The digital shift has had a big effect on the way news and information is published and consumed in the construction industry. PR professionals and marketers need to understand how this impacts the way they communicate with their audiences and the media. Social media has increased the number of available communication channels and facilitated real time conversations between companies and customers. It has given construction companies and individuals the opportunity to become publishers.
How has PR changed?
The essence of PR – to manage, enhance and protect a company’s reputation through quality writing and strong media relations still exists, but the focus has moved from simply getting in the press to speaking directly to your audience and making an impression on them. Online reputation management involves listening and monitoring conversations on social media to provide insight into what your customers and prospects are talking about and how they feel about brand and products. The mistake that some businesses make is to treat PR as a totally separate activity, when it should be fully integrated with your content, search and social strategy. This will ensure consistent messaging and increased exposure as sharing on social media can extend your reach to new prospects.
To establish credibility and trust through thought leadership, product manufacturers need to create news releases, articles, opinion pieces or features that deliver valuable information directly to buyers. They should not be focused on writing for the media but focused on writing for the architects and specifiers who are using search engines and social media to find information about products and services. This is because the traditional press release which was written to the press as a way to get your information or news published by the media no longer applies. Today, the term ‘press release’ is being replaced by the ‘news release’. These have to contain valuable information and encourage conversation. Writing about your new offices, a new website or a retained client is NOT news to architects and specifiers. On the other hand, important research or the launch of a building product that complies with the latest industry standards would be classified as news. Publish this valuable content on your website, make it shareable and promote it through social channels.
Understanding the journalist
To get your news published by the media, you have to understand how journalist expectations and requirements have changed. Journalists work under a lot of pressure and to very tight deadlines. They have to provide news in a variety of formats, across several channels (online, mobile, video, print) and constantly stay on top of what is happening around the world. The way journalists seek information and research news sources is also constantly changing. There has been a rise in microblogging, social media usage, imagery and video and less of the traditional text-heavy writing style.
Social media has also had a positive effect on the PR/journalist relationship by facilitating more engagement, conversation and information sharing. PR professionals now have direct access to journalists and can make contact with them in a more personalised manner instead of clogging their inbox with mass, impersonal emails. The best way a PR professional can build a relationship with journalists is to provide everything they need so that they have to do as little work as possible.
“Aim to be reliable, helpful and provide them with print ready content that is opinionated, controversial and relevant to their audience. This means they won’t have to do any extra work and your article is ready to be published.”
Ayaan Mohamud – Digital Marketing Manager
When writing news releases, articles, or feature comment, try to remember the following points:
- Stay ahead of journalist deadlines
- Provide content that is edited so they can simply ‘copy and paste’
- Information must be relevant to the audience
- Always include an opinion and useful quotes
- Add links to resources that back up your facts
- High quality images in the right format (300dpi)
- Include your personal contact details for follow up
- If you have offered help, make certain you’re then available if they call
If you’ve been struggling to get your news published by the media and can’t understand why, make sure that the person/agency managing your PR is fulfilling these necessary requirements and not sending out news releases with information that is dated, badly written or full of information that is not actually newsworthy.
The social media news release
The speed with which information now travels online has lead to the evolution of the traditional news release.
“PR professionals can no longer get away with simply blasting information out at an audience. Instead it is about adding value and encouraging a two way conversation between product manufacturers and the architects and specifiers who are buying their products.”
Nick Pauley – Managing Director
This has led to the evolution of the ‘social media news release’ (SMNR) which is designed for the online media world. It takes into account that online, your brand story needs to be told in a format that is relevant to a variety of audiences (apart from your customers) such as bloggers, journalists, publishers and the general public.
Social media news releases usually provide all the necessary information in a format where journalists can just copy and paste the content without having to rewrite or edit it. They often include links to research the story further, have images or embedded videos and are optimised for search engines. It is designed with social sharing and bookmarking in mind, making it easier for your news to be spread across a larger online audience.
The main elements of a good SMNR are:
- Headline – including relevant keywords to help with search.
- Overview – entice and hook the reader so they will want to read more.
- Body – find a balance between providing too much or too little information. Depending on the topic and issues, some might need more details that others.
- Facts, statistics and opinion – these will back up what you’re saying and should be complimented with relevant quotes from the company CEO, spokesperson or industry expert you’ve approached to get involved with the release.
- Internal and external links – link to designated landing pages on your website that contain more information, link to multimedia sources such as relevant videos examining the issues you address (host these on YouTube) or image libraries you have created on Flickr. Try and link to other relevant external blogs and websites too.
- Contact – always leave your name, company and other details such as a Twitter handle if customers or journalists want to get in touch. It makes the story more personal and encourages discussion if they know who is writing the content.
A study by RealWire shows that 70% of journalists prefer the concept of a SMNR to a traditional one, and that a SMNR earned three times more coverage than traditional releases.
Like traditional news releases, the content and way the story is written is still key because it needs to effectively communicate your message to the right people. What the SMNR does encourage is greater creativity in storytelling because you present something of value which then prompts additional actions such as visiting your blog, signing up to your newsletter or downloading a product brochure in exchange for data capture.
“For a PR professional the objective of writing a SMNR should be to encourage engagement with customers and prospects. You want bloggers, journalists, industry peers and customers to share your information so you have to make it a two way conversation.”
Helen Lawson – PR Account Manager
Respond to comments, thank people for spreading your news and direct people to other useful external resources with more information when they ask a question or have a problem.
Integrate with SEO and content
Too often PR is seen as a separate activity and not integrated with the other parts of your construction marketing strategy. To get the most out of your marketing activities you have to integrate all your tactics (PR, email, social media) so that they are working towards achieving the same goals and objectives. Creating content and publishing news releases in the hope that ‘people will come’ is not an effective approach. You have to make sure you are spreading your message through the appropriate channels so that it reaches your target audience.
Writing content in the web is also different to writing for print. Online you have to satisfy both search engines and the people using them to search. When creating a news release for print, you want a catchy headline to attract attention but when writing for an online audience you have to include the keywords and search terms that you want to be found for. Once the content is posted on your website, the search engine crawlers will find the text, index it and rank it. To achieve higher rankings make sure your content is optimised by using descriptive URLs, title tags, meta tags and including social signals (likes, tweets, +1) that give search engines a human indication that a page contains valuable information.
“If you publish a news release using social media and optimise it for search engines you make it easier for both the media and your customers to find your news.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
When developing news content, think about how your prospects use the internet to search for information. What keywords and questions are they using and in what formats do they like to consume news (blogs, videos, text)? Develop articles and features based on this so that you can provide information that will be valuable to them and help solve their problems. Integrating an RSS feed on your site so that architects and specifiers can subscribe to directly receive your news is a good way of keeping prospects up to date.
Always include links in your news releases because each time it is posted on another site or blog, the inbound link back to a landing page on your website helps to increase the ranking of your site because search engines take the number of quality inbound links to your site into account when ranking pages. When you share your PR activities on social media, it spreads your message further and can lead to online news publishers and industry bloggers picking up your news. They might then feature this on their website, thereby further increasing the number of inbound links to your website. Sometimes sharing a well-written case study is just as useful as a news story with additional SEO benefits because it will be using keywords and search terms related to your products.
- Focus on getting your strategy right before thinking about what PR tools and tactics to use. Ask yourself what messages are you trying to communicate and why? How does this help to achieve your business goals?
- Is your company spokesperson a good communicator and available when journalists want to ask them for comments and opinions? Are they the same person running your social media accounts?
- Stop thinking of PR as a separate service, it needs to be integated with the rest of your marketing activities. Use your editorial coverage to shape website content and drive targeted traffic through search engines.
- Social media can be used to increase the reach of your PR activities but it is mainly an engagement medium. You cannot simply broadcast your marketing messages and expect people to share them. You have to participate in conversations, reply to comments and build relationships first.
- Get creative and think outside of the box. What kind of content does your audience want and in what form – videos, images, blog posts?
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