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Digital PR for SMEs

One of the biggest battles in today’s hyper-connected is the battle for attention – which is, very crucially, where initial engagement is won. What’s required here is relevancy. It can’t be overemphasised how important it is to understand the underlying concept of how to make communication relevant for a given audience. This is about the ability to create enough cut-through in a matter of split seconds. Or else your audience will just not see, read or listen and just switch to something else. Fortunately, there are solid and tested new best practices in digital PR and marketing so that you can win the battle for attention. So stay tuned in, for we have collected key insights on the topic to show you how to succeed on this journey.


Relevance Precedes Attention

A study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – that’s down nearly 25% in just a few years (cf. McSpadden, Kevin. “Science: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish.” Time, 14 May 2015, time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish). What this means is that relevancy isn’t created in the very first phrase, image or the first 20 seconds of a video, your message just doesn’t get across to the audience.

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way,
you will command the attention of the world.”
– George Washington Carver

Today messages, content or ads can be tested. One can easily find out what messages work through A/B testing. For example, the algorithm of Facebook is very powerful. It can tell you whether the audience you are targeting is right for the message you deliver and vice versa – is the message right for the audience? One way to test is to create several ads (with visuals, copy, video etc.) Then measure their performance and compare it on multiple channels and platforms. So, it’s not just what you say in a message but also where you say it. Is it on a social media platform where people mostly scroll or is it on a device where people mostly click links and pages?


Attention Precedes Conversion

The main aim is to increase conversion, not traffic. A video that doesn’t deliver a key message within the first five seconds and that doesn’t have built-in subtitles is losing out already. A lot of people watch content on their mobile phones more than on their desktops. So, when they watch it on the go without headphones, as beautiful and relevant your video might be, if they don’t see the subtitles in the first five seconds, naturally they will continue scrolling the feed. So, you’ve spent all this time creating a beautiful ad for your company or product and you’ve also spent capital to promote it on social media platforms adjusting the audience - but your message still isn’t going to cut through. Relevancy and deep reflection on who you are targeting (their needs, interests, values etc.) become most powerful when taken together with the customer journey and user experience. As Prof. Peter Drucker put it: “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” The key question then is: Are you hearing the unspoken needs of your audience?

For best results in achieving relevancy, think in the shoes of your audience. In marketing speak: the customer journey and at what stage you are getting your message across:

  • Is it about raising awareness? Then what are the right channels?
  • What will be the priorities in the marketing mix? Is it more PR? Advertising? Social Media?
  • Are you targeting those who are closer to conversion? Then it is about engagement – direct mails, direct targeting on LinkedIn, events etc.
  • Are you aiming for loyalty and advocacy? Then it is about reassurance messaging.


“It’s much easier to double your business
by doubling your conversion rate than by doubling your traffic.”
– Jeff Eisenberg


Invest in Paid Digital + SEO

A widespread mistake by SMEs is the fact that they tend to invest in content creation but hesitate when it comes to investing in paid content promotion. The assumption is that good content will find its audience on its own (organic), without the support through paid digital marketing. As a result, a great piece of content in which a portion of the communications budget was invested receives little return in digital media – the time and capital invested is not delivering results. The problem, however, is not in the content but in the decision not to invest a decent amount in supporting it on digital platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. The more mature the platform of choice, the less cut-through is delivered through organic content. However, paid boosters and targeted campaigns offer very efficient ways to get your message across in a highly targeted manner.

Another common shortcoming and weakness of SMEs is the lack of search engine optimization (SEO). There are numerous SEO checklists available online, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. They include all the key areas where to invest time and capital when delegating the work to the SEO experts and they show the most common mistakes to avoid.

Often SMEs do not have (yet) neither the required know-how nor the talent to properly leverage digital opportunities to increase their visibility. It’s a classical make or buy decision. Our recommendation is to opt for agency models that deliver either plug-and-play solutions and/or can accompany you both strategically on building capability and tactically to get operational traction.


Use Tactical and Practical Tools

A useful tool that underpins the ‘way to think’ in digital marketing is the UPSYD funnel. It is mostly used for digital engagement, creating relevancy, converting to action:

(Source: Rahul Gadekar. “The 5 Steps UPSYD Framework to Drive Sales: R Interactives.” R Interactives | Re-Defining Digital Marketing, 28 July 2020, https://www.rinteractives.com/blog/en/upsyd-framework)

Depending on where the target audience is on the customer journey one can decide not just what message but also which channels will be used. Is it a Google ad or is it a story in a documentary on Netflix? For example, if this is a long-term returning customer then it can be a direct mail or an e-mail with a tailor made, highly relevant piece of messaging that can trigger the customer to take advantage of a new promotion.

There are an innumerable number of companies that still are bombarding audiences on LinkedIn, Facebook and other traditional media with whatever product or service without thinking of these factors of relevance. Then they begin to question why the audience doesn’t convert or get to the action of purchasing…

“If the story is not great or if the story is not human,
no technology will save you. Not today. Not any time in the future.”
– Piyush Pandey

All things being equal, the business goes to who communicates better. Relevant and effective communication is about the right story, to the right audience, at the right place and at the right time. Communicating your story requires simplicity and clarity in the delivered messages. “Nielsen research suggests that pages with a clear value proposition are able to hold people’s attention for much longer.” (cf. “The Human Attention Span [Infographic].” Wyzowl, www.wyzowl.com/human-attention-span). Creating a catchy headline or solid copy is no easy feat. Yet upcoming tools such as Jasper uses artificial intelligence for content writing, copywriting, social media targeting, messages for digital ads and so forth. With just basic input, tools like Jasper will come up with ‘copy-paste’ ready messaging, improvements for blog articles or social media posts. The twist here is in the data: y powerful algorithms analyse the audience to be targeted and reflect it in the copy accordingly.


Key Practices to Remember:

  • Relevance precedes Attention, which precedes Conversion
  • Use thinking tools as UPSYD and put yourself in your audiences’ shoes
  • Test your messages with A/B testing
  • Do not rely on organic content only, invest in paid content promotion
  • Dig in and understand SEO: make sure your keywords are in your content
  • And: aim for conversion (quality) rather than traffic (quantity)

At Brand Affairs, we leverage our DNA in storytelling, public and media relations to deliver highly integrated approaches for more visibility. We combine latest thinking and hands-on operational support in the digital space, SEO/SEA as well as digital advertising marketing campaigns. A recent example is our support for Switzerland’s largest beauty specialty trade company DOBI, where we supported both digital marketing capability building as well as operational support for campaign activation.

Need help to get traction with your visibility? We’re happy to support you, feel free to get in touch!

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