Rules of Engagement for PR Disruption

May 19, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-478619105More than 11,000 people and 650 startups recently attended the Collision Conference in New Orleans, making it the fastest growing tech conference in the U.S.

A standing room only audience attended the Marketing Stage panel, “Using PR Disruption to Break through the Clutter,” moderated by our Marcus Peterzell, EVP of Entertainment, Ketchum Sports and Entertainment. Panelists included: Jon Swartz, San Francisco Bureau Chief for USA Today; Gregor Perotto, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing & Communications for DocuSign (*client); and myself.

Most of the startups in attendance were early-stage so they needed to know how to be disruptive in the most cost-effective way, but many of our recommendations are relevant to companies of all sizes and budgets looking to maximize the impact and ROI of their PR efforts.

As DocuSign’s Gregor Perotto shared, “Companies need to take an omnichannel approach and integrate their marketing in order to maximize their opportunities and impact.”

This approach is not only the most cost-effective, it also ensures a consistent brand positioning for all audiences across multiple touch points to help drive repetition of message.  Of course, part of this requires sensitivity to the new rules of engagement for social media.

Observe before engaging on social media:
Want to effectively connect with audiences via social media? Start by being voyeuristic. Watch, listen and then engage with the audiences you want to influence (click to tweet).

In the new world of social media there is also an emerging belief that in order to stand out you need to be disruptive, but Perotto warned, “Companies shouldn’t be disruptive for disruption’s sake. Make sure you are authentic, genuine and you have brand relevance. Keep in mind that what is disruptive today is commonplace tomorrow.” 

Jon Swartz of USA Today added that what stands out as a truly disruptive pitch is one that includes “…all the elements of a great story such as a celebrity, an exclusive and something that will go viral.”

The standalone press release with no other action is officially on life support.

No matter how disruptive a brand wants to be, successful public relations relies on the fundamentals of excellent storytelling and fostering relationships with key media so you know what they are looking for.

Swartz provided a chilling perspective to everyone looking to pitch media today: “I get 500 pitches a day, I open 100 and I only read ten. Maybe half of those will end up being a part of the story. It all comes down to relationships, because the pitches that succeed come from PR folks who know me and what I want to cover. I cannot emphasize that enough.”

A version of this article originally appeared in O’Dwyer’s.

Susan is a partner and the CEO of Access Emanate. With more than 30 years of public relations experience, she has helped start-ups become category leaders, guided clients through IPOs, transformed executives into thought leaders and helped to build billions of dollars of brand equity for technology clients. She counsels major companies on competitive marketing positioning, go-to-market strategies and stakeholder communications utilizing traditional and digital communications.