The field of public relations was originally devised to promote influential people like investors, shareholders, and business partners in printed publications and newspapers. Turning to the modern day, PR must keep in sync, focusing on individuals with influential presences online, and connecting these individuals with targeted audiences via social media channels. Here, we talk to Chris Henry, founder of PR agency 818, about the importance of incorporating social media to drive brand awareness for clients.
818 is an agency with two arms, a publicity business that works within the entertainment space and a social-lead talent agency, ‘People of Influence.’ The agency works with people that have a genuine influence and promote campaigns across their social media, which Henry says is the way 818 ultimately measures their value.
“From a publicity perspective, that person’s particular influence is really important for brands. If you’re going to try and promote your products, show or service, then it has to make genuine sense to that person’s audience. We think numbers and metrics are important, but brand is key.”
There is no doubt that nowadays the majority of our lives are spent on the internet. Throughout lockdown, many were engaging with each other online and screen time numbers skyrocketed. Henry says as social media grows it becomes more and more of a necessary tool for PR as the core DNA of publicity is telling a story on the basis of people who care about it.
“Somebody on social media might have a great audience that people really do care about that might not be covered by mainstream traditional media. There might not be an editorial PR home that actually matches the vibe and audience that a particular social talent can offer.
“So, its hugely important because if you’re trying to do something on an indie artist, there’s not a huge amount of publications that have an indie audience, but there are a lot of people on social media where it’s their jam and they’re really interested.”
Building brand awareness often heavily relies on the right choice of influencer. The person that people are following and who is part of a particular brand campaign has to make genuine sense to the brand for the consumer to believe it.
“I think the most important part is authenticity, I wish there was a better word for authenticity than there is but it’s the only word that really describes what it is,” says Henry.
“It has to make sense, if you’ve got the alignment of your social media audience and the brand all making sense and genuinely working with each other, then that’s when people are going to believe it. If people don’t believe it then they can’t be invested in it. The authenticity and the genuine sense are probably the biggest parts or brand awareness.”
Another important factor between PR and social media is the platform. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be extremely successful with promotion and gaining recognition and for PR, finding the right platform to suit the client and its brand is key. Henry says he thinks each platform has its advantages and separate audiences, and the product depends larger where it should be placed.
“I’ve seen some really great success that people have had on LinkedIn, especially if its targeted at business owners who spend a lot of their time on LinkedIn. However, if you’re trying to promote something that has more of a youth target and your product or service has some really great branding, then Instagram is a great place for them to be.
“I’ve also seen some really great wins from a publicity space, with really witty posts on Twitter. I know there has been some incredible battles across the internet from the likes of Burger King and Wendy’s with some really good jabs which have received great PR results. It’s just about picking the right channel for the right thing, but I think they all have their advantages for sure.”
As the media market moves, with brands leaving the market and new brands entering the market, the role of social media has a really strong part to play. Henry says the future of social media and PR will occur in two parts, one for the talent that will emerge as a part of these campaigns, and two from a media perspective, as some of those outlets will live more on social media which will be their delivery mechanism.
“If you traditionally would have placed the story within a newspaper environment, it might actually become more important to place something that has a really good online audience because that is where the consumer is going for it.
“I know that with some of the projects we work on, some of our biggest wins even from a TV perspective, get put up on Facebook so that the brand has actually got the opportunity to reshare that out. It’s really key. Media brands that have stronger online audiences, doubled with influential partners that could also be part of it, have a 360 approach.”
Offering advice to other PR companies, Henry encourages partnering with people that make sense. He suggests thinking about the brand, the people that use the brand and people who align with the same brand values. He says the more it makes sense between the social media being used and the brand, the greater the collaboration will be.
“Matching is the key bit, and I think a lot of agencies are doing a really good job of that and I hope that it’s the future.
“With social media, I think it is just another exciting tool in the toolkit for PR. At the end of the day that’s our aim isn’t it, to get the word out to people who are interested, in the hope they will make a purchase decision.”
This story is part of a StopPress series celebrating the ever changing PR landscape. To read more on Storyteller Month, click here.