It's not about traditional or digital PR. It's all just PR

The spread of digital over the past few years saw it taking root in most aspects of marketing today, this includes public relations (PR). Increasingly, there is a demand in jobs for those from the field of “digital PR”. However, the journey of figuring out what the definition of “digital PR” is can be murky for many PR professionals – especially when it comes to measurement.

Sharing her experience at the recent PR conference, Alexandra Vogler (pictured), global skin and personal care, digital marketing and communications at Procter & Gamble, said that when she first explored this topic, there wasn't a lot of information available on the topic.

“I was part of the digital team trying to figure out how we were going to find out way through all these KPIs. Since I was the one with the PR background – the task of handling digital PR was assigned specifically to me,” Vogler said. She added that at the time, PR was still “very much offline” so it was hard to determine where to start. Like most consumers, she did a Google search on the information available out there, and while she formed some ideas around it, there was no “real substance” behind it.

She added that at the end of the day, digital PR was essentially a way for PR professionals to have a two-way conversation with their audiences. Back in the days of traditional only PR, PR professionals were in charge of telling a story. These days, it goes beyond just telling a story to creating conversations. She explained that while marketers today still face the same challenging KPIs and measurement, what really works is no different than what did in the analog days before.

“It is really about going back to those human insights and ensuring that you harness the other power of human media. Word of mouth today is digital, and spreads much faster to bigger audiences,” she added. As such, digital PR is still PR – just on a digital platform. The fundamentals of digital PR remain the same as traditional PR – which is about connecting to other people.

Vogler also added that PR and social media marketing are “very much linked”.

“Sometimes people have this artificial division of different things we do with publications versus the initiatives we run on digital and social media marketing, when it fact they go hand in hand,” she said.

“Even when working with media publications, we still want them to distribute and push our stories on social – because that is where consumers discover things,” Vogler explained.

Should digital PR then take a higher priority than offline PR in Singapore?

For Vogler, the answer is yes because people are consuming content on digital today.

“I still consume the same content from publications, but I do it on the mobile format. This is especially with the good internet connection and access to mobile found in Singapore,” Vogler said. However, the same cannot be said for brands operating in a market where mobile phones are not as penetrated.

As such, marketers need to ensure that they always think about where their consumers are consuming their information when it comes to prioritising their choice of communications medium.

For the case of P&G, it looked to entities which were mastering the digital PR space, from Millennials to politicians and musicians to come up with a new strategy. This allowed P&G to get the inspiration for something Vogler termed “human media”.

“Today, we are all citizen journalists. We capture any pictures and give our opinions on anything. So how can you as a brand harness that power in a different way?” Vogler said. The idea of “human media” lies in thinking of all the people who are interacting with the brand as “media channels within themselves”. After doing so, brands need to try to create and drive those conversations which are happening.

One campaign that leveraged on this idea was SK-II’s “Face the Wild” campaign, which saw P&G collaborating with National Geographic and engaging four influencers or celebrities. They were Japanese actress Kasumi Arimura, fashion icon Chiara Ferragni, Chinese actress Nini and Lee Siyoung, South Korean actress and national boxer.

To drive conversation, the brand also did a lot of live reporting with the influencers over the course of the campaign. This combined with the polished and aesthetically please videos by National Geographic allowed P&G to be “raw and authentic” with its viewers, Vogler explained.

“It also gives the viewer additional insight into what the influencer/celebrity is thinking at that point then and there. That’s what people really like about it – that combination of beauty and raw authenticity,” Vogler said.

Leveraging on “human media” also allowed the brand to achieve a ripple effect for the campaign. Vogler explained than Ferragni was also seen as a “beacon of inspiration” for other bloggers and influencers in the fashion space.