Important Things to Know while Designing a Creative, Multi-Channel PR Marketing Strategy

“We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people.” – Pierre Omidyar

As this discussion will show, designing, implementing, and monitoring a creative multi-channel marketing strategy, with the emphasis on Marketing and PR, is an innovative and exciting way to market your business in the “new normal.” And, it will make sure that your brand stands out amongst its competition; thereby, driving traffic to your online presence and converting visitors into returning customers.

The statistical results of a survey quoted by Lauren Sullivan show that 83% of all SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) are experiencing a negative impact on their business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, about 60% of all business owners believe that the virus’s effect will last between three and six months longer.

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Additionally, the pandemic has changed how most companies are approaching their marketing strategies. Here is a list of some of the more pertinent metrics:

  • Circa 60% have changed their marketing message to show empathy to COVID-19 sufferers, cite precautions that should be taken, and have changed their creative outlook in general. 10% have not made any adjustments to their marketing strategies.
  • 31% of all businesses have removed or reduced their reliance on print ads.
  • 30% have increased their brand awareness campaigns.
  • 25% have reduced their digital ad spend.

Finally, the same data shows how brands will approach marketing going forwards:

  • 40% of all businesses surveyed noted that their marketing spend would decrease.
  • 18% said they would spend more money on marketing
  • And, 36% said their marketing spend would remain the same as before the pandemic.

Brand marketers and business owners have also indicated that they will return to the full digital marketing strategies in three phases.

  • The first phase is all about informing consumers that they are open for business and are committed to keeping shoppers safe.
  • The second phase will include COVID-19 compliance messages.
  • While the third phase will highlight special deals designed to attract existing and new customers.

Lastly, all the businesses owners that participated in this survey noted that reputation management is going to become the most important aspect of any successful digital marketing campaign.

A changing world: Gaining perspective

The world as we know it is no longer. Without delving into too much detail, the global community is facing a pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. It started in China towards the end of 2019, and now, five months later, there are more than 2 million active infections with just over 207 000 mortalities. It is worth noting that, because of the rate at which the virus spreads, these numbers change on an hourly basis.

Katharina Buchholz, in her article titled, “What share of the world population is already on COVID-19 lockdown?” states that circa 30% of the world’s population is under some form of lockdown or stay-at-home order. India is currently the country with the largest number of citizens forced to stay at home. 1.3 billion people are under active lockdown. 99% of all US citizens are also under stay-at-home orders. New York City is the epicenter of the pandemic with the largest number of infections and deaths.

Most non-essential businesses have been forced to close with millions of people furloughed or unemployed. The latest unemployment figures from the USA show that roughly 13.5% of the US labor force has applied for unemployment benefits since 14 March 2020 and these numbers are rising. It has been estimated that up to 4 billion people will have filed for unemployment by the time this pandemic is over.

And, while the global economy has simultaneously come to a halt, many corporate entities are looking forward to the day that this economy reopens. No one is quite sure how and when it will restart but start it will. As Aswath Damodaran noted, in his YouTube chat with Noah Kagan titled, “NYU Finance Professor Explains This Financial Crisis,” the world has never been in this situation, so no one knows how easily the global economy will reboot. While his tone was positive, he emphasized that we will just have to wait and see what happens.

One of the positives that has arisen from this pandemic is that many of the world’s companies have managed to successfully pivot their business operations from a location-based environment to an online environment; thereby, allowing staff to work remotely from home. And, this scenario is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Most countries are considering implementing a phased-in approach to the reopening of their individual economies. Because this virus spreads via person-to-person transmission, social distancing will have to be the new normal for several years.

Governments cannot risk the virus from spreading by reopening large sectors of the economy simultaneously. Therefore, they will open different sectors like manufacturing industries gradually, first allowing 25% of the workforce back at work. And, if all goes well, then these numbers will be increased to 50% and so on until the country’s labor force is back at work.

Hence, people who can work from home, as well as those who are high-risk, will be asked to stay at home for a while longer.

Another positive that we can draw from this pandemic is that companies are starting to move all their marketing efforts online. There are several reasons for this:

Online communication methods

Because the primary means of communication between family members and friends is via technologies like Zoom, WhatsApp, and Skype, as well as the increasingly relevant role social media is playing in keeping people connected with their world, it makes sense to utilize online technologies and platforms to market your brand’s products and services.

Statistics quoted by broadbandsearch.net show that “in 2020 social media is one of the best ways for people to connect with one another.” Additionally, more than 50% of the global population uses social media. And, these numbers increase every day. Research has shown that every second of the day, eleven people sign up with social media platforms for the first time.

Increase in online shopping

Businesses, especially retailers like grocery stores are offering online shopping options with delivery services to help high-risk people and prevent large numbers of people crowding the shops. One of the most pertinent questions that people are asking is whether going shopping will increase your risk of contracting the virus.

Brent Schrotenboer notes in his article titled, “Are grocery stores and pharmacies vectors for the coronavirus?” that, while the virus can exist for at least 24 hours on surfaces like cardboard, stainless steel, and plastic, “epidemiologists say the risk of getting infected from such surfaces is relatively low, because the virus soon decays.” The bigger risk is the person-to-person transmission in the stores, especially as some stores tend to be crowded.

Consequently, it is preferable to shop online and arrange for it to be delivered to your home.

Online, remote work: The new normal

Heather Morris states in her article titled “Covid-19 and the organic marketing opportunity,” states that, because of Covid-19 and the social distancing measures required to combat it, we are all “acclimatizing to the new ways of working.” And, the new normal includes remote, online work. Therefore, a natural consequence of this fact is that people are spending more time online.

She goes on to state that “with many marketing budgets under pressure, the challenge is to adapt both paid and organic activity to drive efficiencies that will allow businesses to maximize their potential during the coming weeks and months.” Hence, the raison d’etre for a creative multi-channel digital marketing strategy that leverages both paid and organic Internet marketing.

Finally, by way of emphasizing this point, it’s important to be mindful of Bernard Marr from Forbes’s comment highlighted below:

In the coming months, businesses are going to become more reliant than ever on their digital strategy.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: A comprehension definition

Before we consider everything that you need to know about designing a creative multi-channel marketing strategy, let’s take a look at the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR or Industry 4.0) for the technological developments bear relevance to this topic.

Klaus Schwab, founder and chief executive officer of the World Economic Forum coined the phrase, The Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2016.

When describing this technological revolution, he stated that “we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.”

He goes on to state that, in 4IR’s “scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”This transformation is inclusive of entire systems, including product mechanization and production, management processes, as well as governance issues.

Additionally, Schwab noted in 2016 that the “possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited… And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.”

If we have to be entirely honest, the thought of the latest technologies and their perceived abilities to take over the world is slightly frightening. But, now that the global pandemic, COVID-19, has arrived, these technological advances are enabling us to work from home and communicate with our friends and family.

Furthermore, the advanced data analytics are enabling epidemiologists and researchers to create the most accurate predictive models that they have been able to in the past. Thus, assisting governments and medical health professionals with the decisions that they need to make to keep the population safe.

Finally, these technologies are also assisting scientists in their ability to determine the various COVID-19 strains’ genomes, which will, in turn, help with the development of the vaccine.

This revolution is disrupting almost every industry in all countries across the globe. And, the speed at which these technological developments are taking place is unlike any other Industrial Revolution in history. When compared to the First, Second, and Third Industrial Revolutions, 4IR is “evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.”

Why Digital?

Lauren Irwin in her article titled, “5 Reasons You Need a Digital Strategy Now,” states that “digital is an essential channel in any business’s performance – now more than ever before – and within these unprecedented times we’re all facing at present, every business should consider their capabilities when it comes to a digital strategy.”

As described above, the global pandemic is decimating countries across the globe’s populations as well as their respective economies. Irwin notes in her article that big retailers like the UK High Street retailers assumed that they would have more time to move their brick-and-mortar operations online. Then COVID-19 struck, they were forced to close, and now it is almost too late to convert their business model into an eCommerce operation.

Additionally, it is worth noting that it is equally important not to cobble a digital marketing strategy together without first doing the necessary research. In other words, the question that must be asked and answered is: What does the consumer want from the brand? 

Furthermore, it’s critical not to bolt a digital marketing component onto the side of an existing business model without forethought. It will not have the required impact and will result in a waste of time and loss of money.

Finally, by way of expanding this subsection, it’s vital to consider the following points:

Reactive, knee-jerk marketing does not work

Reactive digital marketing that does not have a strategy is aimless and a waste of time. In fact, responsive marketing runs the risk of creating a negative brand view. The type of digital marketing that is successful is one that utilizes the benefits of the Engagement Economy.
Succinctly stated, consumers are engaged with the brands they support. Consequently, brands need to communicate with their target audience to determine what they want from the brand.

The benefits of an online value proposition

The successful digital marketer designs the brand’s marketing strategy in such a manner that there is an online value proposition. In other words, the question that begs is what online resources such as a website will attract visitors and convert them into returning customers?


Directed, cohesive strategy

Because a digital marketing strategy is implemented across multiple channels as described in the next section, it is critical to make sure that the same marketing message and brand voice is carried across to the total spectrum of channels. Otherwise, the disjointed brand voice and messages will detract from its value.

Multi-channel marketing: A definition

The term, multi-channel marketing, can have different meanings depending on its context. In general, it is interpreted as the practice of using different channels, both direct and indirect, to communicate with clients.

Succinctly stated, according to sas.com, it is vital to implement a cohesive multi-channel marketing strategy is, because “multi-channel customers spend three to four times more than single-channel customers do.”

However, it can also mean the different sub-categories within a genre or channel. For example, if you are considering content marketing, there are several channels or sub-categories that you can utilize such as press releases, guest post blogging, mentions on top news blogs, and backlinking strategies.

The most important point to remember is that digital marketing is about engaging with the brand’s target audience. And because people are engaging and communicating with one another on a variety of online platforms, including social media, online marketplaces, websites, and crowdsourcing platforms, it is vital for the successful brand to communicate with consumers on as many of these channels as possible.

Multi-channel marketing in 2020

The quintessential nature of marketing in the 21st century, especially from the 2020s onwards, is that customers have more control over the purchasing process than brand marketers do. This is because of the rapidly advancing technological developments and the consequences of living through COVID-19 the pandemic.

Kayla Carmicheal of Hubspot.com notes that the technological advances described above equate to a change in the way products are marketed. Some of the 4IR technologies that will have a direct impact on digital market strategies include:

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and data mining

The more information a marketer has at their disposal, the better they can make positive marketing decisions that deliver a more personalized experience to the brand’s target audience. Additionally, these data systems help to provide a streamlined, optimized, multi-channel marketing customer experience.

A good example of the availability of large amounts of data about the brand’s target audience includes eCommerce shopping experiences. If a subsector of your target audience prefers utilizing social media like Instagram to purchase products, it’s essential to add social media shopping to your digital marketing strategy.

Internet of Things and connected devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as a “system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

An IoT network can include all the components of a smart home, like the security system, heating and cooling, and kitchen appliances like fridges, freezers, washing machines, and dryers.

In a retail shopping context, customers who have signed up with the company’s loyalty program can receive targeted product promotions and specials when they walk past a particular product.

Secondly, IoT networks within the retail context, provide a substantial amount of data about a client’s browsing and shopping preferences, which, in turn, will provide brand marketers with the direction required to implement a targeted digital marketing campaign.

Multi-channel marketing: Describing the case study

Let’s assume for the purposes of this article, that you own an eCommerce retail company known as Hot Frog Originals. This company’s mission and the aim is to provide a platform for small, independent manufacturers of handmade items to showcase and sell their products online. The brand, Hot Frog Originals, does not sell any products. Its raison d’etre is to offer other brands a platform to advertise and sell their products.

This small but distinctive difference is relevant to the brand marketer, especially when planning the cohesive, unified marketing messages.

Implementing the components of a multi-channel PR marketing strategy

Now that we have a comprehensive understanding of what multi-channel marketing is, and we have described our case study, let’s look at how to get exposure from several different marketing channels.

Press release marketing

One of the fundamental aims of any digital marketing strategy is to get links to your brand from authoritative, industry-specific websites or publications. And, an equally important aim is to get mentions on these high-value authoritative websites like Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and other industry-specific sites. In summary, you can get remarkable links and publicity from press releases.

Therefore, by way of expanding on this point let’s first look at the value of press releases by defining the term.

Wikipedia defines a press release as an “official statement delivered to members of the news media for the purpose of providing information, an official statement, or making an announcement.

It is traditionally utilized by brands and companies to announce the release of new products or a relaunching, rebranding exercise. And, it is usually in the format of a press media kit that provides the exact information to the media without the journalists having to search for additional information.

The wonderful thing about a press release is that it is used to build authority and it can be used many times without Google, and other search engines, thinking your brand is low-quality and spammy.

Google ranks brands on its SERP based on the brand website’s perceived authority.  Brian Dean of Backlinko.com notes that Google uses over two hundred ranking factors in their indexing and ranking algorithms.

Some of these factors include brand signals such as brand mentions on authoritative websites, linked and unlinked brand name anchor texts, and known authorship. Google SEO Eric Schmidt had the following to say about known authorship signals:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results

Another benefit of receiving publicity from a top-ranking site is that other authoritative sites will want to interview you about your brand or talk about your brand and products. Therefore, having a brand mention by one top site can result in a cascading effect of mentions on many different top sites.

Moreover, if we consider our case study, Hot Frog Originals, it’s vital to get mentions on top eCommerce sites, as well as authoritative news publications. And, the best way to ask for recognition on these publications and sites is to write a press release and send it to journalists and owners of the sites where you’d like your brand to be mentioned.

As an aside, there are two press release sites, PRWeb.com and PRLog.org, where you can upload and publish your press releases. Journalists looking for information on specific topics will see your press releases on these sites and use them if applicable. PRWeb.com’s aim is to provide both product owners and journalists with “tools to increase the digital word-of-mouth.” This statement is the raison d’etre for the modern press release.

Help a Reporter

In terms of Help a Reporter Out or HARO, BDN Groups is a website that connects bloggers and journalists with relevant expert sources. Both experts and journalists sign up on the HARO platform. Journalists submit requests for information on the platform which are then emailed to the registered experts. Email digests are generally sent out three times per day to the listed experts based on their individual expertise.

Let’s look to our case study for an example of how to use HARO to leverage media mentions. Let’s assume that you have signed up with HARO as an expert, and your area of expertise is arts and crafts or lifestyle items. A blogger sends a request to HARO for people who have finished products in the arts and crafts genre. Now, while we remember that Hot Frog Originals is an eCommerce platform and not a manufacturer of arts and crafts, you also design and make bed quilts. Therefore, you are in a position to respond to the blogger’s email, pitching your product, and ensuring that both your personal brand and the Hot Frog Original’s brand get a mention.
Finally, the question that begs is, how do you respond to a HARO email request for information? By way of answering this question, let’s look at the actual email that was sent back to this blogger:

Hi [blogger name]

My name is [your name]. I am a quilter who is passionate about making log cabin quilt blocks from my hand-dyed 100% cotton fabrics and Shweshwe or West African fabrics.

I’d love an opportunity for my quilts to be featured on your blog as I believe it will add value to your blog.

Looking forward to hearing from you soonest.

  Kind regards.

[Your name]

In summary, you have stated your name, the crafty products you manufacture, and that you’d love to collaborate with the blogger. As an aside, this email pitch received a positive response and the collaboration efforts are underway. Thus, your brand and the Hot Frog Originals brand will receive a mention.

Final Thoughts:

The conversation on multi-channel PR marketing is a comprehensive topic and forms part of a successful multi-channel digital marketing strategy. As a result, the principles and examples mentioned above should be considered and implemented with the seriousness they deserve.

And finally, click here to find out more about the Multi-Channel PR Marketing Campaigner Certificate Program offered in partnership with S N Chatterjee and with BDN Groups’ collaboration.

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