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Archive for the ‘Guides’ Category

August 21st, 2009

5 Strategies for Creating Links and Traffic to Your Client’s Website

Multiple HatsThe lines between PR, Marketing & Advertising are continuing to blur, especially on the web. And while there will likely always be professionals who specialize in one area or another, more and more people (especially those at smaller agencies & companies) are starting to wear multiple hats. In fact, some people are wearing all the hats. Many started out in a single role, but due to a variety of circumstances (e.g. layoffs due to the economic climate or their company wanting to jump on the social media bandwagon to name a few) they’ve found themselves the ‘go-to’ person for all things promotion. . There should be a new term for these people, someone get on that.

In the meantime, here’s a mini-guide for building buzz and traffic to a website to help out our PR pros who have found themselves thrust into the online marketing world.

  1. Move your press releases online: Chances are you’re doing this already (if you aren’t you should be!). Today’s press releases need to be focused on keywords so that the search engines can find and index them easily. Many of the distribution sites allow clickable links and anchor text – Voila!, instant quality links back to your website of choice. For tips check out our post about “SEO-ify”ing your Press Release.
  2. Twitter: Get a profile or, if you have one already, start updating it. Nielson has said that 60% of people who sign up for twitter post once and then never return. What’s the point? For Twitter to be a valuable strategy you have to commit to becoming a resource in your industry. This means that is it is important to ‘tweet’ information that people will actually find useful (they don’t care where you are having lunch today). Twitter pays off when you take the time to build up a group of followers who value your opinions and look to you for information, in short they trust you. The best part, it’s ok to promote yourself and clients (within reason & with disclosure).  Twitter can be a great source of traffic to the content you have elsewhere. FYI – you can follow us here: @PRChannel
  3. Create a Resource List: Encouraging clients to create quality content on their website or blog is a must, and creating a resource list is a great way to do this. Examples of resources could include free tools, magazines and blogs relevant to your industry, or case studies and white papers that would be valuable to clients. Make sure that the resource list is targeted and industry specific. Not only will customers appreciate the information, chances are others in the industry will find the information valuable and link to it.
  4. Article Syndication: Create great content that doesn’t go directly on the website. It sounds backwards, but writing articles on your client’s industry or products and submitting them to the plethora of article sites and directories will get you lots of links. You relinquish a bit of control on your piece, but the pay-off is worth it. Websites and online content publishers grab articles and re-publish them constantly. By submitting a quality article 2 or 3 times you can get 100 links back to your client’s site.
  5. Top 10 lists: It’s called ‘link bait’ and it is good. Whether it be Top 10, 50, 100 or 5 (see what we did here) lists tend to be fan favorites when it comes to earning links. Lists can also give your client valuable ‘expert status’ when packaged correctly. They can also be a start to a series, giving you automatic ideas for future blog posts or articles. They can be about anything, and as silly or serious as your client wishes. Doesn’t matter the industry, lists are always good. Don’t believe me? Hair Salon – Top 10 Cuts for Fall. Law office – The Top 20 Craziest Lawsuits in History. Restaurant – Top 50 Things You Can Use a Spork For. People even makes lists of lists (I kid you not) Make it unique and interactive, a good discussion post will bring in comments and links for quite some time.
photo from here by Shane Michael

March 5th, 2009

5 Questions to Ask When Considering a Media-Monitoring Service

Knowing what people are saying about you is square one for a public relations campaign.  Instead of going insane trying to monitor every single source in-house many businesses and agencies use a media monitoring service.  There are hundreds to choose from; some free, some paid.  So before settling on a service, be sure to ask these questions.

1.  What exactly do we need monitored?
Magazines? News? Blogs? Social Media? There are more outlets than ever before to keep track of, so it’s important to know how your organization relates to each.  For most, news monitoring is the core coverage.  Today, most newspapers publish stories on their websites before the traditional print version can be distributed.  In addition, online monitoring will catch clips from tons of online news sources that don’t have traditional print versions.  Therefore, it’s most efficient to monitor news online.  Keep in mind live TV broadcasts are rarely broadcast online, so its good to set up monitoring through closed caption feeds as well.

Most organizations today will also want to monitor social media.  No matter what your business, chances are someone is talking about it online.  It’s good to monitor as many forms of this type of word-of-mouth media as possible – including forums, groups, message boards, blogs, consumer-reporting type sites, and as many social bookmarking/sharing sites as possible.

2.  What is covered in the ’subscription’?
This is an obvious one, but it’s important to ask exactly which sources or websites the service covers.  Many services have a pre-built list of sources, but will add any specialty sources upon request.  Pay attention to geography as well – if you are a smaller local company you could end up paying for overseas monitoring you don’t need.  Conversely, if you do business world-wide make sure to get the details on which foreign sources are monitored and whether the service has multi-language capabilities.

3.  Can we customize the service features to fit our specific needs?
Do you want clips from all news sources or only from a list you’ve already decided is most worthwhile?  Do you want to know about every single mention of your search terms, or just the ‘important’ stories?  Should the clips be delivered to several people?  How many copies?  How should they be delivered-once a day or as they come up throughout the day? Do you want to see everything or would you rather they be packaged into an edited brief/report?

You get the picture.  The better services will take into account your specific wants, needs and budget and customize your account.

4.  What is the average ‘turn around time’?
If a story is published in a small neighboring town’s paper today when will we get the clip?  Traditionally formatted clips can take up to 3 weeks to deliver from the time of publication.  Online clips can be delivered in almost real-time.  Depending on the story and source an immediate response might be required.

5.  What is the service’s missed clips rate and ‘clip accuracy’?
Screw-ups happen, and no matter which service you use it won’t catch 100% of what is published all the time.  Traditional services with human readers will deliver more relevant clippings, but are more likely to miss a story here and there.  Automated online monitoring will catch much more, but will be less effective in determining between valid and irrelevant stories.  The key is to strike a balance.  The good services will have an element of both-perhaps using an automated service to pull stories first and then having human editors quickly sort out the erroneous stories before delivery.

February 20th, 2009

6 Must-Read Books for Public Relations People

In public relations its necessary to master the basics and keep up with emerging trends.  Perhaps that is why there are so many books written on the topic.  Do an amazon search for public relations and over 150,000 titles pop up.  However, every once in a while there is a book that is recommended in organizations, on forums, in the classroom, and within professional networks over and over again.  When that happens you should check it out, whether you’re still in school or a seasoned veteran.  Here are 6 books (in no particular order) that you shouldn’t miss.

Impact – Ken McArthur - “Some people spread a simple message that is so compelling that their voice is not solo for long. People rally around their message and spread it like wildfire.” This one is all about how to make an impact in a crowded marketplace.  The book is very easy to follow with step-by-step lists and bullet points, but with relevant stories thrown into the mix as well.  With an emphasis on online marketing the book is more practical than conceptual…which is why it’s on our list.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie“This grandfather of all people-skills books was first published in 1937. It was an overnight hit, eventually selling 15 million copies.” This one is a classic and it’s been called the PR person’s bible by more than a few.  The techniques and strategies presented in the book are just as relevant today as they were more than 70 years ago.  Stop what you are doing right now and go read it.

Can We Do That?! – Peter Shankman“What would you do to get your business noticed?” A funny, insightful look at some of the more ridiculous PR campaigns of the past and why they worked or didn’t.  If you are looking for a How-to book, move on – it’s not this one.  But the book is entertaining to read and can motivate you to get creative and develop inspired ideas of your own.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott“This excellent look at the basics of new-millennial marketing should find use in the hands of any serious PR professional making the transition.” Out with the old, in with the new.  New Rules focuses on how PR has changed with the advent of online marketing, blogging and social media.  It’s a great overview of new terms and strategies that will bring everyone up to speed in terms of PR online.

Writing Effective News Releases – Catherine McIntyre“Would you like to have your business featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines, and on radio and television stations around the country?” Catherine McIntyre provides practical advice and step-by-step guides to writing releases that will get you placed.  There are also plenty of real examples to learn from – all in all a must read guide.

Guerrilla PR – Michael Levine“The manifesto for waging a street-smart publicity campaign with no- or low-cost strategies from one of Hollywood’s most successful publicists. “ This one is an oldie, but goodie.  It covers all the basics (except Internet – which wasn’t a factor when the book was written in 1993).  The conversational style and logical organization make it a great reference, but the witty advice and real-life examples and stories is what makes this a must read.

Did we miss your favorite?  Let us know in the comments…

February 17th, 2009

So, What’s the Difference Between PR and Marketing?

The terms are used almost interchangeably by some people, especially those in the growing social media/blogging for business area of expertise.  So, what exactly is the difference between public relations and marketing?

We think it boils down to the fact that marketing is all about the sale, and while this is (hopefully) an outcome of PR efforts it isn’t necessarily the main goal.   Good PR is based on the idea that any sort of success is derived from a mutual satisfaction between companies and their customers/clients.  This leads to more relationship management and conflict resolution type activities, with the PR person acting as a sort of go between for those involved, fostering goodwill along the way.

Marketing, on the other hand, is focused on the sale and ‘the bottom line’.  Remember those persuasive talks assigned in speech classes?  That’s marketing – it’s more about playing up the good, downplaying the bad, figuring out what people want and how to get them to think they want your product or service.

So why do companies focus so much time and energy on public relations if marketing’s domain is to influence actual sales?  Because when all other factors are equal consumers will buy from the company they like more, the one with the better reputation.  Some have referred to marketing as PR’s evil twin, always focused on the money and sometimes undercutting the efforts of PR – and the line between the two gets blurred when PR people start focusing on ‘image’ and the way a product is presented.

The truth is you need both, and it’s probably a better idea to keep them at least a little separate.  Marketing is essential to any business, it drives sales.  But what happens when a communications-related crisis pops up?  Personally, we’d rather have someone on deck trained in crisis management to do damage control and repair professional relationships than leave the task to a component of our sales force.

What do you think?

January 21st, 2009

Go For the Low-Hanging Fruit: A Valid PR Strategy for Small Businesses

You know what?  Not everyone gets to be on the Today Show or Oprah…and that’s OK.

Example: You’ve got an awesome new product/service etc. so naturally you write up a press release.  Now you can either submit it to Oprah and wait for them to find and notice yours out of the thousands they receive daily and call – OR you can tweak your release to be SEO-friendly and submit it to a distribution service.  Ensuring that your press release reaches a wide variety of search engines, blogs, websites and even journalists who are actually very interested in your product/service and will write about it.

Maybe you do both, but the point is that you’re going to be better off diversifying and letting a larger number of people find you, even though they may be in smaller niche markets.  David Meerman Scott had 2 ideas on how PR is evolving that are particularly applicable to this strategy (from his blog):

  1. The old ways to get noticed were to buy expensive advertising and beg the media to write about you and your products.  The best way to get noticed today is to publish great content online.
  2. Don’t talk about what your products and services do.  Instead talk about how you solve problems for your customers.

PR and the world of the press release is changing, traditional media sources are on the decline and online distribution methods are more accessible and producing better results than ever.  That is why we say go ahead and reach for that low hanging fruit.  While all your competitors are fighting each other for access to the top you’ll be building a solid base of customers and attention.  And who knows, maybe if enough of the small-time players are singing your praises the big media outlets will take notice eventually anyway.

January 7th, 2009

A PR Pro’s Simple Guide to SEO

The line between PR and online marketing strategy is becoming thinner and thinner.  An SEO professional’s job duties are more in-line with a PR campaign than the traditional marketing/advertising position anyway, and a PR professional will have a definite ‘leg-up’ if they understand the types of activities and strategies involved in creating good PR in an online setting.

So here is my attempt at an easy to understand guide to basic SEO practices for PR people- which I realize may be completely obsolete by next Thursday.

First off, you need to know there are 2 main categories for SEO: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. Here’s what these mean in a nutshell:
On Page SEO: everything you do specifically on your website, i.e. site structure and the web developer’s domain – as a PR person you may not have much control over this, but it never hurts to know what you are dealing with right off the bat.
Off Page SEO: everything you do outside of your  immediate website, i.e. your relationship to other websites

ON PAGE – The Good

✔ Have a site map. If you don’t have a site map stop reading right now and go tell your developer/client to make one. Its one of the easiest ways to make sure the search engines find your site (and any new pages you add) easy to crawl.
✔ Keywords. Put the keywords you want to rank for in your URL and domain name if at all possible. Make sure your web design team puts them in your your title tag and, just for fun, in the meta tag as well. Now, Google says in no longer uses the Keyword meta tag, but others do, so it can’t hurt to put them in there. Be careful though – every single keyword in the keyword meta tag MUST appear somewhere in your body text, otherwise Google will mark it as irrelevant and penalize you.
✔ Links. Your internal links should have keywords, and lower level pages should be linked together appropriately. A general rule of thumb is that a user should be able to navigate to any page on your site within 3 or 4 clicks from the homepage. As for external links, make sure you only link to reputable sites (no links farms or ‘bad neighborhoods’) and check to make sure your links are all valid.
✔ Be old and new at the same time. Google likes old sites because of the perceived ‘trust’ they have, it also likes ‘fresh’ pages. The best site in Google’s opinion has been around for a long time and puts new content up on a regular basis. Good to know, even if you can only control the second part.

ON PAGE – The Bad

Keywords. It’s a two way street, keywords are an essential part of good on page SEO but it can easily go wrong. Rules of thumb: Don’t have too many (keyword stuffing) and make sure every single one is 100% relevant to your site’s topic.
Bad language/ethnic slurs/’stop’ words. This is just PR common-sense. Basically don’t use any word Google has associated with shady dealings in the past.
All Flash with no HTML option. Most search engine spiders can’t read flash, make sure your developers give them an HTML option to read or they won’t index your page and your ranking may suffer.

OFF PAGE – The Good

✔ Links, Links, Links. Incoming links from quality sites are extremely important. You want stable (the older the better) links that contain your keywords in them pointing to you from a site that is a trusted source – you get bonus points if its from an “expert” site.  Bloggers/webmasters are just like journalists, so your PR experience in building relationships and pitching is completely relevant, it’s much easier to get a link from someone you have an established relationship with.  Also, everyone hates off-topic pitches, so don’t do it online either.
✔ Traffic. The more people on your site the better. If your site is new and you don’t have much traffic, you get a little boost if there is an increasing pattern, you also get a boost if people stay on your site for a long time (low bounce rate). If visitors bookmark your page…even better! I know this seems a bit out of your control – but by making sure you or your clients create content on your site people actually want to read and find interesting you can encourage better traffic.
✔ Article Submission/Blogs. By creating articles and submitting them to other sites you not only create links pointing to your site, you create interest among visitors. The same is true for having a blog. You’ll be creating new content on a regular basis (which Google loves) plus you’ll be building a loyal base of readers who may help your site to be seen as a ‘trusted’ source and give you a consistent stream of traffic.
✔ Page Rank. It’s based on the number of quality links pointing back to you, but other factors are included as well. There are differing opinions among SEO professionals as to just how important Page Rank is. Many say that it isn’t important at all anymore, some still rely on it. Our take? Don’t obsess over your site’s Page Rank, but don’t completely discount it either.

OFF PAGE – The Bad

Bad Links. Google is cracking down on link-buying by penalizing sites. Link exchanging is also an issue, while there is no penalty for exchanging links with other sites Google deems these type of links much less valuable than quality incoming (one way) links. You also want to look out for bad ‘link neighborhoods’ – sites linked together through spammy sites or link farms. If you link to these sites by accident chances are you’ll be OK, but if Google finds too many of these type of links on your pages you could be in trouble. Here is a tool to help check your links – Text Link Checker Tool.
Being “spammy” aka pitching off topic. Link building activities can get a bad rep because there are so many ‘techniques’ that are just plain spammy. Mass-posting links into forums, posting links into comment sections of completely unrelated blogs, or mass-emailing hundreds of bloggers/webmasters asking for links are just plain annoying and not all that successful anyway.  Do your research and find the right sources/outlets for your specific site or topic – just like in the ‘real world’.

Keep in mind these are just the basics, there’s a plethora of resources out there if you’d like in depth info on one specific aspect of SEO. Check out Vaughn’s Google’s Ranking Factors for more Google specific details, its a great resource if you’ve got the time to go through it.

If you have any SEO or online public relations resources you use or just a great informational site let me know!

December 22nd, 2008

4 Tips for Choosing a Public Relations Firm

  1. Be clear on what you are expecting from the PR effort, in the same vein, be realistic about what PR cannot do.  Meet with a few firms in order to determine which will be best able to meet your expectations.
  2. Hire a local firm if you want efforts to be specifically directed to your area, they’ll be more in-tune to the local media and attitude.  However, if your campaign will be national or international, don’t limit yourself to firms only in your city.  Sitting down face to face with the firm on a regular basis isn’t as important as you might think, and you’ll want someone who is familiar and has realtionships with national media outlets.
  3. Ask to see sample campaigns from the firms you are interviewing.  You’ll be able to see both the quantity and quality of the work they’ve put out in the past.  Also, ask to speak with a few of their previous (or current) clients.  You’ll get to ask how the firm’s staff interacted with clients and whether or not they felt the firm cared about their business.  Valuable insights you won’t get from the actual firm.
  4. Try to find a firm that is familiar with (or specializes in) your industry and the medium you are expecting to use.  This way they’ll be ready to hit the ground running with your campaign.  If the firm feels they’ll need to do some research to become familiar with your business or a specific medium the campaign will end up costing more as you’ll be paying for that time.

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