Believe it or not, public relations is shaping how digital marketing is done.

PR's Role in Digital Marketing

Now more than ever, it's hard to distinguish between public relations and digital marketing, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, only 27% of agency leaders believe the term “public relations” will clearly and adequately describe the work they do by the year 2020 (Global Communications Report). Digital created the need for both marketing and PR to evolve, and now their abilities overlap. 

A little background

PR and marketing used to be separate fields that did different things, or at least that was the perception. Where PR excels in storytelling, marketing excels in reaching and targeting. Where PR's primary responsibility is driving positive reputation, marketing's primary responsibility is generating profitable revenue. 

PR is what "creates a favorable operating climate in which it is easier to market, expand and be viable" (Heidi Cohen).

One oft-quoted anecdote about the difference between marketing and PR goes something like this:

"You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say: 'I am very rich. Marry me!' That's direct marketing.

"You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says: 'He's very rich. Marry him.' That's advertising.

"You're at a party and see gorgeous girl. You get up and straighten your tie, you walk up to her and pour her a drink, you open the door (of the car) for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her ride, and then say: 'By the way, I'm rich. Will you Marry Me?' That's public relations." (Gerald Heneghan)

In other words, PR smoothes the runway so that stakeholders will be more receptive and inclined to hear what your business has to offer. 

How PR Has Been Changing

PR has had to learn how to do more things, the things that marketing can do that was taking business away from PR, rendering it superfluous. Not only that, PR has had to learn how to measure how those things they learned how to do are performing. 


Two-thirds of agency executives and 54% of in-house PR executives say "measurement is very or extremely important as a growth driver" (Global Communications Report). Being able to measure ROI and performance across all areas of digital (social media, SEO, online advertising, website, etc.) is the "holy grail" the PR industry is pursing heavily. The trouble for PR was always how to measure its value and this is where I believe PR felt the most hurt when digital became integrated into the marketing and communication's landscape. It’s harder to demonstrate a change in perception or beliefs, versus direct marketing sales. So PR did away with measures like Ad Value Equivalency (AVE) and began learning the measures that meant more to their clients.

Addition of Digital Service Offerings

The most natural fits and easiest digital communications channel to adapt to have been blogger outreach, online reputation management and social media. Depending on who you ask, social media can be classified under marketing or PR. Since social media is all about dialogue between customers and brands, more and more it's being seen as a PR tool. Social media is where PR shines the most because knowing how to engage with the public as well as build and manage relationships are inherent PR skill sets. 

Although not all PR agencies have added SEO, online advertising/PPC and web development services, this is a growing trend not only for survival but because there is an expectation by clients for PR agencies to know how to do the same things as marketers. 

Final Thoughts on Public Relations and Digital Marketing

As PR professionals catch up by learning the skill sets traditionally held by marketers, there will be a need for marketers to adopt some of the processes and skills held traditionally by PR professionals. Communication doesn't happen in a vacuum and PR is shaping how customer service, crisis management, social listening and storytelling factor into marketing strategy. We're seeing the integration of PR into marketing strategies and the ultimate result of this integration of both methodologies into one another will be a dispensing of the terms "marketing" and "PR," for the consolidated term "digital storytelling." Both Marketing and PR need and fortify one another. It's in the best interest of both to work together and for businesses to embrace both as means to better achieve their business goals.

painting social media reputation

Attainable and actionable tips for managing your small business' reputation on social media. 

Social media is not going away. 

Social media has created a myriad of ways for reputation to easily become undone, but it has also made it easier to manage reputation all together. For small businesses, reputation management may seem like no easy task, but social media is one communication channel that gives small businesses the same tools and opportunities as larger organizations to promote and engage with the public. The question is, does your small business see the value in seizing those same opportunities?

1.) Claim your profile before someone else does

Woody Allen famously said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.”

"Social media, first and foremost, is branding" (Buffer's Kevan Lee). At the very least you should have your business profile page claimed on most of the popular social networks. It's just good branding policy to make your logo as visible as possible.

By setting up an account and creating, or claiming, an existing profile of your business you:

  1. Safe guard against intentional or unintentional compromises to your business' brand reputation by others.
  2. Give yourself the option of using your name or handle on a social media network in the future.
  3. Make your business available for tagging so you can keep track of how your brand is talked about and discover if their is an audience that is seeking you out.

Not claiming your name or handle is leaving the door open to someone else claiming it. You don't want to look like a business that doesn't care about their image or is out-of-business. Claiming a profile is easy. The execution of a social media strategy can come later when you're ready.

2.) Keep track, keep tabs and keep up your social profiles

The first rule of reputation management is to listen. One way to let your reputation be defined by others is ignoring how people are talking about your business. It's not only careless it can be dangerous. Social media reviews, comments and posts about your business can be used in investigations by health inspectors, law enforcement and other officials, so it's in your best interest to find out about a bad experience before it reaches others first, especially news outlets. Social media is not only a medium for socializing and promotion, it's also an information medium that can disseminate news and information faster and farther than traditional news channels. 

Create a Google Alert, do a quick search using Social Mention or invest in a social listening tool like Beacon. Keeping tabs is something you're doing in other areas of your business, why not keep tabs on social conversation about your business?

Don't forget to keep up your social profiles at least from a design perspective.

Make sure the information about your business and contact information is up-to-date and that your profile image and cover or header image look the way you intended. The dimensions of the cover and profile photo on Facebook and Twitter for instance have changed several times in the last years. A client I know had abandoned one of their social profiles and now their cover photo is unrecognizable; their name is no longer visible and their products are cropped out by the new template dimensions. So make sure to tend to your social profiles because how you show up is just as important as showing up on social media. 

3.) Address negative reviews or negativity 

In a time where 79% of people say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, it would be unwise to underestimate the power of word-of-mouth on social media. Not addressing negativity immediately paints the picture of a business that doesn't care. Allowing reviews and comments to pile up only builds the case against your business, threatening your reputation and viability. If you care about your customers and clients, I recommend you develop a process for how to follow up to messages, comments, posts and reviews about your business on social media. 

Think you're safe from negative reviews because you haven't created social profiles for your business? When people are looking to review a business or brand with no page Facebook for instance, Facebook auto-generates a page after someone types in the name in their review. Facebook's system creates a page based on either an established Wikipedia page or any public information searchable through the Google search engine. An auto-generated page is not a good look. 

Believe it or not, no response is just as bad as a bad response.

Your customers or clients understand that mistakes happen, they make mistakes too, but what they need to see is how you react and fix those mistakes when they occur. You want to duplicate the offline experience of trying to make things right by being prompt and classy with your reactions on social media. 

If you don't feel you have an audience on social media, if you don't see the value in social media whatsoever, at the very least do these three things so you don't let your reputation run away from you.

If you're not sure how to respond to negativity on social media and would like to seek counsel on how to go about developing a social media strategy for your business, at Geoffresh we offer both social media services as well as consulting services.

Contact us and we'd be happy to help you put your best foot forward on social media. 


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