Dell Technologies' Shobha Vasudevan shares 5 ways PR companies can be an integrated marketing communications firm

Many of us believe that public relations and marketing exist in separate and very distinct spheres. While that was true until a few years ago, in today’s scenario, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred. 

Today, brands not only focus on traditional methods of engaging with the media but also build campaigns that are integrated and holistic with a flavour of digital in it, focusing on building brand friends. Therefore, brands now expect PR firms to deliver 360-degree campaigns which will deliver high impact measurable results, resulting in higher ROI.

 In my experience, to create campaigns that resonate well with the brand's target audience, PR firms must focus on these 5 areas:

Digital PR

In today’s digital landscape, brands are focusing on digital PR to engage with their target audience and build brand trust and credibility. Digital PR skills are now a survival essential for any organization. The one major advantage of digital content is that it can be shared across social media networks, making it a great mode to enhance the SEO of the brand’s website. In addition to enhancing visibility, digital PR is also aimed at establishing positive relationships. Hence, all campaigns must be designed to amplify the brand messaging across digital platforms through podcasts, videos, press releases and other tools.

Social PR

In this age of the connected world, social media is a must to build impactful PR campaigns that reach the relevant audience. 

Social PR helps in building emotional connect with the audience, increasing brand loyalty and showcasing real human impact. Additionally, targeting the social media platforms will result in building executive profiles (LinkedIn), increasing brand following (Twitter, Facebook & Instagram) and opening a two-way communication between brand and customer – leading to developing a credible relationship with the stakeholders.

In recent time, social media has evolved into a great tool for crisis communication as it gives brands the power to mitigate crisis effectively.

Visual Storytelling

Using video for communication is becoming increasingly popular, with more businesses realizing the power videos have, to reach their target audience. So, while there are certainly a lot of tools in a communication specialist’s arsenal, the one which is proving to be extremely effective is also one that is the most popular: video content. 

Furthermore, PR firms must tap the first-mover advantage by building in-house capabilities to address the growing need for visual content. If it’s not possible to build an in-house team, the PR firm must outsource the task, keeping a close eye on the entire process and content creation, considering they are well versed with brand messaging.

Experiential PR

Another expectation from an integrated media campaign is an element of the experience. With the introduction of new technologies such as AR and VR, experiential PR is on the rise. PR campaign should not only deliver the message but also actively engage and awe the target audience. This can be done successfully by creating experiential or demo zones and by showcasing solutions/products with the help of techniques such as holograms. In case the PR firm does not have the in-house ability to execute such events, they must again outsource the ideation & execution to a third party vendor, however, the responsibility of supervising the event and end-to-end execution lies with the PR firm.

Influencer PR

Nowadays, more and more brands are turning to influencers to promote their brands. Influencer engagement gives brands an outstanding opportunity to let their potential customers know of their existence. PR firms must start with creating a list of relevant influencers – considering factors such as presence in your sector, their following on social media platforms and their relevance with your brand. Therefore, moving ahead, it becomes a must for PR agencies to have an influencer communications strategy in place.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize on one key rule of success - seamless collaboration between a PR firm and brand’s corporate communications. A PR firm must:

  1. Take responsibility for the entire campaign - Take responsibility for coordination of the entire campaign. Whether a PR firm is doing all parts of the campaign or not, they must supervise all the campaign elements and overlook the tasks other firms are executing
  2. Have metrics of success – Metrics are important to measure a campaign’s success. PR firms must have metrics to measure all elements of a PR campaign – social media, digital  and showcase these results in the right manner
  3. Keep in mind the budget – Some elements require additional client funding and some don’t. The PR firm must suggest both as a part of the campaign, ensuring that the ROI secured for any campaign is higher than the financial investment
  4. Stay engaged – For a brand to deliver an impactful campaign, it is essential to have two-way communication between the corporate communications team and the PR firm. The team executing a particular campaign must stay engaged and motivated throughout the entire process. They must realize that there is immense pressure riding on the brand’s communication team. One must always look at the positive aspects – A successful campaign will always be appreciated and the learning is a bonus!

Shobha Vasudevan is head- ISG Communication and PR, Dell Technologies