The emergence of digital marketing has given cause-driven organizations a unique opportunity to reach their audience at any moment with a wide selection of channels and tactics at their disposal. Digital marketing generally involves promoting products, services or ideas to consumers online through social media, email, texting, influencer marketing, digital advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). Public relations (PR), on the other hand, is the strategic communications process that builds bridges between the organization and their audiences. In a modern world with a rapidly changing news cycle and ever-advancing technology, a fully integrated PR and digital marketing strategy will help you stay grounded in your mission and values while effectively reaching your audience where they are.
When it comes to fact-checking and research, studies show that younger consumers in the U.S. now rely on a mix of social media and traditional news as their main sources of information. At a high level, PR helps to shape the news and the stories being told – which is especially powerful in the age of disinformation online. The messages we deliver as PR professionals either work to strengthen or dismantle preconceived notions that our audiences hold.
While digital marketing is a fast and powerful medium for delivery, opponents and competitors also have access to the same tools. PR tactics like building reporter relationships and placing critical stories can help provide additional context to combat disinformation or harmful narratives. Specifically, responding to existing stories with alternative viewpoints through letters to the editor, often referred to as LTEs, placing op-eds, offering commentary on breaking news stories or working on background with reporters to shape their storytelling can help bring nuance to discourse around important issues and allow readers to make informed decisions.
In addition to influencing news, PR should set both the foundation and the parameters for your digital marketing strategy. How you talk about yourself as an organization determines legitimacy, and how you talk about your issue campaigns determines resonance. Crafting precise and intentional language is a core part of PR work, and this language will then be adapted for digital copy to fit different channels and audiences in your digital plan.
For example, if your organization wants to engage Gen Z audiences online and work with influencers to amplify the campaign, your PR team or agency should be the first folks onboarded for the conversation. They can help decide which influencers are a right fit for the organization’s image and brand and determine parameters for what the influencers can and cannot say under the partnership.
Lastly, digital marketing tools can also help your organization optimize PR efforts. If you struggle to hear back from reporters whose inboxes are flooded with requests, you may find that they are more active and accessible on Twitter. The purpose of Twitter for advocacy organizations is to connect with journalists, elected officials and similar organizations by tagging the proper accounts, adding relevant hashtags and sending direct messages. Twitter can also help you better understand a reporter’s beat, what they currently need and craft an effective pitch accordingly.
Your PR and digital marketing teams should always be in conversation with each other. Effective PR is essential for your organization’s brand, which impacts the legitimacy of your campaigns. If PR shapes the news, then digital marketing spreads key messages – both inherently come together to affect political decisions and inform public opinion. By embracing PR as a core component of your campaign strategy, you can maximize the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts to spread awareness, inspire action and change hearts and minds.