Feb 21, 2019 / in PR 101digital PR / by Sarah Parker

TrendKite's Field Guide to Digital PR

It's a new era in PR: Digital PR. 

As communication shifts and becomes ever more interconnected across job roles and departments- and technology makes increasing integration possible- a need has arisen for a new way to talk about how communications professionals operate. 

Enter the Digital PR process. 

If you're unfamiliar, then you're in the right place! Here's everything you need to know, plus links to some blog posts on our very own PR Forward that go more in-depth on digital PR can help with your measurement, proving your value as a communications professional, and more. 

What is digital PR? 

The quick version? It's a framework for everything you're already doing in your job as a communications professional. 

More specifically, it's a communication framework built for today's often fragmented digital media ecosystem. Digital PR combines targeted storytelling and scalable influencer relations with the aim of improving your overall marketing strategy through the unique credibility of earned media. 

TrendKite's Digital PR Process

It cycles through: 

  • Understanding the digital activity of your customers so you know where to reach them and can identify their influencers 
  • Engaging those influencers in their preferred space with purposeful, valuable content informed by audience and media intelligence
  • Quantifying and optimizing how your message is impacting the key business metrics that matter to your brand (and your boss) 
  • Integrating earned media credibility into your paid and owned marketing for the best possible outcomes in things like improved advertising efficiency and brand lift 

Traditional PR did not fully integrate with digital marketing tactics and strategies; digital PR does. 

But, why is this important? Doesn’t marketing already do that? The world today is incredibly noisy with the average consumer being exposed to thousands of messages every single day.  Consumers are tuning out and blocking paid media while questioning the credibility of owned media to bring balance back to their world. Earned media created by journalists and influencers, delivers third-party validation of your message that your audiences still trust

That means you need a trusted process to continually identify opportunities, engage influencers, optimize your communications and integrate them back into your other efforts.

Why does digital PR matter?  

Trust hasn’t been completely eliminated in our current world despite what dire headlines might imply, but it is definitely shifting. You see it in statistics like 69% of consumers distrust brand advertising and 43% trust it less than they used to. Only 8% trust advertising more than they used to. (And how do you target only that 8%? Kidding.) 

What about social media? Trust in platforms, including social and search platforms, fell 11% in 2018 in the US to just 42%.

And journalism? It may surprise you to learn that trust in Journalism rebounded 5% in 2018 to 59%—  the highest trust score amongst paid, owned and shared. 

That makes journalists and influencers more important than ever to PR professionals working to elevate public trust in their brands. Here’s how digital PR can help. 

The elements of Digital PR  

Your biggest question right now is probably “Why am I bothering to read this if digital PR is everything I already do?” 

Because plugging everything you already do into this process can help you prove the value of all the work you're doing as a communications professional. It helps break down and explain the elements of your job to those who aren't involved in the day-to-day nitty gritty of being a comms professional. 

Kind of like the PESO model from Spin Sucks

The Spin Sucks PESO model

You’re probably familiar with the PESO model for PR, first fleshed out in its current form by Gini Dietrich in Spin Sucks (the book) in 2014

A quick introduction, for the uninitiated or anyone who needs a brush-up: 

  • Paid Media: Paid media covers anything your brand is paying for to get eyeballs on it, like social media advertising or paid content re-marketing. 
  • Earned Media: Earned media is what most people think about when they think of PR— when someone talks about your brand on the news or in writing, but you didn’t pay them to do it. 
  • Shared Media: Shared media has become pretty synonymous with social media and for many smaller brands this may be the bulk of their PR efforts. There’s also an element of dark social that’s worth discussing; people are always sharing information around brands via email and messenger platforms where it’s harder to track. 
  • Owned Media: Owned media is the only media in which you control the message; it’s the content you’re putting out on your owned platforms (so not Facebook but your own website). 

Dark social: All of the sharing of content that happens where you can't see it; DMs across social platforms, emails, text messages, etc. We know this sharing is happening but we have no way to measure it—  and with increasing privacy concerns from consumers, this is a good thing.

Why does this matter in the context of digital PR? The digital PR process combines targeted storytelling, internet-scale influencer relations, and digital performance optimization to elevate all your marketing with the unique credibility of earned media. 

The marketing framework (PESO) meets the communications process for the future of PR.  

The digital PR process   

So with that in mind, let's look at the digital PR process again.

It's a process that helps communications professionals pinpoint their work in the same way that sales professionals do; digital PR is all about helping communications professionals label and quantify the work that they’re doing so its value is better recognized cross-functionally, especially to higher-ups who control the budget. 

It gives us a framework for answering the questions as a team that are simple but often difficult to pin down without said framework: Where are customers in our communicator’s funnel? Are we talking to the right people in the right way at the right time? 

The TrendKite digital PR process

You want to understand your customers, both digitally and in other spaces, depending on the particulars of your industry and brand approach. Understanding them helps you know who they find influential as well. 

Once you understand them, you can engage with them in the places they prefer to be engaged— and engage their influencers, too.  

Over time you can optimize your message and the stories that you tell about your brand through the careful, consistent engagement with your audience that you’ve worked so hard to understand. 

This helps you integrate that most impactful of all media types- earned media- back into the rest of your business to improve results across the board. 

Since this is an ongoing process there is no true beginning or end point; start wherever makes the most sense for your brand where it is right now. If you haven’t done the work to truly understand your audience, though, that’s a very good place to start. Then you can be more selective with your outreach

It’s the age-old knowing your audience, but in a smarter way— especially now that your audience is slightly different across social platforms (even if they’re the same person, they probably want different things from you on Instagram vs. Twitter even when they follow your brand in both places). 

Which brings us to our next section. 

Social Media Marketing 

Social media marketing has become an integral part of owned media; even if you don’t own the platforms, you own the messaging you put out on them. It’s free distribution to share your brand messaging and see what comes back. 

What are the real-time reactions from fans, followers, customers, target audience members you're trying to reach, competitors, and influencers? (We’ve got a section on that last one coming up.) 

When it comes to pitching those influencers, social can play a role in everything from researching a pitch to maintaining important relationships. The best influencer marketing is about relationship building, after all. 

Social strategy cannot be separate from a larger PR and marketing strategy in order for your brand to get the maximum return on your efforts. You need data that allows you to constantly tweak content and improve your strategy as close to real time as possible. 

That starts with comprehensive social listening and monitoring. 

Social listening/monitoring 

Social media has become an inextricable part of PR; for many smaller brands it’s all of the PR they can afford. No matter what brand you represent in what industry, someone somewhere on social media is talking about you. 

And while you can’t control that conversation, you want to know about it for several reasons: 

  • Sentiment around your brand: Sometimes this can even help you stop a crisis communication situation before it starts
  • Industry sentiment: Sometimes the sentiment around an entire industry is shifting; if you’re on top of it you can tailor your message to match that sentiment going forward 
  • Joining the conversation when appropriate: When can your brand chime in to solve problems, point people to resources, or just listen and understand? 
  • Competitor sentiment: What are people saying about your competitors? Social can help you identify pain points you can use as kill points if someone is shopping between you and a competitor later

Comprehensive social monitoring also allows you to see how campaigns are performing in real time, letting you tweak messaging or redirect a campaign based on big, disruptive news. If you don't have this in place, you could stumble into a crisis unwittingly. 

Social media also has constantly improving analytics behind it, giving you more data behind your PR and marketing efforts. This ultimately helps you prove your value to your higher-ups, something we're about to discuss more in-depth. 

Finally, listening allows you to identify who your audience finds influential, which may or may not have been someone already on your radar for influencer marketing. That gives you a head start on following and interacting with them, laying the groundwork for meaningful relationship building between your brand and key influencers. 

Influencer marketing 

Influencer marketing has been the wild west of marketing for the past few years, but it’s starting to mature as brands, influencers and regulatory bodies work out the parameters for this kind of marketing in conjunction with consumers, who increasingly turn to influencers “like them” for advice on products rather than traditional celebrities. 

Brands need to be sure that they're building longterm relationships with influencers that make sense for their target audience, rather than simply hiring someone with a high follower count to do a one-off post. (The "pay-and-pray" approach.) 

Influencer relationship management is the future of influencer marketing. This is especially true of B2B influencer marketing

How you can use the concept of digital PR to your advantage 

You’re probably with us so far on digital PR being a communication process that makes sense compared to the way the PR industry works as it changes in relation to new technology, industry forces, and more.

But here’s where it gets really useful to you: Digital PR can help you prove the value of your work. That means PR gets the credit it deserves and more resources to do even better work in the future.  

That kicks off an amazing cycle of getting more budget and more buy-in on the projects that are important to your brand. 

So how does this help your budget planning and justification? 

When it's difficult to quantify your PR efforts- clearly and in a format that's easily digestible for those who don't live and breathe PR and comms daily- it's harder to win more budget to improve your strategy. 

With digital PR you can show your value not only to the rest of the marketing team, but to your CMO, to the CEO, and to the board. 

Using the digital PR framework, you can:

  • Simplify the data around your audience and their influencers, and therefore a specific budget for campaigns targeting them 
  • Prove the value of earned media, giving you more exact numbers you can base bigger future asks on 
  • Tweak the content of your campaigns in real time to get the most impact out of them, with or without influencers (and more successful campaigns mean even more of that good stuff mentioned in the previous two points) 
  • Integrate everything you learn into the rest of your strategy, making your overall business more successful 

Who doesn't want to prove the real value behind the work they do? 

How TrendKite can help 

You need real numbers behind the work that you do in order to prove exactly how valuable it is. 

To help you understand your audience, TrendKite offers ways to help understand their digital activity and identify their influencers in an easily customizable dashboard with easily exportable reports

To help you engage those influencers, TrendKite gives you the best tools available in the form of Pinpoint Contacts and StoryKit

To help you optimize the content you're presenting to your target audience and their influencers, TrendKite not only gives you that customizable dashboard and those easily exportable reports, but also real-time alerts so you can stay on top of what's most important to your brand. Not to mention quality social media analytics

To help you integrate earned media's credibility into the rest of your business, TrendKite gives you PR Attribution, Newsletters and the ability to share to Slack or an RSS feed. 

The TrendKite digital PR process

To sum up 

Digital PR is a communications process built for today’s fragmented online ecosystem. It combines targeted storytelling, influencer relations, and digital performance optimization with traditional PR to elevate important, incredibly diversified work you’re doing day-to-day that helps to nurture prospects and customers along the customer journey. 

Through the digital PR process, marketers and communicators can identify better opportunities to pitch, craft and deliver customized communications at scale, along with measuring and optimizing their messages in real-time with influencers and consumers, while also amplifying and integrating their successes through paid, owned and shared channels.

And if you need one comprehensive, customizable place to measure everything digital PR for your brand, just let us know

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About Sarah Parker

Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for Cision, planning, producing and curating content across channels. She previously managed content and social media for several different brands, in addition to working as a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks where she is happy to talk all things social media strategy, the dynamic world of PR, and mastiffs.