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Ask the Expert: The Shape of PR in 2019

Artificial intelligence, influencer marketing, ethics, diversity and inclusion: all of these modern and important factors add disruption to the shape of the PR and communications industry.

In the context of trends dominating the PR sector today, we caught up with Kayleigh Töyrä, Creative Director at Seeker Digital to gather her career journey so far and to share some practical insights on the shape of public relations and PR trends in 2019.

ADLIB: For some background, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Kayleigh: Funnily enough, I ended up in digital by chance after an MA in English Literature…

I started off as a copywriter, then transitioned into digital marketing. Eventually, I became Creative Director at Seeker, where I’ve been for about three years.

We specialise in outreach and digital PR and I head up the creative team. We work with a wide range of brands and businesses from around the world — many of them exclusively on digital PR or outreach contracts.

ADLIB: Could you share your take on crisis management in PR in the context of the digital age?

Kayleigh: Crisis management is an interesting challenge in the digital world — a crisis can escalate quickly and commentators can be pretty savage.

A badly-worded tweet can be screenshotted before you get a chance to delete it, and many celebs and brands have been caught out by the afterlives of things they’ve said online.

Take the easyJet Twitter disaster where the brand was caught out trying to blatantly manipulate a breaking story by asking someone to “remove the photograph”:

Digitally, context is everything. In order to avoid campaign fails or misaligned messaging, testing and seeding are essential. Stop to think before you hit send and rely on colleagues or your agency to question what you’re doing. External feedback from surveys can be valuable.

If a breaking news story isn’t going your way, it can be a good idea to address the issue head-on or then balance out the news with positive counterstories. Acknowledge people’s concerns where you can (without adding fuel to the fire if you can help it). An apology or retraction can go a long way (if done fast enough).

Positive stories are powerful and can help add context, but they also need to be done in the right way.

It’s important to be agile and reactive with your crisis management plan. Be ready to react in a variety of content formats and types. Video can be a powerful content medium during a PR crisis.

PR teams and people on the ground need to have the right mix of training and support but also be empowered to make smart, fast decisions when the highest level of sign-off is not feasible.

ADLIB: In your opinion, how do influencer marketing and PR work together?

Kayleigh: Influencers are a surprisingly broad and disparate group. People have this image of influencers = glamourous personalities on Instagram, but the truth is much more complex than that.

The way I see it, each industry has its own tastemakers. If you want your stories to be heard, noticed, and shared, then you need to engage with social media influencers.

Reaching out to influencers can seem scary, but they are used to being approached (just like journalists). Do your homework and engage influencers in a way that will appeal to them — it could be anything from a DM to an email or even a custom package in the mail!

TIP: they’ll often have a website with a contact page and media kit that you can review ahead of time.

The best digital PR campaigns leverage media outreach, influencers, user-generated content, social media, snail mail — the list goes on. Use all the available tools in your arsenal and don’t get hung up on channels.

ADLIB: In the context of ethics, diversity and inclusion, could you share some best practices for businesses that want to prove their own ethical credentials?

Kayleigh: Actually do stuff — don’t just talk about it. Sure, make the most of positive PR opportunities and stories when you can, but don’t just apply a veneer to your activities.

Ethical certifications, initiatives, contests — all these are great and can help bolster your credentials. Talk about the good work you do on platforms like Instagram, enter awards, and feature logos on your site — and make sure there is a task-owner with budget sign-off for CSR.

Think about what you put out there in a global context. Does the message you’re sending really align with your brand and business? Are you the best person to be delivering that message?

From my experience, charities are very willing corporate partners. Think of creative ways you can partner with charities and support their work.

ADLIB: And finally, could you share some examples of PR activities that contribute to overall business success and profitability?

Kayleigh: Unless you understand the KPIs of PR, don’t do it. In my opinion, all marketing activity should be tied to business success and profitability.

Digital PR/link building, awareness campaigns, launch campaigns, personal brand projects — all of these can be profitable if done right.

Here are some ideas on how to make it happen:

Be mindful of what you link to — have the right landing pages, silo pages etc. Speak to your SEO team to maximise PR campaign gains
Position people in your business as experts and leaders — clients and prospects like to deal with people ‘in the know’
Match PR activities to your internal business rhythm and dial activity up and down as required. Don’t just have a static ‘baseline’
Track everything! Time, materials, freelancers — all investment should be tracked and accounted for in a realistic budget
Have regular reviews of PR activities and see how you’re performing against agreed KPIs.

Thanks so much for sharing, Kayleigh!