Looking back at Forbes’ predictions for 2023 I think it’s fair to say they were pretty accurate. Economic turbulence, tick. AI, oh yes. Drive for diversity, one hundred percent. One that can apply to any year, however, is ‘Newsworthy Content’ – but now this applies more than ever.
The competition for content and eyeballs is real, and not least because extraordinary events seem to pop up and dominate the media attention now more than ever too.
The world is far from a happy place with crises occurring in many parts of the globe. How does this impact PR other than in news domination? Unsurprisingly, the BBC reported in June this year that 36% people worldwide now say they actively avoid news for this reason. Add to this fake news, falling trust in mainstream media, and younger generations turning to TikTok or short-form media, viewer rates for mainstream media are majorly in decline.
So, looking ahead, striking the appropriate tone, hitting the calendar at the right time, choosing the channel, picking the issues, refining the message, and, most of all, creating your stories – all of these essential ingredients make comms planning key for 2024 and beyond.
Why invest in PR in a volatile market
With mixed reports of UK business in 2024, caution is completely understandable. The latest EY report suggests the UK will avoid recession but growth will remain sluggish into 2024. But the forecast seems more positive than we have seen in 2023. So, it’s time to get on the offensive with marketing efforts to ensure that if and when people are planning 2024 budgets and buying, they are looking at you and not your competition.
Anyone who has lived through a recession will know that during these difficult periods, the most relevant, opportunistic and creative stand out. But cleverly cautious is the way to be.
Arguably, with rising media, martech and people costs, PR is becoming an ever more essential and economic part of the marketing mix. It still remains a cost-effective solution to raising profile and getting seen, if you do it right.
Adding to that, given it is becoming more integral (and potentially the key part) of the marketing mix, it should support you across your entire marketing efforts, be it events, digital, content and SEO. With planning, there is so much more PR can do than most might realise.
PR at the heart of strategy
To scale successfully, PR can (and should) be an integral part of your business plan’s execution. When it comes to your mission and story, it should help solidify your market position, seek out opportunities versus competitors, and provide insights to the optimum timing for new business campaigns, funding or new recruits.
To take just one example, I hear so many execs talking about senior search fees for recruitment, but not many of them consider the cost savings in hiring by word of mouth or via PR. We recently helped an organisation hire a senior exec role off the back of a significant news event which was backed up by a campaign on LinkedIn. This saved them the cost of our PR retainer for six months.
Of course, it’s also possible in the same way to generate leads through PR and you should expect it – if you can get customers to endorse you. Factor interesting customer applications in advance to your 2024 plan if you can, they are a killer weapon in your armoury, and now is the time to start reaching out to them.
The need for visibility
One thing is indisputable – your company needs to be searchable, by prospects, customers, partners (and journalists). The reason you built a website is to provide a window into the company, and if it’s only known to those who know you, marketing efforts will be limited to just that. You need to be found for the very thing that you were set up to solve, the issue and the customer need, and those ‘unknown’ potential customers will be searching for it without you even knowing.
But it’s not just prospects coming looking. We recently met a Sky journalist who said she picked her big stories by Googling, so if you can appear in one of those searches with compelling customer applications, the effect can sometimes lead to far more than you might imagine.
So, plan your ‘big campaigns’ creatively ahead of 2024 to know that you’ll keep increasing your online presence and traffic – and set targets to support this growth.
SEO and PR
Your PR should support your SEO (and trends show it is becoming increasingly just part of the same thing). This needs to be planned around your business prospect search terms – but not at the expense of your messaging and content. We recently moved ourselves from position 10 to 2 on Google in the term ‘tech PR’ and it immediately resulted in more website traffic.
Be focused on what content and keywords help your business and ensure this is a key part of your content marketing planning. It pays dividends almost immediately. PR profile is nice, but if you can improve your search positioning with external links and searchable content, you should experience the ripple effects.
PR is rapidly becoming digital marketing – same principles apply but it has bridged the divide between PR and marketing for the better. Ultimately, integration will help 2+2=5.
Time it to perfection
It’s true, it is harder to succeed in the current climate; investors are more careful and more strategic, prospects have less to spend and journalists have less bandwidth. Yet opportunity also flourishes in such environments. Timing is key, and this means planning your campaigns around key calendar events and anticipating news events where you can.
Look to the calendar to see when the media will be looking for stories, or investors looking to spend – either by event, calendar day, season, or regulation dates. Deadlines can create urgency, and ‘burning deck’ issues are some of the best. Plan around these and it can give your campaign the extra boost or timely opportunities.
Get more for less
If you are already a PR veteran then look at what you are doing. Can you get more for less? Are you maximising the news agenda? Do you have a busy comms plan? Are you making the most of digital channels? Or are you paying too high a monthly fee to get very scant support and results?
Now is the time to look hard at what you are doing and see if you have day-to-day support you can rely on. It’s a no-brainer to get planning now, to get the right team, and to get it right (and at the right cost!).