While Public Relations is an important part of any medium or large business, the field is rapidly changing in the age of the internet. In the past, the media was composed of a handful to TV networks and major newspapers that controlled the message. A discreetly placed phone call to a top executive in one of these influential channels could turn the tide by promoting more balanced coverage of your clients. You only needed to connect with a handful of the most powerful industry executives.
Today with the proliferation of the internet, this is no longer the case. Now, anybody can drive the message and create a public outcry against your organization that is hard to control. That is why the metrics of PR have changed so dramatically in recent years, focusing on viewer impressions rather than the coverage of a few major media outlets.
For example, in recent months Chipotle was hit by a number of health scares in its California restaurants as customers got sick from its food. Even though it was a very small number of locations and people impacted, the story took on a life of its own. Instead of controlling the message with a few well placed ads and articles, it got out of control on twitter and the whole country knew about the problem. As a result, sales are down and the stock cratered.
That is why the concept of impressions is more important than ever. Moving beyond traditional public relations, impressions indicates how many people actually witnessed your message either on social media, a website or traditional channels such as TV and print media.
However, impressions is still a concept up for debate. For example, if the message is viewed in twitter stream, does the consumer really pay attention to an individual tweet if they scroll by it? Or do they have to actually click on the tweet for it to count? The same goes for Facebook and Instagram posts. In the end, the metrics are blended so that no one number means everything to your impressions. Instead, it is a combination of how many website hits, Twitter follows or re-tweets, Facebook likes or mentions that you receive. At the end of the day of course, the sales are also most important. If they increase then the messaging was ultimately successful. If they decline then the messaging probably was not as good as it could be.
The issue has existed for a long-time with web pages. Some web hits are done by robots to increase page views. Other times, web users click on a link accidentally and are only on the page for a split second. In those cases, it is quite hard to count the impression with the value of other impressions that linger on the page for a few minutes.
While the issue may never be settled completely, PR professionals are coming up with more ways to measure impressions and also broadcast their message. First of all, taking control of the message requires constant preparation and messaging. It requires a clear and consistent brand message and delivering in terms of quality and price to customers.
Most of all, the new PR if focused on dedicated followers and loyal consumers. That means growing your brand presence through the metric of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube followers and email list. The larger this number, the easier it is to control your message. When a crisis inevitably happens, you can immediately go to your established channels and broadcast your message. Your followers will like and re-broadcast your response which amplifies the message from peer to peer. Hopefully, this will take control of the conversation and tip the balance of the debate in your direction.
More importantly, all of your followers have been receiving as steady stream of your brand message for weeks, years or months. They will be faithful to your brand as long as you are faithful in terms of quality goods.
One positive example is the case of Lululemon yoga pants. The company already established a strong brand with a loyal following and many followers on the different social media platforms along with a robust email list. The company then found that it had sold defective pants to many customers that were cut wrong and translucent in some places. The CEO apologized for the error and the company pledged to do better and make it up to its consumers, using its established messaging channels. While sales did take a hit, they were able to rebound based on the company’s long-term trust and value proposition.
Today, PR is more complicated than ever before. Public Relations professionals have to go beyond the traditional methods of years past and create innovative strategies. Now they have to use impressions and other metrics to get their message out.
5WPR is the leading Public Relations firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Denver.