The field of business communication has changed drastically. In fact, it’s still changing as we speak. It is undeniable, and clearly places a major challenge for everyone involved in public relations and corporate communication. There are new channels that are much more dynamic in nature, new players… But, what are the root indicators that have triggered the total evolution within this sector?
Launchmetrics is proud to be here at the World Public Relations Forum, the world communications forum organized by the Global Alliance and Dircom, that is being held for the very first time here in Madrid and we would like to take advantage of this opportunity to present the first Launchmetrics Digital Communication Map. This is a guide that includes a series of facts taken from numerous reports and research papers covering the communication and public relations field. Hopefully communication and the public relations sectors will find our advice useful as they go about their daily endeavors.
Are you aware that…..
- 46% of all journalists who responded stated that they use Twitter as their main source for finding stories
- And that 57% of the public relations practitioners now are using Twitter to contact their journalists and influencers
- Or that 70% of the journalists prefer to create their stories by collaborating with brands’ PR people rather than simply receiving a press release
This guide will be presented in our stand at the WPRF and given out to all attendees in printed format. In this guide’s online version, we have included a number of first hand testimonials both from well-known international professionals such as Jay Baer, Brian Solis, Jason Falls, Joe Pulizzi… and others from Spain like Cristina Aced, Manu Moreno (Trecebits) and Pablo Herreros.
Please feel free to download the infographic that comes with this map. It is our pleasure to invite you to see the professionals from our sector are saying about digital transformation.
Table of Contents
- Identify your Influencers
- Look for quality, not quantity
- Take the time to know who they are, and what they need
- Improve your emails, and social networks!
- Do not sell press releases, offer quality content
- Set your opinion aside
- Talk to your Influencers
- Avoid extreme corporatism
- Measure all your actions
Identify your Influencers
The basic premise for today’s public relations is to work closely with real, relevant opinion leaders in respect to your brand. We all used to have everyone we felt to be the key journalists who wrote articles about our sector clearly identified and a file for each of them. Yet nowadays there are a huge number of people generating online content that attract a well-segmented audience … and many of their readers are exactly the same ones that are in our target group!
“Influencers can either provide audience (reach), or advocacy (the ability to cause actions on the part of the people that pay attention to that influencer). Sometimes both, but it’s usually one or the other.” — Jay Baer, JayBaer.com
According to the findings stated in our first Influencer Marketing Report that was based on the responses provided by more than 600 marketing and the communication professionals from all over Europe:
- 73% of the communication professionals have been working with online influencers for the last 2 years or even longer.
- 43% of these communication professionals stated that they are getting favorable results
- 60% of the communication professionals claim that they invest part of their company’s budget to roll out actions with influencers
So, is there really any doubt whatsoever that in today’s world online influencers are playing a key role in business communication?
“With the upswing in social media, mouth-to mouth has become a tangible way of influencing. Depending on the number and degree of their influencers’ connections in social media, on their own reputation and that of the content that is being shared, what a company’s influencers say about them has the potential to go viral.” — Brian Solis, The Rise of Digital Influence, 2012
Seek quality, not quantity
Technorati issued another similar report covering digital influence and found that 54% of American consumers replied that the smaller a community is, the greater the power that each of its individual members has. This would seem to further strengthen the view that the influence exerted is not linked to the number of followers a person may have in social media, but rather much closely tied to how influential he/she is on a certain topic.
In our own report published this year in February, communication professionals defined to a certain degree the criteria that is beginning to be the golden standard for determining digital influence. If we look at them all together, we will see how they make up a reasonable formula for measuring this factor. Hence, digital influence may be relatively well defined by defining theses three criteria:
- For 79% of those who were interviewed, the echo, or, in other words, the capability that a person has to mobilize opinion and create reactions whenever they talk about a certain subject would be one of the key parameters to decide who is and who isn’t an influencer.
- 73% stated that it is also relevant how a specific idea is expressed.
- For 62% it was important to consider the ‘share of voice,’ meaning the level of participation in the conversation on a topic.
“Influence is not measured in pounds and ounces! An influencer is a person who has the capacity to exert influence in his community and in order to be able to achieve that degree of influence he has to know a lot about the topic, have solid command over it and then be able to show that expertise to others.”
Cristina Aced – Blog-or-corp
In recent years, many new tools for detecting Influencers have popped up in the market and some of them are based on quantitative criteria. Let’s look at one of them: Twitter. What criteria could we use to define the influence a person has on this social network? The number of followers could be one, as well as the number of tweets generated daily or maybe the number of retweets. Keep in mind some of the following cases:
- It is far from being a secret that nowadays there are a vast array of platforms that enable Twitter users to “buy followers.” There is an article by the Huffington Post in France that started off by frankly stating how they had been able to buy 50,000 followers on Twitter for practically nothing using their own staff and a profile called @Oeuf_Post
- In Spain, El Mundo, one of Spain’s leading newspapers, ran an article titled “Pablo Iglesias, leader in Twitter, after having cleaned out Rajoy’s followers.” The next day, the Spanish President’s account suddenly lost more than 50,000 followers. Rajoy’s team cried out that they had been victims of a well organized cyber-attack while cyber experts said that it was a result of his communication team buying followers left and right…
Conclusion: Numbers are not the determining factor in respect to online influence. We should value quality, how often an influencer posts and their capacity to generate real results.
Dedicate time to find out who they are and what they need…
“In today’s environment, communication should be on a first name basis and tailor made for each and every contact. We shouldn’t try to treat a journalist the same way as we treat a blogger. It isn’t because some are better than others, but simply because each group needs a certain of kind information, in a specific format language.”– Cristina Aced – Blog-or-corp
“Stop trying to communicate through databases and start talking to real people.” This should be the motto for a new communicative environment in which massive, de-personalized send-outs simply don’t make sense anymore. It is essential to get to know the people who are behind each post on a blog, an article or a tweet, fundamentally because that is the only way that we will be able to adapt our messages to meet their specific needs.
“Many may disagree with me, but I’ve always said that online influencers are no different than offline influencers. We’ve just treated offline influencers wrong all along, too. All an influencer wants is for the public relations professional to respect their time, know their needs, audience and to keep their communication with them relevant. Sending all the press releases you have to every influencer is a waste. – Jason Falls – JasonFalls.com
Monitoring has taken on a major role to monitor these people’s online activity. It is essential to act strategically and maintain a certain degree of consistency.
Improve your e-mails and social media skills!
- 66% of the professionals still feel that they get the best results by working with journalists and Influencers through email.
- Nonetheless Twitter comes in a close second at 57% in terms of getting results.
These figures clearly reflect the changes in the playing field that we have seen in the last several years. There is another report issued by a well-regarded consultancy firm named Green Target that found that 46% of the journalists use Twitter to find useful stories.
“You can not simply contact a journalist through Twitter asking him to follow you and send him a link to one of your press releases. However if you do establish a level of trust with that journalist, you will end up following each other because there is both a personal relationship as well as a professional one. So, why not send him a Tweet to let him know you are counting on him to attend your key upcoming event, assuming that this event will actually add value for him.” – Manu Moreno – Trecebits
And let’s take into account all that Twitter has given to the communication business, from the simplification of the time it takes to send a message that is able to attract thousands of people clear to the possibility of interacting directly with our specific target group… But it’s not only Twitter, all of the social channels have gained a high degree of relevance in the field of communication.
It is for that reason that, even though they are most certainly not responsible for setting up social media strategy for the company, we cannot work totally independent from the marketing department. Any message that is generated externally generates communication and impacts our company’s reputation. Increasing our online communities online, boosting our interaction or generating the traffic that is coming to website may be marketing’s own goals, yet we should always be directly involved in the content that is being distributed to reach these goals.
“Social media should be used for public relations. But above all, we can learn, listen and grow, thanks to this type of collaborative media: clients give us their vision and you should thank them for that, award them and include it in your corporative learning systems.” – Pablo Herreros – Comunicación se llama el juego
Don’t sell press releases, you better offer quality content
Towards the end of 2013, Ashley Brown, Head of digital communication and social media at Coca Cola told us that the company’s goal for 2014 was to reduce and, even eliminate if at all possible, press releases from their in communication actions. It was replaced by their own online channel, Coca Cola Journey, to tell their own brand’s stories aimed at their specific influencers.
And despite the enormous scope of such a project (and the daunting challenge that many communication professionals may prefer not to face) the project makes lots of sense, especially when traditional press releases in PDF formats simply doesn’t generate the desired result anymore. It’s as simple as that.
“I feel that the format – a press release – has not died, but must be modified to adapt to the latest styles: It should include multimedia content and have the basic essence of “explaining a good story,” avoiding any wordage that is excessively sales-oriented.” – Cristina Aced – Blog o Corp
As Cristina Aced points out, the press release is a format that will have to be modified to meet the ever changing trends in creating quality content that has to be interesting and relevant for our audience. This also requires proper distribution:
- We have all seen for ourselves unfortunately that sending out a massive press release is no longer generating the desired outcome within our communication action strategy. The first step has to be to carefully segment our distribution list, filtering out those contacts that are deemed to be less relevant and then adapting the message in an interesting content format.
- These changes also mean that that highly attractive formats that are adapted to meet our influencers’ information requirements: videos, infographics, expert testimonials…. In other words, anything that may differentiate your brand from all others.
Leave your own opinions out of your communication
This doesn’t mean being generic in our communication… Let’s be very clear about this point: the primary goal of every company is to sell more. Without sales, there won’t be any revenue now will there? Once we make that basic assumption, it’s clear that any corporate communication also has to generate greater corporate visibility, brand image and awareness while ensuring that all of these elements reach the potential clients.
However, when the time comes to launch our messages towards the proper journalists and influencers, we have to engrave in our brains a fundamental concept: transparency and sincerity are the Golden Rule. We should never “over sell” anything to anyone, but simply highlight who we are by showing what we are doing.
“The consumer is in complete control today. That means that communication professionals are making the shift from talking about themselves to talking about things customers care about. This is a BIG shift to make, and since most brands are not very good at talking about their customers’ pain points, this is going to be a long process.” – Joe Pulizzi – JoePulizzi.com
A comment like “as market leader in our sector” coming out of the mouth of a VP from your company simply does not add any value for a journalist or influencer. Saying that our study, “reveals shocking new conclusions” will hardly convince anyone. Beating your own drum, my friend, is a thing of the past.
We try to base our communication on “interpretation” that we can create for our audiences – try to get them to perceive us in a certain light. Our opinion or our personal tastes should not be included. And the fact is that our opinion will only be deemed as “interesting” when and if the journalist, blogger or expert thinks it is and then requests an interview with us, or a testimonial or maybe a statement. Being objective is always better.
Talk with your influencers
Personal relationships play a major role in respect to the overall success of your communications strategy, and it is clear that the objective should not be focused simply on reaching the largest number of journalists and bloggers. Instead, you have to concentrate on your influencers who may be truly relevant for your brand, that have their own loyal audience, and be sure that these influencers’ postings do generate a positive effect on their own followers. 64% of journalists think that it is crucial to have a personal connection with the company before sitting down to write a story. This connection is what the aim of the communication professionals should be in their initial interactions with the influencers:
- Identify the platforms in which your influencers share and create content: Know what subjects they are talking about (be sure to catch whether they use a negative or a positive tone).
- Design a contact strategy with them: Try to ensure that from the very first contact, your communication towards them will be interesting and personalized for each one of them.
“The majority of influencers wish to know what is really happening inside the company: They want to see what is happening “behind the curtains” to feel the company’s unique unexpected experiences. The brands that help influencers be closer to their business tend to have better results than those who are trying to sell their own products by way of the influencers.”– Jay Baer – JayBaer.com
Avoid meaningless adjectives
Exclusive! The one and only! Revolutionary! Sort of sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? That’s the same feeling a journalist or a blogger will be having when they read a release that is full these adjectives. According to a study published by Fractl this year, 45% of journalists and influencers prefer a press release short and to the point.
So, avoid these and all other adjectives about your own your brand, your company or your spokes-people. Focus on the stories that you are sharing, ensuring that they are all high quality and worthwhile to your audience. Let them be the ones to judge your company or your products so you can boost your credibility.
Measure your actions
The value of the output being produced by a communication team is only obtained by measuring its results. This new public relations environment is much more complex yet, at the same time, we also have more tools available so we can accurately measure our activity and its impact.
Something we should take into consideration in all departments is precisely this: the analysis. A compilation in PDF of press mentions can not be the only factor justifying the presence and activity of a specialized communication team. Compiling more data to obtain accurate reports that make comparisons between campaigns or even between formats, supports or more specific objectives, reports will be essential to support the true ROI of your work.
“It’s important to measure anything, especially communication. Without measuring, you not only don’t know if you’ve met or surpassed your goals for a communications project, but you have no idea what to do differently to make it bigger, faster, better the next time around. Not using measurement is like not putting gas in the car. Eventually, you’re going to be stranded.” – Jason Falls – JasonFalls.com
This difficulty is reduced by creating a measuring system as the basis for the activity being implemented by any communication department or of the corresponding agency as soon as the project is being kicked-off.
Stop communicating to the masses and start talking to the right people…
The motto of the World Public Relations Forum is “communicating with conscience.” This idea happens to be the final point on our Digital Communication map. Everyday we are more ‘on’ and less ‘off’ – but this shouldn’t change what makes public relations so successful: people. The challenge for our generation of communication professionals will be making the most out of the resources that the online world gives us by “communicating with conscience,” now more than ever.
How have you experienced these transformations in your department or communication agency? Tell us your story! We look forward to hearing from you.