Public relations (PR) gets a lot of bad rap, most of which comes from a genuine misinterpretation of the work that this field does. It’s common for brands to resort to advertising instead of investing in a PR strategic plan because the former is flashier, more visible, and more attention-grabbing. While advertising is an effective way to communicate your message to an audience, it’s also expensive and relies on industry trends. Meanwhile, PR aims to lay a strong foundation that supplements and moves with the brand’s growth, making it a sustainable channel.
This could not be more relevant and timely in the digital age where mental filters are tighter and markets are more saturated. Digital PR augments your brand’s touchpoints with your audience, helping you build stronger and more personal relationships. This is notable particularly for brands that are looking to develop their local online presence–a worthy pursuit for any business. In the Philippine context, building an online presence has become a necessity for business as there are around 72.91 million internet users in the country as of January 2021. The number of social media users in the Philippines equates to 80.7% of the total population.
Defining the (public) relationship
Public relation is all about grounding an organization’s central messaging in human truth and narratives–stories that matter to them. The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as a strategic process that focuses on engaging and building relationships with stakeholders to shape public opinion. It focuses on making the brand a trusted entity to the public through strategies and tools that facilitate this relationship such as media relations, PR strategic plans, press releases, networking, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and most importantly, social media. It generates trust organically through sustained initiatives and building connections with other trusted institutions such as the press and even influencers. Social media is an especially powerful tool to boost these efforts because of its organic reach. PR can make use of the interactive platform to directly shape public perception of the brand, allowing for a more personalized approach.
Putting down roots
It’s extremely important to develop hyper-localized content through online PR. A local online presence develops trust with a consumer market that’s accessible in more ways than the physical. It’s a community that’s already familiar, so you’re able to speak their language–quite literally–and know the specific issues that are relevant to them. This includes having a strategic plan that takes into account all the cultural nuances and social events that directly affect the brand and the community because being a brand that’s socially responsible and aware is becoming more of a necessity in today’s digital landscape.
One such example of a brand that activates its local community through its PR efforts is Orocan, a local plastic container manufacturer with products ranging from cabinets and utility pails to dishwashers and water dispensers. Orocan’s witty social media copies and engagement with pop culture trends have caught the attention of social media users and trusted publications alike. Their most recent viral congratulatory post for the first Philippine Olympic gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz, is an embodiment of this sensitivity to their local community’s pulse. The copy reads “‘Wag na tayong magplastikan,” (Let’s not be “plastic” anymore) in response to the numerous congratulatory posts from brands following the win–a stark contrast from when Diaz was seeking sponsorships prior to her Olympic run.
This kind of reaction and self-awareness can only come from empathy for their audience, with the brand going as far as engaging with commenters in good-humored banter which in itself is an effort to further strengthen their relationship with the public. Direct conversations such as these are common among brands on social media, especially if consumers have more product-specific questions. Not only is the brand able to emphasize and reinforce their message, but they also build trust by being transparent with what they offer. The willingness to provide that kind of customer service doesn’t go unnoticed.
Another example of a brand that understands how to appeal to their local community’s sensibilities is Colourette Cosmetics, a Philippine beauty brand for the modern-day Filipino. Their messaging revolves around providing versatile and suitable products for all Filipino skin types, exemplifying this through an active effort to showcase local beauty in all their campaigns. The brand’s CEO, Nina Ellaine Dizon-Cabrera is also known to be vocal about her stances on pressing national issues, and it trickles down to the brand’s PR efforts. They recently participated in the Tumindig movement started by comic artist “Tarantadong Kalbo” and are active in advocating for voter registration.
Colourette builds its relationship with the public by acknowledging the wider circumstances its consumers are in. They don’t shy away from the difficult conversations, approaching each issue with tact and rooting themselves in the values that resonate with their audience. This commitment has kept consumers loyal and has attracted a whole new wave of supporters of both their products and their movement.
Navigating the digital playing field
The internet has opened a myriad of opportunities for boosting brand awareness through digital PR efforts, but navigating it doesn’t come as naturally. The most effective way to make the most out of these platforms is to make the algorithm work for you, and the best ways to activate that are through SEO and social media. SEO visibility gives your brand more authority, and this is usually achieved by linking oneself with established publications whose reach generates organic traffic for you. Meanwhile, social media is a powerful platform for a more personal approach to establishing public relations. Each platform is different–different connotations, target audiences, purposes, and appropriate content. Taking the time to study how each of these platforms works with your brand and PR efforts is invaluable to the growth of your business.
At the end of the day, effective digital public relations is rooted in genuine empathy for the audience and looking at the bigger picture they operate in. It’s worth investing in the long-term benefits that public relations can provide, but it should always begin with a commitment to your brand promise that manifests in your products and services.
Each touchpoint is an opportunity to tell your story–make every effort count.
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Visual by: Carlos de Guzman