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Online PR – Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast

ASG Ireland Vicky CaddyVicki Caddy, Head of PR at ASG.

A quick show of hands please: how many of you checked your phone first thing this morning, before you even got out of bed, or very shortly thereafter?

We’re all so hungry for news and information that we hunt it down whilst still in our pyjamas.

90% of all media interactions are now screen based and research from a couple of years back says we spend an average of 4.4 hours of our daily leisure time in front of screens (many two at a time) (Hands up again: who watches TV whilst also looking at Twitter or Facebook?).

News, information and plain hot gossip are all valuable currency in this frenzy of information we have in the palm of our hands. Nobody wants to miss anything and everyone wants to be either first in the know or at least instrumental in spreading breaking news.

Aside from the obvious impact this has on traditional print media, this is giving even the online-savvy media a challenge. When news is available 24/7, how can you claim a scoop if other online commentators (or armchair news-hounds) share the story, thus leading to other formal news outlets carrying the story in print the following day? Within the past week, two of our biggest papers were having it out on social media over exclusive content which was broken online by one outlet and appeared in print the following day in the other. News and information is hot property and owning it is increasingly tough.

So, communication is really changing and new behaviour is developing. How do you get your product or service in front of this audience in a meaningful way that will benefit your bottom line?

There is an information-hungry audience out there for everything, if you can simply find the right channel. Stuart Bruce, a maestro of online PR, and something of an old-hand (in the nicest way Stuart) was in Belfast last week for a CIPR event. He said that marketers of niche products actually stand a much better chance of making a direct impact on their customers through online PR than those with a more generic product, like beer or chocolate.

Why? Because there are armies of “experts” in virtually every field, who sit at the head of a campfire group, spinning their yarns of good times, passing on their tips and sharing tales of new widgets. The group are interested and engaged – they love this guy and they trust his opinion. Imagine if the story-teller gets wind of your brand new innovative widget and tells the group around the fire in a cosy, feel-good, inside-track way? What are the chances that they will scurry off to get their hands on it and try it for themselves?

That’s PR: informing and influencing through the word of someone whose opinion is trusted and respected.

We’re strongly influenced by personal recommendation – “word of mouth” in the online world is really no different. Many of us use Product Reviews, Trip Advisor, we read blogs reviewing new season trends, or even put a call out on Facebook for a good plumber – that’s all about taking independent opinion from users of a product or service. As a business, your customers don’t just take your word for it when you say you have an innovative product or great customer service – they’ll go online to find out (good and bad).

Stuart’s advice is Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast. Online PR requires the same professionalism as traditional PR: you must find the right channels, seek out the influencers, tell your story clearly and concisely, make it interesting and keep it relevant. It’s about relationships, trust and a personal touch. The skills required of the PR industry are still the same, it’s just the channels that are changing. The vastness of the online world can look terrifying, but the business opportunities are equally large. There’s nothing to fear, and everything to gain.