LatAm Digital: The Rise and Fall of Public Relations in Brazil

Image via WeHeartIt

By: Alice Bonasio, guest blogger

With every brand becoming aware that customers demand close, digitally-mediated interactions, digital public relations is in high demand.

But what are the secrets of making it work for you?

We take a look at Brazil – a country which is experiencing an amazing rate of growth in all things digital – for some answers.

Digital PR is a new area in Marketing and Public Relations that is fast becoming an essential tool in the kit of most companies, but in markets such as Brazil – where the astronomical growth of the Internet and Social Network usage is fueling the demand for this type of interaction – the effects are being keenly felt.

In a recent blog for Brazilian site Tempos & Movimentos, Francisco de Carvalho, President of the Brazilian arm of PR giant Burson-Marsteller, said they experienced a growth rate of 400% in 2009 and 180% in 2010, and is confident that there is plenty of room to grow even further.

In Latin America, 82% of Web users are on Social Networks, and Brazil is the Latin country with the largest number of people connected to the Internet, around 76 million at the last count.

As enormous as that number is, though, that counts for less than half the country’s population, so Carvalho’s optimism about growth might very well be justified.

But the very accessibility of social networks can be a pitfall for would-be marketers.

It is easy to think that knowing your way around the mechanics of Twitter or Facebook constitutes a qualification, but there is a lot more to a successful Digital PR strategy than that.

Image via TumblR

First of all, you need to listen: Carvalho stresses that communication is not so much about what you say, but about how you come across to your audience.

“To communicate is to know how to listen, interact, dialogue and position yourself, constantly” he says.

John H. Bell, Managing Director at Ogilvy PR, is an expert commentator on the practice of Digital Influencing, and he is interested in the way in which brands in Brazil are putting listening programs in place

“to understand what consumers are saying about them in blogs, Orkut (which is huge in Brazil is huge, with 8 out of 10 Internet users having an account)  and Twitter”

Gone are the days when companies could tightly manage their output; brand images are formed in the communication between consumers, who share the things that are important to them and see right through lazy corporate strategies. Which brings me to my next point:

It is hard work.

Constant and never-ending hard work.

It is indeed very easy to setup a social networking presence. Most of us have one, and many of us have several.

But if a company or brand does not build in the resources within its Digital PR strategy to keep them updated, fresh, engaging and responsive to their users, fans, followers and customers, it is just as likely to work against them.

Brands also need to integrate their digital presence.

Having a coherent message across all the social networks, sites and feeds you are a part of is important for consumers to identify with your brand.

That doesn’t mean having exactly the same content everywhere, but keeping your tone and aesthetics consistent will get the message across that your company has a solid ideology.

Finally, being genuine is a big winner.

Consumers want to interact closely with the brands they choose to bring into their lives, and they can spot a fake from miles away.

Thinking that all you need to do is plonk your usual corporate schpeel on a Facebook page and the fans will come flocking in is arrogant and a recipe for disaster.

Want fans?

Find out what your audience cares about, then talk to them, and keep the conversation going.

** All images from WeHeartIt and TumblR. **

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Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UK’s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.

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