Forget Going Viral: Does Your Digital Communication Ripple?

March 2, 2015

[ikon images/corbis]
[ikon images/corbis]

With so many new advances in digital technology, clients and agencies can feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start or how to pull together a strategy and plan. PR professionals who are experienced in being strategic need to develop the ability to think in a new dimension with digital, defining their audience “eyeball by eyeball.”

The pinpoint accuracy of targeting in digital is a key consideration, which may mean rethinking and redefining your reach, especially in the use of social platforms. Your communications reach out to a first-tier audience, but it’s the sharing and engagement that exponentially builds mass reach.

There is plenty of talk about “going viral,” which PR professionals know is not a tactic that can be controlled or managed. The simple feedback loop is now a dynamic, ongoing conversation. To be successful in digital media today, communications should “ripple” and reach distinct target audiences and their circles of influence, and continue to connect and engage by stringing together messages across platforms.

We are all bombarded with the latest social media platforms, apps, mobile devices and communications technology, so no one has it all figured out because it’s too new and it changes often. Don’t let that stop you from diving in. Make every effort to begin incorporating new digital media initiatives into your next campaign.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

• Start online and go mobile. Take your next PR effort and think about it from a “mobile first” perspective. Before deploying your traditional tactics, look into ways to relay the messaging via phone calls, apps, mobile ads, text messages, emails or social media posts.

Carve out one place online where everything connects (messages, links, sources and contact info). What’s important is that you can link all activities to one location online that is searchable and connects across platforms. Even if your website is in need of an update, there are online options that allow you to set up a site or landing page for a campaign or a client. Don’t use an outdated website as an excuse.

• Get serious about targeting. Be specific about who you target and how you craft your next pitch. Take time to define your top one or two priority targets and stretch outside your standard media outlets. Research “the perfect story” or “the ultimate coverage” and develop a targeted approach for each.

Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and author of “Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans,” said, “In 2015, it’d be great if PR pros finally understood that they have no excuse to ever pitch anyone — be it a journalist, blogger, influencer — without having done real quality homework on the person being pitched. It’s never been easier to find out almost anything about anyone, and not doing so is simply lazy. Pitching blind in 2015 is an immediate blacklist offense, in my opinion.”

He also recommended taking time to make the pitch interesting and unique. “After you’ve done your homework, figure out the tie-in,” Shankman says. “A boring generic pitch does nothing for me. Find a great hook — something creative, something I haven’t thought of, something I can turn into a great blog post — and not only will I cover you, but I’ll probably love you forever.”

• Test out platforms. Try out ideas. Evaluate. Have you tried hashtags for a campaign? Incorporated Pinterest? Reached out to a blogger in your profession? Incorporated an online newsroom for an event?

Consider your target audience when selecting a new digital media channel. Where is the best place to reach them? Is it Facebook, Twitter or maybe a popular website? When you focus on your audience’s interests and online habits, you’ll find auxiliary channels to reach them.

To give you an example, we were attending a large trade show as part of a city celebration and had covered the more traditional PR communications with our target audiences. The event organizer offered to post social media messages on Facebook and Instagram as part of overall event promotion. We worked on messaging, graphics and the timing of the posts with the coordinators onsite. During the event, it was like someone hit a lever. Every single post led an influx of people to our booth right after it hit online, demonstrating the power of digital. It’s immediate, powerful and a fun way to engage your audience.

• Bring everything together. The Web can help clarify if a PR campaign is in-step or out-of-step with marketing and sales. Digital makes it all available at the same time, so the more collaborative your strategy is, the more likely it is that your communications will build on each other and ripple. Research digital media vendors and find out what they have to offer. You will learn a lot in the process. Look for a partner who can provide the technical capabilities that will expand your online communications and deliver benefits for public relations, marketing and sales.

“In 2015, digital public relations will continue to converge with marketing and sales on the Web,” said David Meerman Scott, sales and marketing strategist and bestselling author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” “These are not separate and distinct disciplines but all are ways to communicate to media and your buyers. This will be the year that PR pros will embrace their sales colleagues — with the content created as ‘public relations’ creating measurable sales leads and growing business as a result.”

Digital media offers unlimited opportunities to adjust messaging and tactics as you see audience response rates. Timing has a lot to do with it, as well as “refreshing” messaging and the creative. PR professionals are in the perfect position to use digital media to blend traditional public relations with social media, SEO and content marketing. There has never been a more dynamic time to be in communications.

Susan Suggs, APR
Susan Suggs, APR, is a project manager at Appleyard Agency in Pensacola, Fla. She assists clients with their digital media, advertising, PR and promotional goals. Email:


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