The digital age has been an incubator for all sorts of effective PR techniques. Though PR methods tend to change based on various consumer and behavioral trends, we've seen one major shift in communicative PR develop over the past decade: it has changed horizontally. Compelling your audience to support your product or service takes more than just having an interesting product; they want to know more about you, your team, and what goes on behind the scenes. Playing the mystery card and tossing out seasonal press releases just doesn't cut it anymore in the age of sharing (and oversharing). Here are four tools and techniques that wouldn't have been part of your marketing repertoire 10 years ago.
Living the Social Media Life
Social media platforms did exist a decade ago, but they were a mere fraction of what they are today and they weren't catering to businesses. MySpace was designed for individuals to make new friends and then quickly got picked up by the performing arts community (specifically those in the music industry), and Facebook was designed to connect with friends from school. While MySpace is a thing of the past, Facebook and Twitter (and more recently Pinterest and Instagram) are catering to businesses with enterprise-friendly layouts and functionality.
Your business has basically come alive so to speak. Audiences are engaged by not only reading reviews or facts about your product or service, they want to learn about what your corporate culture is like and who the people are on the ground. It's about who is involved in making the product (and not just the CEO), what their office spaces look like, and even what goes on among the staff. A great example is a BuzzFeed post about one of their employees mistakenly sending a global-staff email informing them he'd be late for work. It resulted in a hilarious (and super viral) post about the staff of BuzzFeed worldwide and their reactions to his glitch. People will tend to support a product if they can connect with the real people behind it. If your team is traveling to a convention in Muscat or Berlin, people who can't attend want to see your team set up the stands and shut them down. It's about as horizontal as it gets.
I Wanna Watch You do Cool Stuff
A catchy video ad will always be important and relevant; if it goes viral on YouTube or the lesser-utilized (but extremely important) Vimeo then you've struck Internet gold. But it's not just that, regularly updating your videos on YouTube (or even Facebook) can maintain and increase your current following. There are many ways you can use video to your advantage beyond a conventional advertisement. The first thing that comes to mind is official demo vids. Whether you're promoting an app, a phone or even a service, official demo videos are key. It's one thing to put out a really nice image or video ad stating the different features of your product, but people want to see how it works behind the fancy editing and the Photoshop work- you can go beyond that.
I'll use an example that's close to home: Elixir guitar strings. Elixir's key selling point is that their strings are coated with a material that prevents the strings from rusting in a short period of time, hence a better tone and longer life. Their videos on YouTube venture further than famous Elixir users demoing their strings. They have videos that teach people how to restring their guitar and keep their instruments well-maintained. Of course, they use Elixir strings and tape those videos at Elixir workshops and factories. And yes, the person in the video discusses their role with Elixir briefly and mentions which Elixir workshop is taking place, but they're giving the user –their target audience- so much added-value with their useful approach to engaged marketing.
Let Me Tell You a Story.. on My Blog
Like social media platforms, blogging did exist 10 years ago but it was still in early development stage- and it wasn't directed at businesses. Many people resorted to blogging on MSN Spaces (now Windows Live Spaces), where they talked about their traveling experiences and why Fallout Boy's Pete Wentz used the best eyeliner. Businesses at the time opted for their primary .com or .net website with all the basic info, and if people wanted to know more they'd call the contact phone numbers. That has obviously changed, and I'm not just talking about Pete Wentz' level of relevance.
Many businesses, especially those that provide a service of some sort, are incorporating blogging into their official corporate communication strategies. It doesn't have to be related to their product; it could be their views on changing market and consumer trends or their take on some recent developments in the industry. An excellent example of this in the region is Bayt.com, an employment-oriented platform for the MENA region. Their blog posts range from tips on using their portal to advice to help you nail your job interview. I even read a blog post about how to boost your staff's morale. Our Editor was featured in their Day in the Life section along with a multitude of other industry professionals- Bayt.com's work is interesting and it drives web traffic.
I'd also include research reports and infographics under this category. Marketing agencies these days may put out a seasonal infographic about consumer trends or developments in a particular market. While this might not be as directly communicative as one might assume, revealing info from your research shows that you trust your user base and that you're more or less willing to start a dialogue with them.
I App-Solutely Agree, Count Me In!
Businesses developing brand apps is something that is becoming more pervasive. It makes sense as more people are spending time on their smartphones and tablets for functions that they've previously executed exclusively on their laptops. Many apps for brands have useful features like recent updates, interactive maps to locate a branch, and more. You can really play with this one, depending on the type of business you're in. F&B brands can have apps that allow you to order food to your current location without calling, and perhaps a retailer can allow users to check the availability of certain items, to see whether they are out of stock or not.
An interesting example? The Pampers "Hello Baby Pregnancy Calendar" mobile app. Giving consumers more ways of accessing your product or service is a great way of keeping them coming back for more. Users looking at their tablets and smartphones and seeing your company's logo on a daily basis will definitely keep them closer, and perhaps even turn them into advocates. In our Tech section, read an overview on the state of mobile apps for brands with Born Interactive CEO Fadi Sabbagha.