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Is the Future of Public Relations Digital?

The rise of social media has transformed nearly every aspect of modern society. From culture to education to business to politics, few modern institutions have remained untouched by the far-reaching influence of these communications platforms.

Public relations is no exception. Over the past decade, public relations campaigns have grown increasingly digital. Social media is now among the most effective channels for organizations to use when broadcasting their messages to wide audiences.

For much of the history of our profession, success was governed by relationships, generally with reporters and editors at influential publications. Now, with the advent of social media, everyone has become a publisher. Anyone with a cellphone and a Wi-Fi connection can send out communications to networks of hundreds, thousands, and—in some cases—millions of individuals.

This dynamic has created two new avenues for public relations firms to garner attention for their clients: social media influencing and digital advertising. A unique product of the 21st century, influencers are individuals with large followings on social media who post regular content about niche subjects. These individuals make a living by charging fees to post about certain organizations or products. Similarly, nearly all major social media platforms now offer opportunities for paid content and digital advertising. With the right ad spend, this content can reach broad audiences of interested individuals.

With these new technologies come new questions for PR firms and clients alike. For example, how involved should public relations firms be in social media? Is an effective social media strategy now the centerpiece of a successful PR campaign? Should clients invest heavily in digital marketing initiatives?

As a full-service strategic communications firm, Miller Ink considers these questions and more as we help clients leverage the latest technologies to achieve their PR goals. Here are some of our insights into best practices surrounding digital media.

 Social Media as Marketing

Social media is an easy and fast way to connect with your audience. Millions of users log onto social media platforms every day. Traditional PR is an involved process that can often take weeks, and a significant amount of correspondence and planning, to yield results. With social media, organizations own their channels and use them to share messages immediately, without having to go through any intermediaries or call any editors.

This, of course, creates certain advantages, particularly when it comes to reliability. With a fully developed social media strategy, organizations are able to know when and where their content will be placed.

Digital marketing helps reach and mobilize specific audiences, but it is important to keep in mind that there are still organic ways to use social media. While paid social media strategies can help organizations quickly amass new followers, organic posts help build authenticity and credibility. Similarly, organic posts can be deployed on a much quicker basis. Paid posts require a certain ad spend and duration, then must be screened and approved by the platform, a process that can sometimes take up to a week. When your organization wants to make an urgent statement or comment on breaking news, this process simply isn’t viable. A well-developed organic content capability can help organizations stay nimble and embedded in the moment.

Implementing Digital Tools into Your Campaigns

The best digital media campaigns focus their efforts on the platforms that are most relevant to their audiences. Determining which platforms meet clients’ needs should be the first step of all digital marketing campaigns.

Many organizations are best off using the big three social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Again, though, at the center of this determination must be the target audience. For organizations looking to reach other professionals, particularly B2B firms, LinkedIn could be most effective. For those looking to build a younger, more tech-savvy audience, TikTok will yield a much greater ROI than a platform like Facebook. Audience is everything.

Setting Ad Spend Goals

 Once an organization has decided on the platforms to use for its campaign, it must set clear guardrails on the anticipated ad spend and think strategically about how to best leverage these funds to make an impact.

Social media is a space where you must pay to play; there are no free lunches. If you want to maximize reach and engagement, as well as send people to your website or interact with your product, you must be willing to devote ad dollars to your social channels.

There is good news and bad news here.

While it is becoming more expensive to advertise on social media, it is still one of the most cost-effective ways to broadcast your message to wide audiences.

Distinguishing Yourself

“Content is king” has become a cliché, but the essence is still true. Compelling content — especially short-form video content —will perform well on social media.

The key is to develop a way to distinguish your content from that of your competitors. If you’re posting consistently but unappealing content on your social channels, then your objectives will go unfulfilled.

That’s where a professional resource like Miller Ink comes in. Full-service strategic communications firms can infuse your content with a compelling, comprehensive message tailored to the needs of your audiences. We distill your value propositions, amplify your voice, and tell your story through content.

Looking Ahead

Social media is changing. When these platforms first began to emerge in the mid-2000s, the landscape was much more of a free-for-all. There were few limits on what organizations could or could not do to share their message. Now, regulation is catching up.

In the years to come, strategic communications firms will need to consider the way forthcoming regulations and laws could change social media advertising.

Savvy firms must also consider the changing nature of social media platforms. Just a few years ago, no one had ever heard of TikTok. Now, it’s everywhere, driving many of pop culture’s latest trends, propelling influencers into stardom, and exerting new pressures on companies and products. Staying abreast of the latest platforms, and anticipating what could be coming next, will help organizations stay on the leading edge of these changes.