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CHARLESTON/ORWIG: EFFECTIVE PUBLIC RELATIONS IN 2017 IS A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME
by Mark Gale, CEO, Charleston/Orwig, mgale@charlestonorwig.com.

From how consumers want to be reached to when and where you can reach them all the way to who's telling the story, Public Relations is a completely different ballgame today than it was just five years ago. The good news is that it is now possible to use fragmented media to make stronger connections than ever before. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the evolved landscape to grow your brand in the hearts of consumers-b2b or b2c.

Find common ground first; then tell your story.

The ubiquitous "tell your story" mantra haunts nearly every conversation involving promotion and supporting sales efforts. Although having a compelling narrative is absolutely essential, businesses and organizations are starting to realize they've often missed a critical first step: Have you given your prospective audience a reason to listen to you? Why should they care? More companies are starting to realize the necessity of drawing in the audience before pushing information to them, especially as they enter new geographic markets and expand product offerings.

You're seeing a rise in grassroots efforts on social media, establishing influencer programs that leverage credible "outsiders" who impact customer perceptions positively, and companies rightfully getting uncomfortable and going outside their usual audiences to understand that next layer of potential business. It's about understanding the audience first with research, analytics and in-person interactions and approaching communication as a relationship-building effort. Thus, tactics tend to be more casual and collaborative, and storymining has become a never-ending, evolving process instead of neatly planned ahead of time.

Integrated, faster, shorter PR tactics.

With each year, new technologies enter the marketplace, and the process of disseminating information is less centralized and less controlled. News now breaks online just as much as it does through traditional media. Competitive businesses understand that they need to mimic the changes in the news cycle to earn any traction within it. The opportunity for relevance, accurate targeting and measurement lies within a thoughtfully integrated communications and PR effort that works from the same base messaging or story ideas, but adapts across earned, owned and social channels simultaneously. Tactically, this has a few implications:

*PR is moving faster. The opportunity to stand out and get ahead of competitors lies in being able to activate or retool instantly, be concise with messaging, target the right audience and bring something new/valuable to the conversation.

*PR is less about creating materials and more about crafting a flexible, impactful story to adjust for a variety of channels in tandem.

*Content is being written with the web in mind. No official press releases/statements or website and blog copy should be issued without a Google Trends and SEO strategy. And certainly social media posts should be sensitive to trending keywords.

*PR teams are focusing on multiple channels. Not only do they need to stay on top of the news cycle daily, but they're becoming experts in how those cycles are different across traditional media and online/social media as many reporters are constantly reporting via social.

The company storytellers are changing. Help them directly connect who you are as a company with what you sell.

Official comment used to be reserved for C-suite and subject matter experts, coordinated and controlled through marketing and communications staff when reporters inquired. Now anyone can share an experience (see product reviews, customer service complaints/praise on social media, video recordings of interactions with business personnel or influential word-of-mouth).

Leading companies are now including sales leaders in training exercises as well as offering them counsel on written communications. Additionally, more companies are establishing employee social media guidelines to protect both the employees and the company from fallout.


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