On and Offline PR – the Perfect Marriage
About The Author:Lotte Mahon is the Marketing Manager for Guava (www.guava.com). She handles all marketing and PR activity on behalf of digital marketing agency in the UK. In addition she heads up the SEO PR department working on client campaigns for many high profile brands.
As online PR for SEO benefit increases in popularity traditional PR agencies in the UK seem slow to embrace the advantages of integrating their on and offline campaigns.
Public relations has long been considered a powerful tool in promoting a brand. The jewel in PR’s crown is the influence of covert recommendations has over the consumer. PR allows a consumer to feel they have made an educated decision based on research rather than simply responding to blatant advertising.
In order to achieve this powerful consumer-brand relationship, traditional PR is reliant on one key factor; a journalist must deem the release worthy of publication.
As with so many facets of marketing and promotion, online developments in public relations have seemingly turned tradition on its head. As search marketing has become cemented in marketing activity of UK brands, online PR has worked its way into SEO strategies.
So how different is online PR from its traditional counterpart? In reality the format and production process does not differ greatly but when it comes to distribution and subsequent uptake of the news they are worlds apart.
The benefit of online PR for SEO value lies in the ability to embed links from targeted keyphrases in the press release to a desired website. Once distributed online, a press release can travel far and wide, with many distribution sites offer the opportunity to target specific industry sectors and geographic regions.
From a search engine optimisation standpoint this can offer valuable, quality links, not just from the sites that the release is originally upload to, but also other news sites that pick up on the releases along with bloggers and social media networking sites.
The advantage of online PR from a branding perspective is that the news that comes direct from the company’s press office is then spread through consumer to consumer recommendations, a result that traditional, editorial focused PR would be hard-pushed to achieve. Online PR puts the power in the hands of the consumer and this fact alone sets it apart from traditional public relations strategies.
Historically public relations has been about control; from the point of crafting a news release through to its distribution to carefully selected journalists, the PR agency remains in control. Once distributed online a release is not written up as a seemingly independent news story, devoid of any reference to its origins.
This no frills approach is perhaps what scares PR agencies the most and the reason why even those companies who realise the SEO benefit of online PR find it hard to get their PR departments or agencies to integrate their efforts.
The format of the online press release remains much the same as that of traditional releases with only a few adjustments to ensure good visibility online, for example; headlines need to be as succinct as possible in online PR, as once the release is submitted to RSS feeds, often the headline is all people see.
So the problem doesn’t seem to be that PR professionals don’t have the necessary skills to write releases for online distribution but rather that there’s a reluctance to see the correlation between what they are already producing and their brands presence on the internet.
The reason for this could be that they feel out of there depth with the jargon, wealth of distribution sites and concept of embedded links. This is understandable but many SEO companies now offer online PR as an additional service and therefore take responsibility for all technical elements. So with the technology out of the equation all that remains is the production of a press release. Many companies have rigid templates and style guides for their press releases and as the key focus for SEO is to get quality links from relevant keyphrases, these two factors do not always sit well together.
In reality if often only takes a few tweaks to work keyphrases into a release (unless they are completely unrelated to what the company actual does!) but for some PRs it can be a case of breaking the habit of a lifetime. However, once a release is produced it can still have all the benefits of traditional releases when it comes to media exposure. It also offers the opportunity to control release dates in order to take advantage of a topical tie-ins such as sporting events, film releases or important events.
Like all of us, journalists and influencers use the internet as their key research tool, with news search engines often the first port of call. It is therefore essential that information from your company rather than just about your company is there waiting for them. It is important for PR and Marketing teams alike to be aware of the coverage their brand is receiving online because regardless of whether they are working on online PR campaigns, it’s likely that customers, industry commentators and even employees may be posting opinions about it. However, there are advantages to the ‘warts and all’ nature of the internet and that is it offers useful information on consumer opinion of your brand and your competition and allows you to open up a dialogue through social media sites etc. where consumers can get to know your brand’s personality.
By integrating PR the message becomes stronger and consistent; this in turn can lead to a sense of familiarity and trust in a brand. And, perhaps the best thing about online PR is that it can be monitored in order to keep track of how many people read your releases allowing you to adapt the subject matter to appeal to your online readership.
The best approach to online PR is one that embraces the stalwart stance of traditional PR to ensure that press releases are always newsworthy (there is a tendency to assume that as the journalist/publication is no longer the conduit for news, that it is somehow less important to produce quality releases) along with the relaxed approach of online communities by engaging in a dialogue with consumers. On or offline, a well written release with a topical subject matter will always gather more interest, as always content remains king.