This needs to be done in order to identify new storytelling opportunities and publishing platforms as well as to harness data analytics to continually refine how and where brands place their messaging.

There are various examples of how organisations from a variety of industries are changing as a result of the digital disruption, and it has become increasingly apparent that similar changes are underway in the broader marketing and communications sector.

These disruptions take on many forms – be it the way in which modern-day media houses and platforms work, how stories are sourced, the way in which media relations is practiced, how we measure the success of a campaign and even how communications services are packaged.

Traditional media seem to take the hardest hit by these changes, as readers increasingly turn to online, including social media platforms, in order to get their daily dose of news and information.

Not only have we seen a decline in the overall number of publishers, but those that survive are increasingly turning to options such as requiring advertising to be featured, and paywalls in order to raise revenue.

Extended reach and engagement

An increasing number of online publishers are now offering custom native content campaigns that include written and multimedia content that features hyperlinks to drive referral traffic to a brand’s website or campaign-specific microsites.

While brands or their agencies can try to place more emphasis on expanding content reach through using social media or various forms of digital advertising, such as banner and search engine ads, online publishers offer brands an established audience that is highly relevant to their industry vertical.

Extending analytics from social or native campaigns and onto a website enables brands to track how website visitors interact; it helps them move away from simply looking at a CPC or CPM value, and shows them which content can help them generate leads.

The long-term benefits of these types of campaigns include being able to keep track of new users referred to by the publisher’s website and using this audience as part of broader search engine and social media remarketing campaigns. There’s also a benefit to a brand’s link building strategy by having referring links appear on reputable websites.

Despite this increase in paid-for opportunities, a space still exists for well-crafted thought leadership articles on these opportunities. Brands primarily aim to showcase specific products or solutions in an effort to draw in potential customers that they can add to their marketing and sales funnels. However, this is just another from of advertising, with publishers often being required to clearly state that the content is sponsored for.

A speedy content process

Publishers, such as the Press Association, are now turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to write press releases. While the technology is not expected to replace journalists anytime soon, it relies on human input to automate reports on health, crime, employment and other subjects where statistics are available. This means that there will have to be a change in the type and format of content that is issued to media going forward.

This step forces both PR agencies and the brands that they work for to speed up the process through which content is conceptualised, created, approved and distributed.

They increasingly have to construct stories that bring in voices and opinions, and the human angle that pique the interest of the readers – the why rather than the what – something a data-driven bot still can’t do.

But we can’t escape data. According to Cognito's Communications and Marketing Survey for 2018, 79% of respondents considered data analytics to be the technological development with the highest impact, followed by marketing automation (57%).

The report surveyed 165 respondents across multiple sectors including banking, asset management, wealth management, FinTech, insurance, technology and professional services across the United States, EMEA and APAC regions.

Access to native campaigns analytics

Brands need to find a balance between native campaigns and solid, earned PR, which allows organisations to build their reputation, create a brand presence, engage and forge a relationship with an audience and earn their trust.

However, since most publishers have an online presence for their normal news too, it is essential that PR and native campaigns work hand-in-hand in order to achieve the above and to build an authentic and authoritative digital presence for the brand.

Unlike printed content, having real-time access to native campaign analytics means that brands know exactly how many people have read an article, or clicked on a banner advert, allowing for content and images that do not perform as well to be changed – and quickly.

As such, there has to be an increased transparency between the agency and the brand in terms of SEO, keywords and best performing AdWords (to assist with content generation).

Today’s PR workforce increasingly needs to understand the basics of digital, how it impacts the work they do and be able to collect and make sense of all the data they now have at their disposal.

This refers to a treasure trove of data that can help brands identify which messages resonate with readers, common queries or misunderstandings and identify pressing topics that can be further explored through clear and concise messaging.

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