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CEOs and entrepreneurs understand the clear difference between marketing and public relations (PR). Speaking to prospects and customers only? Marketing. Speaking to everyone? PR.
“Everyone” can include employees (current and prospective), stakeholders, investors, regulators, wider industry peers, and so much more- alongside clients and customers. Building understanding and earning trust essentially, PR engages across all platforms and mediums, and drives strategic communications. If your plan is to bring people on the “journey” with you, then your PR needs to stay reactive and agile at least, and whilst you really must take it seriously enough to actually consider a plan, the key is in the execution.
And, of course, things change- this year more than ever, where world politics and economic outlooks are going to make a huge difference on a local level to us all. It’s looking “interesting” on a global scale, to say the least. This is why going beyond words on a screen for your PR planning is so important. Not only that, a realistic sense of agility and forward thinking is necessary to ensure successful execution at best, and “riding the wave” at the very least.
Keeping that in mind, here are five things to consider when planning your business PR for 2024:
1. It’s not just content
It’s the right content, shown to the right people. The only way to ensure you are not wasting time and budgets on content marketing is to firsthand consider who the ideal audience is, and how you are going to get it in front of them. Think first, and create second. Consistency in cementing your messages is vital- to this end, you do not need to fall down the trap of contributing to a content landfill. Authenticity and quality should be your key drivers for 2024. A relatable “look and feel” to visual assets is necessary- large-scale production and budgets will always have a place, but this strategy is not sustainable to most businesses. Consider how much you can get with what you’ve got, but think about your distribution and engagement plan alongside; otherwise, you are just wasting time and money speaking to nobody.
2. Proactive contingency planning
Global and regional issues have never been more pertinent on a local level than now. From extreme weather affecting supply chains, through to political unrest including upcoming elections, growing cybersecurity threats, and more, it will all impact every sector and organization at some point. The benefit of hindsight is that we can be proactive in our mitigation planning. Reactive crisis communications may be typical, but we have enough foresight now to move towards more proactive PR planning around such situations. If your business is international, this is even more important, wherever you are based. Consider different scenarios, and “stress-test” your company’s position. Your reaction to negative events will affect your reputation– both good and bad. Damage limitation is made much more effective with preparation.
3. Embracing artificial intelligence (AI)- the right way
Your use of AI this year needs to be focused on productivity and automations. Human creativity and individual objectives can never be replaced here, and truly, do not even consider producing communications via ChatGPT or similar. Of course, AI-assisted content is a popular trend, but for text, believe me when I say that this generically produced style is both apparent and useless, and ultimately damaging to your efforts and brand. We shouldn’t overlook the value that AI tools such as Bard and Magic Studio offer; however, use them to streamline tasks, and refine work. Legally, remember that anything you input into AI tools needs to be considered as in the public domain. We don’t yet know what legislation and regulations will reform clear transparency and use, but on a business level, you need to think about what you are sharing with the inter-ether, looking at both risks and ethics for company AI usage.
4. Signaling trust
The world is in flux; there is no two ways about that. Your potential client or customer and existing ones are all affected not just by societal and economic stressors, but by a huge sense of “promotion fatigue,” extending to the use of influencer marketing and owned content. More and more, people are looking further for “trust signals” for your brand or services. Reviews, testimonials, and accreditations are not just important for the consumer, but for search engines too. Google is all set on determining the trustworthiness of a brand‘s online assets in order to consider rankings. Endorsement from a third party is pivotal here- PR is a requisite driver. Spamming strategies won’t work, however; Google is far cleverer than that. So, as part of that content strategy, consider the importance of distribution, meaning links and mentions from reliable and credible sources for your keywords. A single back link from a major news site is worth so much more than numerous low-quality links. Quality over quantity is key here.
5. Engaging ambassadors and stakeholders
Brands and businesses spend so much time and budget procuring consumers and engaging influencers, whilst completely overlooking their biggest asset. Your “employer brand” is crucial if you are marketing your business, or trying to attract staff. Reputation management hinges on the B2B and internal comms space too. Your current employees are your biggest ambassadors available- what would they say about you? Slick, outward-facing comms are nothing compared to the word of mouth damage that can be caused by unhappy employees or surly shop staff. Keep a proactive employer brand strategy alive this year. If the company and workplace culture needs some work, then listen, think, and improve. You can keep in control of your company’s image, but with internal champions onside, this job will be made a whole lot easier. If your sector is experiencing a skills shortage, the demand for the best recruits intensifies- why should the good people choose you?
Finally, and not new for 2024, the importance of transparency and empathy in PR and communications has emerged as a direct effect on the bottom-line for business and brands. When market share is harder and harder to gain, authentic engagement is more important than ever for all stakeholders, and yourselves. Resonating and making genuine connections, engagement at all levels must show care and attention, and make sense to prospects and existing customers and staff who need to know that you care. This, in itself, is a core component of any business strategy- humans at the core, always.