Selling digital to clients in PA: highlighting consistencies rather than differences

December 1, 2008

I came across an old post by Brian Haven entitled All media is Social which struck a chord. In short, Brian writes that the web could just be viewed as an extension of traditional communications interactions like sharing, connecting and broadcasting, but with greater reach, accessibility and immediacy.

Not rocket science, but it made me realise that a post I wrote on how to sell digital to clients in Public Affairs in Brussels probably prioritises the wrong elements. My premise is largely that a) communicating online is different; and b) although the lobbying vs. comms balance remains fairly skewed in favour of the former, it’s becoming less so as public perception is becoming increasingly important, and in many areas, the web is the most effective place to campaign to try to influence it. I still think these points are entirely valid, but Brian’s post has made me think that the best sell to more traditional prospects really should be that the web can be an extension of old-school communications, or in other words, that online tools can massively improve the extent, reach and quality of existing initiatives by complementing them and acting as an integrator.

Here are three simple practical examples where you can take a traditional PA tactic and improve or extend it using online tools:

  1. If you host an event, your pre and post event activity should be co-ordinated via the web, enabling you both to attract more attendees and keep the event relevant for longer than its actual duration. How? Before the event, promote it online as well as via your traditional offline channels; add a viral element to the event webpage or site to encourage people to forward it to people they know; engage attendees before the event via a survey or introduction video. After the event, show the presentations in webinar format (PowerPoint plus audio) on the event webpage or site; show video interviews with attendees; and again, include a viral element encouraging users to forward material so that people who missed it can see it or so that people who were there have a better record of it.
  2. To optimise your media relations, use a variety of web tools to make sure you’re providing journalists with the best possible material. If it can help improve a story, provide them with top-tier material in video or audio format (especially interviews) perhaps in a social media release. And as well as providing your own material, assimilate the best material available on the relevant subject matter available elsewhere on the web by hyperlinking to it via your online press page. Also, make it easy for journalists to be updated in near-real time by allowing them to subscribe to updates via RSS (or even Twitter).
  3. In addition to monitoring traditional news sources, use a dedicated social media monitoring service like Attentio (or even just some free services) to make sure you’re tracking everything that’s being written about the product, organisation, company etc. in question.

Ideally, once you’ve won them over by strengthening the reach and impact of their existing initiatives with simple tactics like these, you can begin to introduce more daring web initiatives (not for the sake of it of course: only if they fit into your broader strategy and you’re convinced they’ll work!)

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