Internet and new technologies have accelerated communication up to the point that today everything passes at the speed of light: news is announced and then spread globally within minutes. So for PR agencies this means we have had to adapt to manage our activities in real time or else risk the consequences.
As highlighted in our review of the main PR trends to look out for in 2016, public relations in real time is not new. In fact it was first introduced in 2013 after the success of the Oreo´s campaign on social media when an unexpected power cut occurred during the Super Bowl match that year. The social media team of the famous cookie created and disseminated within minutes a campaign that gained huge relevance and which still gets mentioned.
“You can still dunk in the dark” was the message of this campaign created and
spread within minutes, and which has become a model of real-time PR
But what exactly do we mean when we say public relations in real time? According to the report by Cision: “real-time public relations uses conversations and market activity, consumers and key players to produce relevant and convenient content. When content is created in this way, marketeers and public relations professionals (…) manage to connect with events and trends at any moment“.
However, real-time PR shouldn’t be confused with newsjacking which consists of leveraging the breaking news to get coverage and impact in the media and social networks, sometimes with a questionable ethics.
Real-time PR is much more sophisticated than that. According to the Cision report, it requires the following:
1. Sofisticated monitoring tools
2. Creative and inspiring ideas
3. A quick and precise performance
4. Trained professionals who can identify and sieze opportunities
Unfortunately, meeting these requirements is not always an easy task for a brand or a PR agency.
Companies that do not respond to journalists
Are the companies prepared to manage real-time PR? It seems no. David Meerman, the author of the bestseller Real-Time Marketing & PR, made an interesting experiment. While he was drafting his book, he sent the companies from the Fortune 100 List (the biggest ones in the USA) a mail requiring their opinion about real-time marketing and PR aiming to include the answers in the book. It is assumed that when an author of Meerman´s prestige, who has sold 350.000 copies of his books in 25 countries writes you, a quick answer is a must. But, it wasn´t the case: out of 100 companies, he couldn´t contact 11 of them and 61 didn´t answer. Out of 28 companies which provided him with an answer, just 12 did it the same day. For the other 16 it took from 24 hours to one week.
Just 28 companies of the Fortune 100 list responded the experiment and for the majority it took 24 of more hours (source: www.davidmeermanscott.com).
As Meerman says: “In a world in which speed and agility are essential for success, many companies still operate slowly deliberately, planning each step months in advance. […] But, the days when anticipated marketing and PR planning was possible have past. We now live in a real-time world and if you are not prepared for that, you will end up being irrelevant in the market”.
Another study, conducted by Adobe, says that 77% of marketeers and PR professionals consider it essential to personalize messages in real-time, but 60% have difficulties generating and adjusting the content along the way. The main barriers to communicate in real-time are: the complexity of the systems (50%), access to data in real time (46%), privacy (45%) and staff training (39%).
Some top tips on how to make your team ready to adopt real-time PR
How can agencies prepare for a new era of the real-time PR? These are some of the basic steps companies and agencies should follow:
- Prepare campaigns in real-time… in advance. It seems a contradiction, but planning is not incompatible with agility. Prior to the scheduled events such as the Academy Awards or Black Friday, you have to design a strategy, content and creative materials, but also to have the flexibility to modify them on the way. And for the unpredictable events, you should define procedures to react quickly.
- Design strategies with multiple options. The sooner you accept that things not always go as planned, sooner you will realize the need to have a plan A, a plan B or even a plan C for all type of campaigns. This way, when unexpected events occur it won´t be necessary to start from scratch.
- Provide personalized and multi-channel content. Real-time PR requires communicating with agility on any channel: either offline and online media or social networks. The easier we make things for those who will spread the content (either a journalist, blogger or consumer), the more relevance we can achieve.
- Monitor the media, social networks and brand reputation. Technology is a valuable ally in this sense: there’s no need to have someone on duty always, but yes it’s important to have tools to keep us updated if any mention of the brand or competitors, or a news which may require an immediate response occurs.
- Train the team to react quickly. So far, usual routines form public relations sector implied a chain of authorizations (internal from the part of the agency and external on behalf of the client) that delayed any decision making for several days. Instead, it is recommendable to set a margin of autonomy so that the ones in charge of the brand or the account can act without waiting for approval from a distant headquarters.
- Create social news rooms. This is a section on the website of a company or agency, with restricted access, where information, multimedia material and all relevant updates of the brand are provided in real time. This way, journalists, bloggers and reporters can get everything they need from the official source, without having to wait for a busy spokesperson to answer them.
- Take into consideration social media as a source of information. As we already mentioned in a previous article, 50% of consumers and 97% of journalists use social media to get informed. Therefore, it is necessary to integrate social platforms in real-time PR strategy because increasingly more news emerges and is spread within the social media context.
- Measure the results and hear the reactions. As in all communication campaigns, it is necessary to accurately measure the results achieved in all aspects and to be attentive to the public´s reaction to reorient the strategy if necessary and to avoid or correct possible errors that may occur as a result of the speed at which we work.
In conclusion, managing public relations in real time doesn´t mean improvising, nor communicating what we want to say without thinking well in advance. PR professionals and their clients can plan together in advance and put in place procedures and processes which provide the agility to make real time PR possible.