Public Relations (PR) has a very important place in effective marketing campaigns, according to Nicky Davis, director of NeonDrum. It is the function of public relations to consistently get marketing messages out to the media. Here’s Davis' guide to harnessing the power of online PR.
1. Seeking first to understand, then to be understood
The first step to successfully engaging with the online world is to embrace the diversity of the web. Understanding the rules of engagement massively increases the chances of a successful approach, whether that’s to a discussion forum, an online news site, or a blogger. There are also excellent tools to help monitor what’s being said online about companies, products, and competitors. It’s easy to set up keyword alerts in Google to enable you to ‘listen’ to the constantly updated, multi-threaded online conversation.
2. Measuring what’s important and what’s not
As Oscar Wilde said, there’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about. But do any of these online conversations really matter?
For blogs, the definition of a ‘good’ blog is that it has a community regularly reading and regularly contributing to it. Technorati measures the ‘authority’ of a blog according to the number of people that have linked to it over the past six months. The more influential the blogger, the more highly optimised the blog and the more visible the post.
3. Control freaks need not apply
Successful online PR is about weighing up the potential risks with the huge opportunities. The key attributes of the web are transparency, speed, and longevity: a negative story can become very big news very quickly, and stay there for a long time. The corollary of this is that the same applies to positive online coverage or customer advocacy. Online PR offers marketers valuable platforms to directly defend unfair criticism and put the other side of argument – unmediated.
4. Getting your news seen (and heard)
A high proportion of website traffic is now driven via natural search – through search engines such as Google – and referral sites. The ability to be ‘found’ is therefore vital.
The web is made up of targeted interest groups who are actively looking for information. News of your company’s latest whitepaper might not meet the editorial pressures or news agenda of traditional publications, but can be readily picked up by – and deliver huge value to – important online communities. Using specialist online news release distribution services ensures optimal online pick-up, meaning that search results are always relevant to the latest news and success.
5. Becoming a contributor
The online environment offers huge opportunities to get involved and actively contribute to the online conversation, including blogging. There are lots of great reasons to start a corporate blog – to give a platform to expertise, to reinforce brand values, even to test out new ideas – but overt promotion shouldn’t really be one of them. Successful blogging means building networks, developing dialogue, and forging closer relationships.
6. Being a good conversationalist
The online world is all about collaboration and the exchange of opinions and ideas. Online discussion forums and extranets are a superb way to create dialogue and solicit input and feedback. For corporate blogs, making sure a mechanism is provided by which people can comment on blog posts is often the first step. Other ways to create a network include linking to interesting posts from other bloggers, and adding their blogs to your blogroll.
7. Publishing RSS feeds
Whether you’re producing a corporate blog, sending out a newsletter or issuing news releases, creating website RSS feeds is a great way of letting subscribers know that new content is available. This is an increasingly popular way to access the latest news, enabling key audiences to ‘pull’ content according to what interests them.
Tags are keywords that categorise your content and enable it to be found online. You can tag your news releases, blog posts, or photos – anything that you want to make easy for you and other people to find online.
With the growth of the semantic web, tagging is becoming an important way to organise and share information and describe content in a way that is meaningful. Creating relevant tags for online content, including news releases, means that your material can be properly indexed and made available to key audiences.
9. Making your website work harder
If a key objective of online PR is to drive qualified traffic to your website, the next step is to ensure your website is working as hard it can to engage those visitors – turning PR into lead generation.
One method is to create tuned landing pages to fulfill campaigns. This not only boosts Google ranking but also enables you to measure the effectiveness of promotional activity. Another simple mechanism is to offer high-value collateral (eg. a case study) behind a basic registration form.
10. Working with specialists
Getting great visibility on the web and reaching out to all the communities that matter means serving each audience in the way that they prefer. The opportunities being created by the ‘Long Tail’, plus the ability to efficiently customise digital content for different niches, is spelling the end for the ‘hit-and-hope’ and ‘one size fits all’ approach to PR. Working with specialist service providers can deliver major competitive advantage, enabling marketers and PR professionals to optimise online visibility and expertly interact with all the important channels on the web.
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