What is digital PR?

Digital PR is the practice of earning media coverage on online news sites, digital magazines, and blogs. It can extend to earning social posts, interviews on podcasts or online video. It can (but doesn’t always) involve the production of digital content including images, social posts, video and podcasts. Sometimes, digital PR campaigns are optimised to drive traffic to a website, or secure links to help with search engine optimization.

Clearly, what I’ve written above is to help with this blog’s SEO. In non-robotic terms (assuming you’re a human reading this rather than a search spider), if you’ve Googled ‘what is digital PR’ and have stumbled across this post, I’m afraid you’ve been sent on a wild goose chase.

At some point in history, probably in the late 90s, there was a distinction between ‘traditional’ channels (print, TV, radio) and ‘digital’ (online newspaper websites, digital magazines, blogs etc). Some people thought that you needed specialist skills and a different network to secure ‘digital’ PR coverage and measure its impact. That was true to an extent then, but anyone who hasn’t up-skilled, or fostered relationships in today’s digital world has a lot of work to do to make their work effective.

So what is ‘digital PR’? It’s ‘PR’.


How to inspire and foster creativity in the workplace

Whilst it’s easy to recall all-singing, all-dancing campaigns when asked about creativity in PR- Thames-floating, shock-inducing, tear-shedding ideas- creativity runs much deeper than that. It’s the foundation for progress and innovation- from pitching to ways of working.

Great PR has to have creativity at the core. Not only because it is a prerequisite to effective communication, but because PR is stepping up as a competitor to its siblings; marketing and ad giants have positioned ‘creative’ as their beating heart since their inception, and PR needs to do the same. And no, you don’t need a Creative Director to set that benchmark in your team (although it does help).

 Creativity unlocks an agile advantage because it demonstrates an understanding that innovation is fundamental to keeping up with how audiences and people change. In this sense, any agency worth its salt needs to foster an entire culture that inspires and supports creativity, in all its forms. That means acknowledging that not everyone’s creativity is nurtured and brought out in the same way- and investing in accommodating this.

 What might help, are the following tried-and-tested tips for what we have found to make the biggest difference.

 1. Start with a diverse team

Bringing a rich tapestry of experience, identity and talent together is absolutely your most powerful creative asset, and competitive advantage. The best ideas are informed not just by a rich set of data, but by diverse minds.

Diversity has long been an issue in PR and the wider creative industries, and the agencies will only fall short of the best work because of it.

This needs to continue beyond recruitment and into process. At Fanclub, we have a flat structure when it comes to creative ideation for campaigns. Everyone gets involved, together- from interns to directors.

 2. Workspace autonomy

 People need to have autonomy of their own workspace, schedule and way of working to accommodate the true definition of ‘creative thinking’: how people approach problems with solutions. This can depend on so many things, beyond personality and skill.

 Allow flexibility with working hours, where people work and their own day-to-day process.

 Don’t just allow flexibility, but support it. This can also make all the difference to retaining great creative talent- a lack of practical support to help balance work and family life, for example, can mean losing them.

3. Brainstorming: consider time and space

Our MD, Adrian, always says that his best ideas come to him in the shower. Each to their own, truly. Mine usually strike me a few hours deep on Reddit (I like to think of it as ethnographic research…).

 The point is that ideas are not always born inside the confines of a meeting room, in a pressured, time-constrained brainstorm. Plus, not everyone feels comfortable shouting out ideas. Let your team stew, think, ponder and be struck by inspiration outside of the office.

 For campaigns, you might not always be blessed with a decent response time (but that’s for another blog post), but encouraging people to take a walk, sleep on things and contribute in their own time and using their own format will lead to stronger ideation.

4. Always-on creativity and a culture of proactivity  

 Don’t just ask for or rely on creativity once you have a problem or a brief. Encourage an always-on approach to ideas-sharing and creative inspiration.

 At Fanclub, we hold a weekly Open Practice Brainstorm for the entire agency, in which we develop a brief for an existing client or prospective one, and develop ideas in pairs over the week. Not only does this mean we mix up collaboration across the team, but we’ve got a stream of creative sessions and ideas at any given time.

 We also have Slack channels dedicated to sharing creative case studies and thought leadership, as well as a weekly forum to discuss them.

5. Moving away from the pressure of big ideas

 Thinking creatively is not just about huge, integrated campaign ideas. Smart creativity is being proactive with smaller ideas, and not just for smaller campaigns; reactive opportunities, strategic copy, byline ideas, and suggestions for better ways of working are all great ways of demonstrating a creative mindset.

Fostering proactivity like this, for clients and the agency team, showcases the impact of always-on creative thinking and the power of creative solution.

6. Support self-identifying ‘non-creatives’

Everyone has met someone who says that they’re just ‘not very creative’. More often than not, this comes from people believing that to be creative means to strive to be a Creative Director, or simply an issue of confidence. But, as we know, everyone has the capacity for creative thinking in their role. And whilst some might think it can’t be taught, they’re wrong- it’s about exercising those muscles more and more.

Those who lack confidence can often end up sabotaging their potential. It’s up to managers to help them explore what it means to be creative, and help empower them with confidence to share ideas and platform their day-to-day creativity. 

Emily Barnes - Account Director at Fanclub PR

 

 

 

 

 


Fanclub favs. TikTok

In case you haven’t heard, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world. While some of us might automatically think of the 2009 hit song by Kesha, for others the name has taken on a whole new meaning and has led to the creation of a unique subculture. For brands, this opportunity to achieve cultural relevance by tapping into nuances and connecting with consumers is why TikTok should be a priority consideration for communication professionals.

We at Fanclub are admittedly big TikTok fans and during the past couple weeks, we have been spending a lot (maybe a bit too much) of time on the app. So in light of this, we thought we would share a list of Fanclub’s favourite TikTok’s. We hope you find them as funny and entertaining as we do! 

 

Emilee: Everybody at Fanclub will be able to tell you that I have been hooked on TikTok for some time now, so hooked that I have even given myself a specific time and limit every day to watch them. Every night at 10 pm, you can find me in bed scrolling through my feed while silently giggling to myself for 30mins. As I am on the app quite frequently, I like to think TikTok’s algorithm knows me quite well, as 90% of the videos that are suggested to me are of either dogs or cute old people. So, in line with my theme, one of my favourite TikTok’s comes from Grandma Sandy, who recently discovered the Coke and Mentos challenge for the first time.

 

Fab: Ok first thing’s first; TikTok is literally nothing like Vine. It offers way more in terms of creativity with filters, green screens and even music built into the app. Now I’ve stated that, let me introduce you to one of my many favourites. For context, Anna Faris is one of my favourite actresses of all time (no one has her level of range) and teamed up with the current coronavirus pandemic, it does nothing but make me laugh every time I watch it.

 

Hannah: At the start of the week, before we decided to write this blog I wasn’t on TikTok. And to be honest I was a little sceptical about all the hype around it. Fast forward to last night, I was up until 1:30am watching TikTok videos. Think it’s safe to say that it’s a little addictive and in times like these when we don’t have much else to do with our evenings what’s the harm, right? Here’s my favourite from last night’sbinge - it’s just his face and the look of regret, the more I watch the funnier it gets…

 

Adrian: For me, TikTok is a snack-sized entertainment platform. But what really blows me away is the amount of creative talent on there; I’m excited about the future of content. Because TikTok just fills in the ‘in-between’ moments for me, I enjoy the comedy videos the most. They’re like a little blast of joy to lift you up. Before the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown, this video was shared with me, and I liked the way that this creator captured the criticism of the government’s delayed response to the threat in a really funny way.

 

Camille: My participation in TikTok up to this point has been limited to following various recipe accounts, watching the Rosa and Marlene TikToks (if you know, you know) and marvelling at how funny my 14-year-old sister is on there. I think it’s really fascinating seeing what’s gone viral and done well from the platform. It’s often the really weird, unpredictable, and silly content that fares best, making it unlike any other platform right now. To that end here’s my pick, I think we can all find something to relate to in this TikTok. Sometimes we are all this aggressively southern child, just wanting to pet a dog, other times we might be the dog that you’re not allowed to pet. Ultimately this is a TikTok about the human condition. Also, this kid’s voice is hilarious.

 

Emily: Amidst the chaos of the world right now, TikTok is undeniably a destination for light relief. What I particularly love at the moment is how its content transcends generations- and keeps the world connected, no matter what their age. Outside of ruddy-faced dads bounding down the driveway to Blinding Lights, and eating a continental breakfast with Old Man Steve , I was beaming when I watched videos from Westhill Park. The residents at the care home in Kettering have all been isolating, but have been staying connected by learning TikTok dance challenges- from Elvis to Doja Cat. For every naysayer who says that TikTok is a Gen Z cesspit, there is a 90-year-old grooving to Funky Town and becoming a small-scale TikTok sensation. It definitely brought a smile to my face!


By Lina Prestwood, producer of the FT's "Culture Call' podcast

Anyone can make a podcast - but with 900,000 series and 30 million episodes available on Apple as I type how do you make a good branded one, one that will actually cut through? After years of working in both television docs and on award-winning branded content in both video and audio, here are some brief thoughts, questions and tips for brands to consider before pressing record.

  1. A podcast is not your field of dreams; just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come - in a cacophonous market where discoverability is the main challenge your podcast has to really give the audience something they can’t get anywhere else. What is your brand’s superpower to exploit? Once you have established that, figure out what you want your podcast to achieve and how you will super-serve your audience (for, indeed, you must)  in order to hit that target.

  2. Clarify your proposition again and again and again until you can articulate it in one sentence. It will inform EVERYTHING you do from top to bottom whether it’s booking guests, writing questions, choosing music and marketing your work.  Think about at least one format point that gives you, your guests and your listeners a guiding principle for the conversation. From Desert Island Discs to Reply All to TED Radio Hour all have clear format points and a clarity of editorial focus that their audience know and love. Be specific, be niche - that will win you fans in podcast land.

  3. Create a clear sonic identity for your series and treat it with the care that you would any other part of your branding -- think of your favourite podcasts and chances are you will be able to hear them clearly in your head. (Hopefully it goes without saying that you need to ensure your podcast’s tech is up to the job, and that you need to edit your podcast properly -  inarticulate ramblings and unsatisfying tangents can occur in even the most intelligent of conversations, no doubt, but lose them or lose your audience). While we are here: cough up a few hundred quid for your own theme music and some stings exclusive to your brand and treat your producer to access to a music library - it doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out Epidemic, for example.

  4. Whether it’s Serial, Jessie Ware’s Table Manners or The Guardian’s Today in Focus, all good podcasts  - i.e. the ones you genuinely look forward to updating in your feed and happily share -  are, at their core, entertaining stories and so get a producer who values editorial pre-production as much as technical production. By researching your guests and putting genuine thought into your discussion and scripts ahead of time you are respecting your contributors and your listeners - and your host will come off as an absolute star; the women I work with at the FT on Culture Call are brilliant interviewers as a result of the remarkable journalistic integrity they bring to the table. Culture Call is an extension of the FT brand - it’s hosted by two FT editors and brings listeners behind the scenes every now and then but ultimately our listeners stay for the fact that they have two smart as hell hosts talking to the people who are pushing culture forward.

  5. Before you start, ring-fence your branding clearly - will you mention it once at the top and leave it? Half way through? Or even just in the artwork and not at all in the audio? However heavily or lightly your brand features please don’t try and subtly drop it in ninja style - podcast audiences readily understand that brands pay for great content but won’t take kindly to feeling like they’re being tricked into listening to an advert.

Lina Prestwood is a former documentaries commissioning editor at Channel 4 and executive producer at Virtue where she was responsible for the branded content of brands such as Mazda and Lexus, including the viral film First Flight for Vodafone (which won a couple of Cannes Lions and a Lovie and was watched over 4m times on YouTube). Her audio documentaries about Fathers and Sons for Mr. Porter took gold for Best Branded and Podcast of the Year at the British Podcast Awards in 2017 and she currently produces Culture Call for the FT.

Listen to Lina's podcast by clicking the image below.

Hacking PR to supercharge e-commerce & digital

We know that PR has more to offer the digital world and it’s been our mission over the last few years to bridge this gap.

We have invested in our knowledge, experimented with our clients, created new processes, adopted new tools, and have spent a lot of time listening to digital marketers. What we discovered is that PR has the potential to supercharge digital sales. It just needs to be engineered in the right way.

We’ve taken what we’ve learned over the last few years, looked at what’s coming up in the future and have published a guide to hacking PR for e-commerce and digital sales. It includes

  • an explanation of how the ‘death of the linear customer journey’ has impacted the role or PR in sales
  • an overview of new channels of influence
  • practical advice on how to optimise PR to deliver more value across organic and paid search, shoppable social media and voice
  • an overview of the role of algorithms for content discovery and what it means for PR and communications professionals.

It’s free to download. Just click here

You can thank us by giving us your feedback at hello@fanclubpr.com, or drop us a line about anything else you’d like to hear from us.


"A breakthrough in measurement" and other predictions for PR in 2020

Predictions. Granted, everyone's at it at this time of year and you may be tired of seeing the same old things year in, year out. But we've taken the time to look at current trends in culture, technology and media to bring you our Top 5 predictions for 2020. Happy new year.

TikTok on the clock, but the party don't stop, no

Predicted by Emilee Senchyna

Video-sharing social app Tiktok blasted into the spotlight this year, becoming the most downloaded app of 2019. Focused on the Gen Z generation, the app has brought a whole new generation of influencers. With the audience being in their teens or early 20’s this is a platform we will need to be aware of in 2020. Unlike Instagram, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have – the app rewards and amplifies creative and unique videos, in turn making people constantly deliver engaging content.

Brands are already dipping their toes into the app, with brands such as Apple, Nike and Fenty beauty all using TikTok to promote their products in a unique and visually compelling way. Instagram will still take first place in 2020 being the leading social platform, but with TikTok’s success only increasing, brands will need to adapt their strategies to meet the growing audience.

PR agencies will have to expand their expertise

Predicted by Hannah Kalyan

The role of PR agencies is changing. A 2017 study shows that 87% of professionals believe the term ‘public relations’ will not describe the work they do in five years. Gone are the days of simply writing and distributing press releases. While traditional media relations is still relevant, we must increasingly get creative when looking to secure coverage for our clients. Resources once spent on more pitching should be shifted to content marketing and social. PR will always be important, but its impact is amplified when coupled with digital and social activity. For those looking to get ahead of the curve, you must find ways to disrupt and innovate internally. If you don’t currently have paid social capabilities for example, explore staff’s passions, invest in their education and build the practice from within.

Brand Saturation = Less Voice Infatuation

Predicted by Fabian Castellani

2020 will be the year brands make voice a lot less sexy. We’re going to see an influx of brands that have waited for others to test the platform before they dip their toes in too. But an influx of voice-based products that people don’t want or don’t know exist will result in customers turning off to voice. Let’s hope brands can leave voice alone until they can add real value to the platform.

Brand transparency in the era of fake news: scrutiny increases

Predicted by Emily Barnes

With the spotlight on fake news as an urgent issue, there is an increasing push for regulation as a means to fight misinformation- with a need for PR to safeguard clients  using a watertight strategy for proactive and reactive reputation management.

The surge in scrutiny extends to the heart of brands themselves, which are increasingly challenged by consumers across all media platforms, as well as by employees with sites like Glassdoor. With the conversation around the impact on the environment and ethical practices increasing every day, brands are being held accountable for their choices.

The single solution to this is transparency; consumers want to know everything about what the buy and engage with- where it comes from, who is involved in producing it and the implications of consuming it.

For PR, this means that trust proof points are of particular significance for clients,  but equally that honest communication around mistakes and the quest to improve are fundamental in building brand credibility and importantly, brand affinity.

Finally, some meaningful PR measurement

Predicted by Adrian Ma

2020 will bring a PR measurement breakthrough. Technology already exists on a small scale for brave brands to more accurately measure PR attribution; where spend can be matched to website visitors. This will go two steps further. One, we’ll see attribution to sales rather than visits. And two, scale. The last point is important because from scale, we can establish benchmarks. This is where things will get really interesting, as we’ll be able to measure campaign performance against these benchmarks. Expect a decade where meaningful PR measurement will be the key driver of investment.


6 myths about influencer marketing

By Emily Barnes & Megan Linehan

“Reach is everything - it means you’re getting your message out to the most people”

Incorrect. It’s imperative to look more closely at who the audience are. There’s no value in getting your content into the feeds of people who aren’t actively engaging with it or aren’t invested in it. If the person seeing the content isn’t a potential customer, it’s fruitless. Worse still, they could even be a bot or fake follower.

This is why engagement rates are key; there’s been much discussion recently about how engagement rates are significantly higher for smaller influencers. There is absolutely a saturation point of engagement, which can mean that mega influencers are left with a dead audience.

When scoping out potential influencers, make sure you look at their most recent videos for accurate engagement rates- that way you know that they’re performing consistently and are frequently posting.

“It’s great to work with as many influencers as possible, to talk to lots of different audiences”

Whilst micro-influencers certainly can provide value through their highly engaged audiences and advocacy around niche topics and interests,  it’s also generally true that in order for a brand message, recollection or call to action to convert, the audience needs to see it multiple times. It’s marketing 101.  So, think about investing in multiple pieces of content over a longer period, with the same influencer.

Ambassadorship with influencers is a key focus in 2018, not only because of the value in repeat consideration, but because the content is organic and a natural-fit on the influencer’s channel- which works toward great sentiment.

“It’s impossible to really demonstrate ROI in influencer marketing”

Nuh uh. Whilst ROI and metrics for success are hotly contested and changing (pretty much) all the time, and it can be difficult to measure consideration and path to purchase outside of views and likes, there are plenty of marketing metrics which work to demonstrate effective consideration and brand sentiment, directly as a result of content.

Affiliate marketing and tracking links are a great way to measure this audience journey. If you’re promoting something like a service, resource, or high consideration purchase, you can get creative with incentives to click. A competition, discount code or limited edition purchase work well in these instances.

“Just put #ad at the end of the post”

No! No! When working with an influencer, be sure that the partnership/sponsorship is labelled loud and clear for the consumer to see, else it can be deemed misleading and lazy. Many platforms have clear guidelines for influencers to clearly label their content, and the ASA has outlined rulings on explicit labelling of sponsored content. No excuses!

“One post is all we need”

Cross-platform promotion means you’ll hit your chosen influencer’s audience across several channels and mediums, as well as developing a natural story around the partnership. A singular post can get lost in an abyss of newsfeeds, missing the mark with impact and looking awkward and unnatural. A carefully considered content package is important in understanding investment in a partnership and expectations of performance.

Be sure to ask about the cost of hero content with social promotion, for example, or a series of social posts with clear consideration of timings. The influencer should help guide this based on data about audience engagement with previous content and timings for this.

“They posted about the product before- they should do it again for free”

An influencer creates content for a living- it’s their livelihood and often their sole income. So, when considering asking an influencer for free content, stop and consider the size of the industry and it’s power- you’re buying into a powerful marketing tool. Where have you been for the last few years?! Whilst some influencers may be willing to post in return for a free product, holiday, or event attendance, be ready for them to ask for cash. Great, impactful content which speaks to the right audience is valuable- be ready to pay for it.


Algorithms as the new editors

By Adrian Ma

If you catch me in an 'in-between' moment, you'll most likely find me scrolling through one of my feeds on Facebook or Instagram. It was while scrolling through Facebook that I learned of the death of Delores O'Riordan from the Cranberries. In fact, it's where I discover a lot of news.

I'm not alone in here. A Reuters study points out, 51% of us are now using social media as a news source, which marks a shift in news and content discovery that we need to build into our own working practices.

the role of gatekeeper to news stories is falling out of the hands of editors, and into the hands of the algorithms that promote organic content on our feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.

I don’t think that algorithms will completely replace editors. I certainly hope not, anyway (that’s another topic). But as PRs, it’s our role to manage the visibility of brand reputation, and because of this, we need to adapt our way of working to ensure that we’re considering the role of the social algorithm in content discovery.

Let’s use the Facebook algorithm as an example. Facebook breaks down the steps to its newsfeed algorithm into four stages

  1. Inventory – Facebook takes an inventory of the stories that you and your friends have posted and the pages you follow
  2. Signals – Facebook considers all data available to determine how interested you will be in a story (these include who posted a story and how much engagement it has had)
  3. Predictions – Facebook then uses signals to make a prediction to calculate how probably you are to read, comment or share a story
  4. Score – Facebook generates a ‘relevancy’ score

 

This process happens every time you open Facebook, and determines what your feed looks like.

Changes that Facebook announced recently may, of course, change all this. But the one thing that remains clear is that if you’re working on a story that you want to be discovered, it’s important to consider the role of ‘Signals’ in discovery. This is true of any social media platform and the algorithms work in very similar ways.

Mainly, this means that if you want your content (whether it be a piece of coverage, or something direct from a brand) to be seen, it’s got to be something that receives engagement.

Of course, there are those that seek to ‘game’ these algorithms. I’ve known Instagram influencers to create WhatsApp groups (or ‘Pods’, as they call them), with fellow influencers to announce when a piece of content is posted, so that they can all ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on it at the same time in the hope that it will increase visibility.

We’re not suggesting that you adopt these practices. In the long term, these algorithms always wise up to them, and you’d run the risk of being penalised as a result of these ‘Black Hat’ practices.

But at the very least, you should be considering your role after a piece of coverage has been landed, or a piece of content is live. Life doesn’t stop with coverage. In fact, for many of our clients, it’s just the start and it's our job to work with them to help get it discovered.

For more about Facebook’s algorithm, check out this article on Social Examiner.


What you need to think about when launching a product

It’s crazy to think that 75% of European online shoppers drop off a website when they see a dollar sign. However, unless you look at your site analytics, you’d never know.

 

Last week Ben Hofman, founder of Atlantic Access popped in to the Fanclub HQ to talk to us about why he’s helping the most exciting tech brands focus on growing their brand, without relying on retailers and distributors. And how spotting that 75% drop off rate on previous client’s website was part of the reason he set up his business.

 

Discussing how to launch a product, and what it takes to do it successfully, here’s what Ben had to say:

 

In a sentence, what does Atlantic Access do?

We help start-ups launch in Europe the same way they would in the US.

 

What common mistakes do brands and businesses make when launching in the UK?

The biggest mistake is choosing a launch strategy based on what has been available in the past. Digital marketing and online have changed the world in the past 10 years of how to launch a brand. Brick and mortar retailers are no longer necessarily the best choice but for some reason many brands still see it as the only option in the UK to ‘launch'

 

Can you share an example of a product that got it right and launched successfully?

There are two types of brands. The big ones that have $m to pour into marketing and the smaller start-ups. Big brands like Fitbit and Ring have gone big on advertising and built awareness with TV adverts and such. Most brands don't have this luxury so have to be smarter, Tile are a great example of a brand that focused very heavily on digital first, growing their brand with direct to customer sales and Amazon. When it came to launching into brick and mortar they had sufficient awareness in the market to be a success. That said, they still had plenty of marketing funds available after successful online campaigns.

 

How important is prelaunch marketing to a launch?

Pre-launch marketing certainly helps to build the brand. Crowdfunding campaign are certainly ways to raise lots of awareness but must be backed-up by good planning and PR.

 

What must-do advice would you give to a businesses launching a new product in 2018?

If you have been successful in another territory first before moving to the EU, ask yourself why you were so successful and how you can match that here. The Distribution model of selling straight to big retailers before doing brand development may not be the right one. Focus on growing your brand first and your sales will come with it.

 

And finally, what are you looking forward to seeing at CES this year? 

I am looking forward to the re-emergence of useful connected products. The past two years there has been a flood of people making ‘connected’ products just because they can. No-one needs a connected umbrella!! Hopefully they will be replaced by useful products this year.

 

Ben Hofman is the Founder of Atlantic Access