A seismic shift has occurred in the way people make connections. Fame was historically earned through achievements in a noteworthy or public field. Now, both popularity and notoriety are up for grabs depending on whether you are lucky enough to create a piece of viral content. The culture of digital and social content have transformed marketing in some key ways.
Marketing and Digital Media
Traditional marketing happened through television, radio or print ads. As the eyes of the public have moved from the page to the screen, leaders in marketing have shifted strategies. Because the stage is different, brands have to perform differently.
It’s no longer enough to have a single, solid tagline. Numerous elements intrinsic to social media have brought waves of change to marketing efforts. These include things such as:
- The rate of change of social media i.e. a world in which the average person spends 144 minutes a day scrolling through, processing and mostly discarding content.
- The quantity of content against which the average marketing copywriter is competing. For example, Twitter users who are considered prolific tweet 138 times a month.
- The shift from text to video has outpaced many brands. There are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Because social platforms are filled with user-generated content, many marketers simply haven’t been able to stay competitive. How can one department out-produce and out-perform billions of individuals?
This democratization has been devastating for some brands, who have watched their visibility diminish day by day.
Many businesses are left scrambling to upgrade their social media channels (or create them for the first time!) and fill them with enough content to make a dent in customer attention. Hiring younger, savvy new media professionals may work.
Other companies leverage influencer marketing. Simply put, this practice occurs when a brand hires a person with a certain number of followers on a popular social media platform to promote their product. Similar to buying a commercial at halftime, a company can gain visibility by broadcasting on a platform that is highly viewed and highly engaged.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute:
- 86% of marketers have bought space on an influencer’s channel, page or profile
- 70% of teens believe in influencers more than they believe in celebrities
- 86% of women use the social proof of platforms like Facebook to vet purchases
- 49% of consumers buy things based on influencers they see on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube
- $6.50 is the average earning for every dollar spent on influencer marketing, with the top 13% of influencers performing even higher
These numbers are compelling and force many brands to try the largely uncharted territory of paying an average person to tell the people who like them to buy this product.
So, new media is a very competitive space where only the most creative win, and even then sometimes only when magic happens to make something viral. Influencer marketing is apparently effective but novel. Most importantly: where do you even start? What is the process for creating a coherent strategy amidst all of this upheaval?
Interestingly, the answer has been present all along. There is one industry that exists to make connections. It is the secret weapon of all brands who were the first to understand and leverage these new tools and platforms. Public relations.
Is PR the Secret Weapon?
From politicians to movie stars now to influencers, forging connections with the public is what PR is all about. Taking famous people and making them the mouthpiece for brands is a storied tactic of this industry. Now, there are simply different outlets, but the strategy is pretty much the same.
PR professionals perform a wide variety of tasks. PR exists for clients who want to:
- Be featured on a podcast
- Be published in a national paper or magazine
- Get on-air television coverage
- Partner with or be sponsored by major brands
- Gain a following
- Tell a story by writing an article or a book
Influencers may look like networkers, but they connect primarily with an audience that follows them. PR professionals have a deeper, broader and more intricate network than most influencers could ever imagine.
In addition to making connections, PR has a long history of assessing and analyzing data. Influencers are hired based on data points like followers, views and impressions. PR professionals understand which brands will benefit from that exact exposure.
Reputation, voice and personality are still integral to publicity both as an influencer and as a brand. Joining those two is simply one skill a PR pro brings to the table. As the nature of connections and visibility continues to shift, the core elements of PR will remain the same.
Forming a network is part of human nature. And setting the right people before the right customers to make money for the right brand is what PR teams have done for decades. Chances are, as platforms rise and fall, PR will always play a role in this timeless exercise of creating connections.
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