The value of PR has increased considerably as digital marketing has evolved. New customer journeys and channels have shaken the PR industry to its core, and the old ways of the PR profession are changing. This piece will be a guide for anyone who wants more value from PR, and those who want to give their organisation a digital advantage.

The death of the linear customer journey

Despite being almost a century old, the Purchase Funnel still persists as the model on which our marketing strategies are shaped, determining the role of each pound invested into marketing. But what’s the role of PR in this? And, more specifically, what’s the role of PR in driving e-commerce sales and digital leads? Before the digital age, things were more simple. The value that PR brought to marketing efforts sat squarely in the ‘Consideration’ stage, occasionally venturing into the “Awareness” stage; all fine when the customer journey was linear. But in today’s world, the customer journey is far from linear.

PR can now have a much greater impact on all stages of the funnel. Let’s say I decided to buy a new mattress, like many customers, my starting point would be a Google search. The result rankings are heavily influenced by PR efforts. In this sense, PR has broken out of its “Consideration” stage and is delivering value well into the “Awareness” stage as well. Our view is that the funnel is not redundant however, in the world of PR, it needs to be updated to take two things into account, 1) the value of reputation, and 2) the role of PR at each stage of the Funnel.

What channels drive e-commerce sales?

PR has a role to play across many channels, and alignment in terms of story-telling must span across everything – email, social, display etc. Here we’ll look at five channels specifically, organic search, paid search, voice and the impact of algorithms on story discovery.

Boosting organic search visibility

PR’s role in organic search has been well documented, with many highlighting the importance of citations, follow and no-follow links in coverage to boost the all important search rankings for keywords. Further to this, and without dwelling too much on the basics, other way to optimise PR for organic search include taking a campaign-based approach rather than on-going monthly “link- building” to allow for more focussed activity around key trading periods, plus, engineering the campaign story so that on-site content becomes a critical part of the story, so that reporters writing about it are more likely to link to it.

How PR informs paid search

Today, ‘search’ has a huge impact on a brand’s reputation and PR’s role and objectives can and should be aligned to paid search tactics to manage any sensitive issues that may affect brand reputation. An example of this is when a brand is recalling a product. There will be media coverage and likely negative social posts about the product. To counter this, a brand could bid on specific key words relating to the issue, draft ad copy and create web content to direct customers accurate and neutral recall information.

A new content strategy for Voice

Voice search results differ from mobile and desktop search and as a result, a whole new discipline of Voice Optimised Search has emerged. PR should be focussed on building content that focuses on both questions and answers. Tactics that could give your company a first mover advantage in this field include finding the natural language keyword phrases that your target audience is most likely to ask then building content around this (e.g. an FAQ page), marking-up PR-led content with HTML language, and answering any existing questions on your Google My Business Questions and Answers section.

Algorithms are the new editors

More often than not, algorithms are playing the roles of editors in our lives. The latest Ofcom reports shows that those using social media for news in the UK rose by 44% to 49%. As PR practitioners, we need to understand this and its impact on news discovery. Furthermore, understanding the role of Programmatic PR, where we can automate actions based on data, has landed. Optimising work and generating stories and actions based on these data sets is now a part of our job.

This is just the start of a bigger conversation about how to engineer your PR and comms efforts for e-commerce and digital marketing, and I believe that there’s plenty of value to be squeezed out of PR from well- considered efforts and education.

For more details you can download a full copy of the white paper here.


Written by Adrian Ma, Founder & Managing Director at FanclubPR


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