Maria Loupa, Senior Account Director at Waters Agency says, “PR is much more than just filling the sales funnel”

Maria Loupa, Senior Account Director at Waters Agency, talks about how the marketing and PR industry is benefiting from AI. She also puts forth her thoughts on the ideal framework for marketing and sales teams to derive business success. Read on to know more.

The endorsement of service by both consumers and key stakeholders is always the ‘holy grail’ for brands!

MEDIA 7: Thanks for doing this with us! Your recent article “Can AI breathe new life into PR?” is quite interesting, how do you target content to your audience, and what are the challenges you face with it?
MARIA LOUPA:
Given the dynamics of the PR world, and especially the technology market, there is a vast ecosystem of potential stakeholders that companies need to engage with. Transforming some of these stakeholders such as media, analysts, and end-users, into brand advocates, will reinforce their messaging and build a solid foundation for these companies as trusted technology suppliers. In an increasingly evolving landscape, thanks to the pandemic, businesses need to ensure they are engaging with key audiences more than ever to cut through the noise.

The ‘oldest trick in the book’ is to target different audiences in a clearly empirical manner – if you are a seasoned professional, you already know journalists’, influencers, and analysts’ preferences, writing style, and the ‘story’ they would be keen on based on their audiences, so you customize the ToV, angle, and type of content accordingly. PR professionals need to always keep up to date with media moves, news outlets, publications, columns, events, influencers, customers, and issues in the news agenda, so they can customize content to their audiences’ unique needs and wants.

However, good old-fashioned research can be quite onerous - if you don’t have that experience or the time, and this is where AI comes in. AI and automation tools can help optimize the time your team needs to write and pitch a press release, craft media lists, track time saved and efficiencies, percentage of media targeting with the probability of generating coverage. And that’s where strategic thinking comes in – applying human knowledge to the data you have gathered to inform holistic PR campaigns.


M7: In the current era, personal reviews & ratings on social media strongly influence the shaping of a brand. Do you think the consumer now holds more power over a brand?
ML:
The truth is in the middle – it’s all about striking the right balance. Companies need an integrated communications campaign more than ever, encompassing peer reviews, group tests and media reviews, own and earned content, etc., as platforms to reach consumers and customers are ever-expanding in numbers.

Indeed, consumers demand more transparency and now have more options than ever. Equally, brands are increasingly being held accountable, which presents them with many opportunities to collect that data and leverage it for R&D purposes, to refine their products and services, while building on consumer trust and loyalty.

It’s a two-way conversation more than ever – on top of welcoming customer reviews and offering channels for them to do so, companies need to continue communicating the benefits of their technology as they apply to their audiences – going beyond educating, to actively engaging communities. The endorsement of service by both consumers and key stakeholders is always the ‘holy grail’ for brands!

Read More: If you are clear about your business objectives, you can find data to support them, says TetraNoodle's Founder Manuj Aggarwal


AI and automation can help us be more creative, work smarter, drive efficiencies while building trust with key stakeholders.




M7: You were featured in Discovery's #Nerducate Series. Could you please share the experience and what were the highlights of the series?
ML:
It’s been an honor, and a fantastic experience to be involved in such a fresh and innovative series. Nerducate is a relatively new Discovery Plus Documentary Series – the premise is that a team of experts delve into some of the hottest topics right now and the top trending online searches, exploring the most important people and moments of the past, and what the future may hold.

It’s basically a selection of different viewpoints from a range of experts across topics that affect us all – from AI and jobs of the future to racism, disability and pollution. I was privileged to feature in Episode 2: Jobs of the future - talking AI, the future of professions and for our initiative #AIinPR with CIPR UK, exploring the impact of AI on our profession. I think such content is crucial in terms of informing people, especially younger audiences, about the options they have in the job market. Technology has opened countless doors and shaped so many new roles – way beyond what we were taught in school. What are the skills they need to stay ahead of the game? And how will AI impact existing positions across professions? These are the two main themes we explored in that episode. For me, what’s important is that we should always remain curious, explore, learn and upskill – and leverage technology that complements and/or ‘super-charges’ human skills.


M7: Could you give our readers a sense of the demographic of your organization and tell us a little about your culture?
ML:
At Waters Agency, our focus is on B2B tech PR – it's all we do. We have an open, flat structure and a warm and caring culture – we work hard, play hard, and don’t take ourselves too seriously – and a team of experienced senior professionals, with 500+ years of combined experience in PR, social, content, and marketing.

We focus all our energy on technology startups - our clients are the innovators busy paving the way for digital transformation, disrupting industries with technology platforms that spark innovation, ingenuity, and progress. Founded in 2017, we have regional HQs in Boston and London and a presence in 15+ countries. We currently have over 30+ clients across cloud, storage, datacentres, AI, and cybersecurity, including Elisity, Salto, SUSE, Nasuni, Ordr, Selazar, Otter.ai, Weaveworks, and more.

Read More: Orange's Hervé Suquet reinforces the importance of producing sustainable goods and services while limiting consumption and waste


From messaging to media, content to credibility-building, analyst relations to brand reputation — it’s all connected, and it all matters.



M7: With the amalgamation of Artificial Intelligence and creative tools, companies are creating products that were virtually impossible before. How is the marketing and PR industry benefiting from this?
ML
: The opportunities are two-fold for the PR and marketing industry. Firstly, agencies have the opportunity to work with technology clients on the cutting-edge of innovation, communicating new technologies to new audiences like developers and influencers.

Secondly, they can leverage these technologies to streamline their own line of work. For PR professionals and agencies especially, AI and automation can provide profiling data on stakeholders, write content, ‘predict’ media trends, analyze sentiment among diverse audiences and employees, and assist with evaluation and performance, and many other applications that aid organization and workflow. An example of such a service for PR professionals is Propel, a neat platform to track and optimize the performance of your PR campaigns, and even analyze the effectiveness of your subject lines to journalists and automatically personalize emails. We will gradually see a lot more platforms like Cision and Meltwater rolling out similar tools to offer PR professionals customization at scale. 

AI and automation can help us be more creative, work smarter, drive efficiencies, while building trust with key stakeholders and ensuring we are seen as an industry that is leading the way when it comes to tech implementation – basically, practicing what we’re preaching!


M7: What, according to you, would be an ideal framework for marketing and sales teams to derive business success?
ML:
From messaging to media, content to credibility-building, analyst relations to brand reputation — it’s all connected, and it all matters. Companies need a full-service agency and a high-caliber team with the right experience, who collaborate seamlessly with their in-house teams to build a customized engagement that meets their unique needs.

PR, marketing, and sales teams need to work hand-in-hand to ensure success and have frequent touch-points to share current and future activity as well as learnings. PR and marketing need to translate through to the sales funnel. The right framework for me basically entails a sales funnel underpinned by PR and marketing strategy, which offers synergies and opportunities for all teams to collaborate across each stage of the funnel - from Awareness to Interest, to Decision, and Action.  Though PR is of course about much more than just filling the sales funnel.

ABOUT WATERS AGENCY

At Waters Agency, being virtual brings them closer together. Through remote working, they are able to bring the most talented and experienced technology PR, social, and marketing professionals on board and they pass the costs benefits of this model to clients.

They have got their clients covered with Waters Agency teams in Boston, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Johannesburg, and Perth - to name just a few. They perfected the virtual model, and they use it to our advantage. Faster decision-making and collaboration without boundaries ensure they deliver campaigns for clients that really resonate.

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At Waters Agency, being virtual brings them closer together. Through remote working, they are able to bring the most talented and experienced technology PR, social, and marketing professionals on board and they pass the costs benefits of this model to clients. They have got their clients covered wit...

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