS. While there are many expensive enterprise versions available, with flexible cloud-based pricing models, firms such as Logical Doc, Alfresco and Laserfiche offer affordable CMS tools for businesses of all sizes. Here’s a list of some of the most commonly used CMS:

  1. WordPress
  2. Joomla
  3. Drupal
  4. Magento
  5. ExpressionEngine

A CMS is an essential investment for every marketing department for integrating functions like document management, digital asset management, campaign management and more. A CMS will help you in handling a wide variety of digital content spread across multiple webpages.

Newer platforms ensure sites are optimized for different screen sizes with responsive design, but each comes with a caveat. Murad Bushnaq, CEO of nonprofit CMS, Morweb.org, explains, “While responsive design is essential for all businesses, not all platforms are delivering the same screen-optimized experience.” He urges organizations to recognize the three degrees of CMS responsiveness when selecting their solution: the good, the bad, and the great.

The main advantage with a CMS is that it provides reusable templates, which will help you in churning up more content with ease. Further, most of the CMS provide WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors, which will help you format your content effectively. This means that you can easily build landing pages for your targeted campaigns – something that should interest PR campaign managers.

Use social channels for connecting with influencers

According to a report published in Adweek, “86 percent of the marketing professionals surveyed have used influencer programs, and 95 percent said influencer marketing is an effective part of their overall strategy.”

For PR managers, this is hardly news. Online communication channels and social media have made it simple to identify influencers in any field. You can easily find active communicators on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you have not been able to identify influencers in your specific business domain, tools like Cision and BuzzSumo can help you out. However, identifying is only a part of the process.

This bigger challenge lies in initiating and nurturing the relationship with influencers. Remember that you are not the only one approaching them for a favor and occasionally it is ok if someone blocks you out. While routine courtesies should not be ignored, try to keep your communication crisp and honest. There’s no point beating around the bush. However, before you start asking for any kind of favor, make sure you are aware of your influencers’ preferences. If you are interacting with editors, you stick to their schedules.

Further, try keeping yourself available at all possible times via email, chat or phone. By implementing these 4 tactics, you can drive business ROI and also lay the seeds of success in a highly competitive market.

Taral Patel is a digital marketing professional and writes for his blog Marketingfocalpoint covering various topics like SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media and Startups.