Brand JournalismThat graphic over there, that’s a stake in the ground. It’s not a POV, it’s not conceptual thinking and it’s not our attempt to outdo Brian Solis’ forays into graphic communication. It is a sharp representation of what we know our clients need in today’s marketplace. This isn’t a traditional notion of public relations with a splash of search, a dash of social media and a tip-of-the-hat to content. This is the new PR – the PR brands need for the foreseeable future. And this isn’t just Beehive telling you this, either. We’ve listened intently to our clients and to the marketplace over the last few months. While PR firms must be masters of media relations and engagement, they must look at engagement through the lenses of social media, search and content marketing. Everything we do must have at its core a sound connection to search engine marketing and social media. It must be driven by a smart, cohesive and well-executed content strategy. And we can no longer build campaigns from rigid platforms. Our audiences and the marketplace let us know quickly and efficiently what is working and what is not. When we turn this into a perpetual feedback loop we have the opportunity to listen and adjust strategy very efficiently, mapping to people’s expectations of engagement. PR must own new areas of expertise to create results that impact clients’ businesses in meaningful ways. But this expertise cannot exist separately, or even in addition to our other, more classic skill sets. Today, PR needs to bring a holistic perspective to client challenges that constantly assesses situations for the relationships between audiences, content, media, search and social platforms. This brings into focus four new and emerging realities and priorities for modern PR:

Think SEO. The good kind. All of the time.

Search no longer belongs to your web developer. PR needs to think about search constantly. As an important component of a client’s content strategy we need to think about how smart keyword research can direct our approach to media relations and the stories we tell and share on behalf of our clients. We need to weave SEO into all areas of our work and ensure that our clients have optimized all of their assets. The goal is not to provide an SEO bolster to traditional PR work. The goal is to dramatically and substantively improve organic search results for our clients across a range of needs. Increasingly, this is achieved through the contextual connection between the content we create and the audiences who are looking for it, where they’re looking. It’s also a priority to link into a client’s website via an activated and contextually relevant social media presence. This is the good kind of SEO (not the “black hat” approach to SEO that attempts to game the search engines). Search engines increasing love and reward contextual relevance, and we’re now in the contextual relevance business. When done well, the interplay between media relations, SEO and a sustained and meaningful connection to social media communities can be incredibly powerful. An optimized website with effective content and a conversion strategy is still important to capitalize on this, but it is no longer the focal point of a comprehensive digital strategy.

Social is a meaningful must-have.

We have yet to work with a client who did not already have valuable content and information to share through social media, but they still lack the content focus to engage with their audiences in a meaningful way. We also have yet to work with a client whose audience(s) were not already active and, in many cases, already aggregated in social media communities. B2B, B2C, small business or Fortune 100… invariably all will find meaningful connections with their customers if they make interacting and contributing (not just showing up) a priority. What do we want our audiences to do? What are the longer-term goals with our presence on Facebook or Twitter? How do they intersect with our other marketing and PR efforts? Important questions, but most importantly for us is empowering clients with a plan they can own, sustain and scale based on performance. But it’s not just customers who get great value out of social media. The news media also uses platforms like Facebook and Twitter to find story ideas, identify subject matter experts and share their own work with a greater audience. Pitching media has always been about building trust and forming relationships, so engaging media genuinely through social media provides a new way to make these connections.

Success begins, and ends, with killer content.

Having mentioned content in the first two points, it bears emphasizing that our effectiveness in PR now begins and ends with the quality of our content. This focus on content is not a trend. It is perhaps the most declarative example of how people’s behavior and interaction with brands has changed. Yes, we expect brands to hear us, and we love when they inspire us, and that can happen any number of ways. But what people absolutely demand is real, quality content around the brands they are exploring. Content that gets to the heart of answering their questions and informing them in a substantive way. We all seek this content in different ways, but more than 70% of us begin this quest with search, and not for brand or product names. We begin with the questions or problems we’re looking to solve. There is an inextricable link between the content that brands produce, publish and share and their effectiveness in search. Likewise in social media and with website performance. Content matters big time.

Monitor, measure and adjust.

Bring on the perpetual feedback loop and welcome it with open arms. Today, every aspect of our work can be monitored and measured. And it should be. We constantly monitor performance using sophisticated tools like Social Radar, Radian6, Cision and an endless list of others. And we do this because – unlike years ago – we can measure the performance of our work and adjust in real time based on that performance. Strategy must be flexible and adaptive. There is no perfect plan, but there are smart starting points. As a result, we have to be nimble, responsive and fast acting. The tools we utilize completely support this. However, the goal is not to inundate clients with endless spreadsheets and data. The goal is to help them understand the right metrics to inform our collective decisions as a plan progresses, and how to continually orient that plan for successful execution. At Beehive I talk a lot about intersections,  because that’s what our work has become. We work at the intersection of media engagement, content strategy, search and social media. We have to because that’s where we maximize our clients’ efforts to increase awareness, engagement and activation with their valued audiences. In short, it’s the fulfillment of this old but incredibly relevant adage: “Be where your customers are.”

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