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Sasha Laghonh on How to Leverage Tech to Get Noticed

Sasha Laghonh is the Founder of Sasha Talks, a commercial and educational platform that integrates self & professional development into nurturing meaningful outcomes. As a Speaker, Strategist, and Author, she partners alongside global clients to capitalize upon their talent.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in public relations?

Earlier in my career path I worked for a brokerage firm which provided account management services for the top CPG brands. I initially worked in marketing then organically transitioned to public relations because my executive believed it would serve as a growth opportunity. I was already working on the account management and marketing side which required me to step in to collaborate on PR campaigns alongside my colleagues. The PR aspect of the work introduced me to the evolving dynamics of managing client relationships when it came to the external facing markets which included the brand owners, civilians and shareholders. 

What role does technology play in public relations in 2024?

There are so many virtual social media and international platforms that bring people together to converse that it definitely helps in disseminating information (good and bad, vetted and unvetted) across communication channels within a matter of seconds to minutes. As stories unfold from the public relations arena, those updates mimic a similar lifecycle which is immediate and short lived just like the news.

Can you give a quick example of how a business can leverage tech to make a PR campaign stand out?

From observation and experience, it appears most people and businesses want to make announcements to maintain an awareness of their cause. The virtual markets are saturated with streams of information that it's necessary for PR campaigns to embrace an authentic stance without compromising their identity for the sake of competition and deadlines. Some campaigns have become redundant because the creators think it's better to roll out a campaign which is perceived to be 'better than nothing' versus investing more time in novel ideas. While a good percentage of the population invests their time online for social and/or commercial reasons, it's important to still acknowledge the traditional PR campaigns that can take place offline by engaging people at events and initiating strategic activities which can yield a return on investment. Not everyone lives in cyberspace 24/7, we need to respect this reality. This includes people who can be prospective investors, clients and talents who can support your mission later in time.

Tech can be an ally or an enemy depending on how well people learn to leverage it for commercial reasons. During one of my earlier jobs in my career, I was fortunate to witness traditional PR campaigns which relied heavily on offline relationship management and news marketing. It's important to note that social media didn't exist nor was the internet evolved as it's today. Back then people relied on the internet for emails (sparingly) and for surfing the news.

How has AI changed the way businesses do PR?

AI can help businesses bridge the time gap between initiating ideas and communicating them to the public. At the same time, AI is a tool that may not align with the needs of every existing business in the market. As much as AI may excite companies for being a versatile tool that is intended to help them, they need to be careful since AI can't be blindly trusted for consistency and quality of messaging. When I serve as an Editor on certain projects, it's very easy to extract content that is AI generated that stands out like a sore thumb. It reminds me of a quote from Jim Rohn, "...not to become lazy in communication."

It's important to maintain humanity in how we work which impacts certain aspects of communications because it's the only seed that will extend the longevity of our existing relationships in the market as well welcome newcomers to explore our ideas. Thus businesses should manage their AI usage carefully when integrating its virtues into any PR initiatives. You want the audience, investors and advocates to connect with your brand. AI can serve as a supplement but it shouldn't become a substitute for all things PR. Otherwise the PR team will need help when things go wrong when relying heavily on AI. I believe humans are still needed to oversee PR efforts.

What are some simple tech tools or strategies small businesses can use to improve their PR?

I believe in conserving time and effort that it's best to first decide what is your objective for applying PR then assess how much have you involved yourself with PR campaigns in the past. If there's a history to review, create a lessons learned and then take steps for how you want to improve it in the future. I don't recommend exercising every PR tool available because it doesn't guarantee results if you're not aligned with the right audiences who benefit from your presence in the market.

Do your homework before committing to any tool or services because if you're being sold something that is 'too good to be true' then you're heading in the wrong direction. Building a gradual momentum in the PR space is better than skyrocketing and then disappearing with no future return. Baby steps is the way to go because no amount of money is going to sustain any form of PR if your product or service sucks. Sooner or later the mystical mist evaporates and people discover whether your brand has any long term potential to exist.

What's a common tech-related mistake you see in PR, and how can it be avoided?

Businesses have this need to blindly jump onto the bandwagon whenever a new tech tool or platform is announced without vetting if the tech is aligned with their business needs. Even though most business owners are well meaning when embrace these elements, they need to ask if it's worth their time, money and resources. The resources includes labor when people are delegated such roles to invest their time to capitalize upon these tools.

It's not a right or wrong move but I strongly recommend businesses to research the tool before making investments to integrate it into their business operations. Avoid adhering to stereotypes, focus on your lane. For example, when Facebook came out many people immediately wanted to join the craze to share their business services. It turned out some private businesses, given the nature of their operations, had no reason to appear on Facebook when they were better suited for more industry specific social engagements online elsewhere.

It's recommended to go where you can extract a ROI over time. You don't just want to be seen. You want to connect and also be heard - this requires more thought to connect with audiences. Not every ideal audience resides within one pocket of social media or platform.

How do you stay updated with the latest tech trends in PR?

There are times when people from the PR and Media space contact me to showcase their latest features. I don't seek out the latest trends but there are moments when people contact to share educational material, or invite me to sample their offering.

What's your top piece of advice for companies looking to enhance their PR with technology?

Love what you do and do not be phased by the pace at which others showcase their PR efforts. Take your time in how you present your ideas because it will yield results over time.I've seen enough sloppy presentations in the past year because people are trying to do everything using every 'trendy' tool by wanting to be everything to everyone. It results in more errors and lack of connection in the messaging itself. You are worthy for being valued for more than a click. Aim for a connection that can translate to a possible conversation that can unfold into unknown yet exciting opportunities. Yes, it may require some patience but good things are worth the wait.


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