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All aboard, by Sherpa Communications’ Anastasiya Golovatenko

Communication is going digital, and Sherpa Communications’ Anastasiya Golovatenko explains how brands can avoid missing the boat of digital transformation and reinvention.

By Anastasiya Golovatenko, account director, Sherpa Communications

Digital transformation is the top priority for many manufacturers, retailers, healthcare companies, banks and pretty much every industry – a generalisation borne out by research from IDC. And digital transformation is an ongoing priority for marketing firms and public relations agencies in the UAE as well as overseas as much as it is for any other organisation. While it’s hard to predict exactly what the future of marketing and communications will look like, there are some predictable trends that can help brands and their marketers prepare for the future.

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The impact of mobile communication and social media are there for all to see. There is no shortage of examples to demonstrate how these technologies are omitting old business models by creating new customer experiences and raising customer expectations, enabling and underpinning digital transformation.

Strategic communication has never been so important for brands, and with so much information being posted daily, digital transformation enables specialists to go further than before.

These developments have given rise to a whole new dimension of PR: digital PR. It embraces search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media and influencer marketing to create new strategies for cross-channel engagement. Now huge data files and insights can be analysed and used for the creation of actionable metrics, right brand positioning, lead generation, understanding of audiences, competitor analysis and much more.

To drive digital transformation and reinvention within their organisations, brands can strategically leverage the power of digital marketing, social media and SEO, nicely blended together with digital PR.

Exploiting social media

Social media has supercharged marketers’ abilities to reach, connect with and learn from customers. Digital interactions on social media also generate data that can be used to assess the effectiveness of campaigns, understand customer behaviour and preferences, and focus on initiatives across multiple channels. It’s one of the more effective ways to help brands drive web traffic to their official platforms or websites. According to Hootsuite, people spend close to seven hours a day using the internet – more than twice the amount of time they spend watching TV. This is a massive audience to influence and direct through personalised campaigns that are consistent across all the verticals where a brand has its presence and interacts with its customers.

The importance of SEO

SEO is a fine art. Not only does it require a detailed understanding of how to get brands as near to the top of Google search results as possible, but it also requires constantly evolving techniques to keep up with the frequent changes Google makes to its algorithms. Content needs to be constantly reviewed to align with current algorithms and achieve optimal results with the inclusion of the key messages and positioning triggers. On top of strategic copywriting, additional blending between digital marketing and PR happens when securing quality backlinks as well. It’s good to have backlinks, but more is not always better. Your site’s ranking is likely to get more of a boost with a few links from high-quality sites (such as media platforms) than lots of links from business directories or yellow pages.

While SEO specialists focus on clicks and other metrics, communications pros can influence brand awareness, positioning and understanding of the product or service and can also increase a brand’s success on Google rankings by presenting a content strategy that is in line with the most researched words in their sector.

Leveraging multiple channels

While marketing has always used multiple channels, in today’s digital world marketers are taking an omnichannel approach – tracking customers’ journeys with digital technology to understand what kind of communications resonates and to refine and target communications initiatives. This could involve, for example, taking a long-form piece of content and reworking it as short, sharp social media posts, or infographics, blogs or online articles.

Playing with the content in a smart way

Some of the most effective tactics to leverage a brand’s presence and recognition in the new reality will be sharing newsworthy content with media and other platforms to ensure quality mentions and publicity. To build trust and authority, brands should leverage the expertise of their executives producing analytical reports, whitepapers or op-eds, spiced up by relevant keywords that are smartly in line with their SEO strategy.

Making the most of metrics

Everything that happens in the digital world creates data, which means it can be measured. Data analytics and the smart use of these metrics will provide brands with the full picture as well as help optimise their strategies in the real-time. These could include the traffic generated by online outreach initiatives, changes in how a brand is being perceived and referred to, quality of brand awareness, website traffic, mentions on social media and much more.

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