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PR Strategies Affecting Todays Marketplace

<p>The world of public relations has become heated with instant communication necessitating lightning-fast responses and outreach. Failing to embrace new ideas, technologies and media&#0151;and continuing to adhere to old-school thinking&#0151;can impede a brand&#8217;s progress and make it vulnerable to the competition.</p>

Editor’s note: 2016 marks the 20th SupplySide West, and INSIDER is celebrating all year. We asked speakers from the first SupplySide to update the industry on the topic. In 1997, Sheldon Baker’s presentation was on “Effective Public Relations" and covered keys to successfully incorporating PR into a marketing plan to create a prominent position in the marketplace.

The world is changing at an accelerated pace that is impacting our personal and professional lives. And those changes have manifested themselves in the world of public relations (PR) as well.

Often, it’s hard for me to imagine that successful ingredients such as CitriMax from InterHealth Nutraceuticals and Ostivone sold by TSI Inc., were launched in the 1990s without the use of the internet and social media. They were launched with traditional marketing communications strategies, including the use of well-established media relations, seminars, media tours and video news releases, as well as—new to the industry at that time—celebrity endorsements. All tactics generated a huge trade and consumer response. Yet, I often think how much more successful the outreach could have been by adding 21st century marketing techniques.

These days, the world of PR has become heated, with instant communication necessitating lightning-fast responses and outreach. Failing to embrace new ideas, technologies and media—and continuing to adhere to old-school thinking—can impede a brand’s progress and make it vulnerable to the competition.

“There is a shift in media economics that has led to fewer full-time consumer and trade health writers, and more reliance on contributing writers," said Cheryl Costanzo, director, global communications for Horphag Research USA Inc. “Cultivating relationships with this emerging media contingent is essential, and can lead to one media article being picked up by various news organizations and partners both online and in print, with a greatly expanded audience exposed to your brand and messaging."

Integrating New Technologies

To break through the ever growing magnitude of today’s clutter, PR continues to be about attracting as much media and audience attention as possible for a product or service. To achieve that scenario, search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing have become more PR-oriented. Traditional PR should always include social media platforms and influencers. Only if a brand integrates new technologies and long-established PR practices will it be able to effectively leverage efforts and provide the best results. Social media has to be used as a two-way street—monitoring the dialogue that’s taking place among customers, competitors, partners and the media themselves. This access allows a brand to react immediately to issues and trends, as well as learn what matters to its constituents. This knowledge can help develop proactive media pitches that touch nerves and can be integrated by reporters into timely stories.

And when it comes to SEO, PR and marketing teams should be joined at the hip thematically. It is essential to integrate the same concepts and keywords into offline and online collateral to help a brand organically rise in search engine rankings that are relevant to timely events and to the products and services being proffered.

Content Marketing Strategies

Today, it’s no secret that having a strong content marketing strategy plays a crucial part in marketing success. While we are all aware of this, many companies still struggle with just how much content is needed to get their business noticed. This is a common question that comes with a frustrating answer—it depends. Finding a content creation sweet spot truly depends on the size of the marketing team, time restrictions, resources, and how much money a brand can spend.

The good piece of news around content marketing is that a successful program is more about the quality of the content and how it’s promoted, than the amount of content produced. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and these steps can help a company determine the amount of content it needs to get noticed.

Step One: Create a Content Plan

Content creation is a daunting task for many companies, so be realistic with how much the PR and marketing team can accomplish. Creating a manageable to-do list should help make the entire process less overwhelming. The first step is to determine which members of the team will be able to participate and how much time each person has to dedicate to creating content.

Then take time to determine what type of content is best for the audience. A great place to start is using what is called a persona exercise. Gather up key members of a company, including members of the sales, marketing and management teams. Take some time to brainstorm exactly who the members of the target audience are. Outline their demographic information, pain points and common concerns. After the completion of the persona exercise, move forward with a content gap analysis. Take an inventory of all the available content. This information can help outline an editorial calendar.

Compare the list of missing content list with the team’s availability. This will help determine how much content can realistically be created and what types of content should be prioritized so that key targets are receiving useful information that will help move them down the sales funnel.

Step Two: Craft Quality Content

Once the type of content to create is identified, the next step is creating it. Remember, content marketing is more about focusing on quality over quantity. It’s better to take the time to create one useful piece of content than to pump out mediocre blog articles once a week.

A strategic and efficient way to create content for a company with limited resources is to focus efforts on creating one sustainable piece of content, such as an e-book or whitepaper. Then the company can take that piece of content, and slice and dice it into smaller pieces such as blog articles, webinars, social posts, video and email campaigns.

Step Three—Promote, Promote, Promote

Creating useful content is only part of a successful strategy. Having a solid content promotion strategy in place is just as important, if not more so. It will be a waste of company time and resources to create content if no one will see it. When putting a promotion plan in place, a brand will want to determine the right channels to promote the content and coordinate that with the budget. The strategy should span across multiple channels, such as paid social media, paid advertising, email marketing and native advertising.

Content Pitfalls

Changes in the digital advertising and marketing landscape appear to be having a direct impact on PR strategies and tactics for brands of all sizes. The use of internet ad blocking software is on the rise, according to Robert Silverman, editor in chief for StatePoint Media.

“The trend is forcing savvy marketers to focus more on contextualized advertising, content marketing and other innovative online and offline promotional initiatives," Silverman said. “And the trend is expected to continue, especially as ad blocking software expands."

Content marketing and contextualized advertising are riding to the rescue, as these tactics become a greater portion of the promotional mix for consumer brands. As with CitriMax and Ostivone, ingredients are promoted to consumers as well as key trade buyers.

New content marketing services are helping brands of all sizes obtain affordably showcased editorial content in newspapers, TV, radio and websites. These types of services are a smart component of a marketing campaign. Several media distribution companies (such as Silverman’s StatePoint group) guarantee 1,000 media placements per story, mostly online, reaching more than 50 million readers nationally. And more than just being unblocked, such content is desirable to both media outlets in need of fresh material and their audiences, so long as a company employs best practices, and feature stories, infographics and listicles are developed as true editorial content, with the majority of each piece featuring non-promotional information of tangible value to readers. It’s all about getting organic editorial placements, so people can’t skip or block content—and won’t want to tune it out.

“Social media has changed the way we communicate and we now have the unique ability to share key news and breaking information with multiple audiences much quicker and with a broader audience," Costanzo said. “Social media also allows consumers to interact and engage with the brand in a way that was previously impossible. Consumer media has also transitioned from traditional text stores to more image-driven content with visuals, such as video clips and infographics, to better explain technical information and engage readers."

How much content does a company need to get noticed? The better question is what information does its target audience really want to know? Once it has answered this most important question, it will be able to determine how much content the company really needs, and the best promotional formats to participate in 21st century PR and brand marketing.

Sheldon Baker (sheldon@bakerdillon.com) is a partner in the Baker Dillon Group LLC (bakerdillon.com), and has created numerous marketing and public relations brand campaigns for well-known nutraceutical companies and products.

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