It has been more than 110 years since PR forefather Ivy Lee invented the press release and, it’s safe to say, a lot has changed: we’ve survived two World Wars, the invention and commercialization of cars and planes, the creation of the Internet, the rise of the smartphone… the list goes on and on.
Given the fact that the way humans communicate has dramatically changed over the past century, it’s no surprise that public relations practices have expanded beyond Lee’s groundbreaking press release. While the press release still presents value in certain newsworthy situations, there are many other ways that companies can strategically engage prospects in 2016:
Webinars get a bad rap — usually as a result of mandatory, instructional company tutorials — but, when executed correctly, webinars can be extremely valuable thought leadership drivers. Pick a timely, interesting topic or trend and take an informative stance. When developing your webinar, be sure to make it educational and not overtly promotional; if it’s a glamorized advertisement it will come off as tacky and transparent and might potentially damage relationships with prospects who signed up. Be sure to include a section at the end of the webinar for questions — this will allow you to directly engage with prospects. To drive awareness and increase attendance, don’t forget to promote the webinar (via social media, newsletters, native advertising). Pro tip? Record your webinar and then put it on your website, available for download, as a lead generation tool.
There are more than 1.55 billion monthly active users on Facebook, so it’s no surprise that social media platforms are a strategic way to engage with prospects; but, simply having a Twitter or Facebook presence with a steady stream of content does not guarantee that you are targeting, and engaging, with the right audience. There are many new social tools and strategies that will help you engage with prospects and influencers. If you aren’t issuing sponsored content updates on LinkedIn, now is the time to see if it’s a good fit for your company. Sponsored content updates, or native ads, raise awareness, build relationships and drive leads with prospects; you will be able to guarantee you reach the right audience through comprehensive targeting options and you only pay for success. Are you utilizing lists on Twitter to increase engagement? Identifying powerful influencers on Twitter and then aggregating the influencers into lists allows you to circumnavigate your busy newsfeed and see a hyper-targeted stream of updates by your influencers and prospects; this allows for easy, frequent engagement. To identify influencers, check out tools like Topsy and ShortStack.
Thoughtfully curated email campaigns will be opened but if you’re spamming your prospects’ inbox with promotional, irrelevant emails they could do more harm than good. In order to have a successful email campaign, you must produce excellent content. Sit down and map out a content calendar noting how often you will issue a campaign and ideating themes and sections (in the news, company profiles, etc.) that will be included in the email. Are you already creating content, such as blog posts or podcasts, that you might want to share with your audience? An email marketing campaign is the perfect avenue. Once you nail the content, be sure to test your email campaign to make sure it configures correctly on a variety of platforms (mobile, tablet, etc). Tracking open rates will help you refine future content to increase engagement. If you’re just getting started with an email marketing campaign, MailChimp is an excellent tool with free templates that will help you execute a thoughtful email marketing campaign.
In today’s digital landscape, there are numerous ways to engage prospects directly. If you aren’t currently issuing sponsored content updates or have never hosted a webinar, set a goal to try one new method every quarter in 2016. Remember to practice patience when implementing a new initiative — not all results are immediate, but the foundation will be set for increased engagement, brand awareness and thought leadership.