Public relations is exactly what it means – relating to the public. To put it more specifically, helping YOU relate your brand message to the outside world. As with advertising, public relations (PR) straddles media online and off, reaching multiple audiences across many formats.
The effects of “good PR” are three-fold – you protect the brand you have worked hard to build, get your digital content, and message out as far as it can go and gain some awesome SEO opportunities. This may be through press releases, online newspaper/magazine articles, email blasts, local TV appearances, or by developing partnerships with thought leaders in your industry.
Striking gold with PR is a matter of both strategy and being in the right place at the right time. When packaged and delivered correctly, your pitch may receive attention in a national paper or on a TV channel. Some may think this amounts to no more than 5 minutes of fame. However, placements like this have the potential to reach the right audience and can see your bottom line double. Think about any of Oprah’s “favourite things.” Just one appearance or mention on her show can change an organization’s entire world in terms of exposure and sales. While this is likely an unrealistic example, you can create your own luck with a PR strategy, which gets you noticed, even without the help of Oprah.
From an SEO standpoint, PR coverage enables you to build unique, high-quality content for your web presence as well. Search engines love this type of traction and can give you extra credit for rich content and high-quality links from external sources. Not to mention, you can also use your social media pages to spread the word and share these links across relevant networks.
TIP: Integrate your site URL into any/all coverage you get. 100 high-quality editorial links are better than 10,000 low-quality ones.
What if I don’t have the budget for a PR agent/company?
Not all organizations have a budget to hire out for PR. Create your own strategy and put it into action. If you have an interesting story, you do not need an agent to sell it. Sometimes it’s all about hitting on a seasonal topic and getting it in the hands of someone who also finds it valuable. Just like you, media outlets want to best serve their audience and are always looking for high-quality, relevant content, so look for ways your business can add value, without being salesy.
4 Steps to a Successful PR strategy
Get to know more about who you want to talk to
As with any type of messaging and brand strategy, you have to know your audience. What papers do they read? Are they likely to subscribe to e-blasts or mailing lists online? What social channels do they frequent? The right place and right time is not always sheer luck in PR. It is knowing where to be. Once you know where the people you want to reach are, you can better focus your PR efforts.
In PR, it’s ALWAYS a two-way street
Golden rule #1: PR works as a mutually beneficial partnership; media outlets are looking to provide value to their audience. With this in mind, brainstorm some partnerships and placements, which make sense for your message or story and reach out to them. Perhaps you can form a strategic alliance with an influencer in your industry or propose a column in your local paper to educate and inform your audience on a topic you are an authority on.
Have No Fear
Golden rule #2: Do not fear rejection. A story that does not work today, does not always mean it will not resonate at all. Readjust your scope or angle and try again or approach a different media outlet with a slightly different spin. Even top PR companies do not always get a hit the first time. Media coverage is never guaranteed.
Build an awesome contact list
Wildly reaching out to every outlet is not only an overwhelming task, but it can also end up becoming frustrating or futile if your goals do not align. Part of a successful strategy is to do your research and seek out relevant media outlets, again depending on your message and desired audience. Why get your message out if your audience is not there to receive it?
How do I get my PR message out there?
Put a press release out to let both traditional and online media outlets know you have an interesting story to tell, as opposed to something to sell. Be willing to talk about what you know best and offer insight or a unique angle on a topic or current event as material for them. How does your business fit in with local trends? Current events? Your customer’s day-to-day life?
TIP: When writing press releases, optimize for focus keywords by incorporating them into your content.
Not every business will end up becoming one of Oprah’s favourite things, but you can become one of your audience’s favourite things by keeping your business in touch and “relevant.” E-blasts work well to build loyalty, provide value/information and or/savings, and are a fantastic way to stay connected with your audience.
TIP: Include your site URL, social media account links, and share buttons within your e-blasts for an extra SEO boost.
Check out these awesome e-blast templates from MailChimp to get started.
Is there a local cause or team you support? Think about sponsoring an event to raise money and/or spread awareness. Host a community event and invite other business owners to join. Events for a great cause tend to attract media coverage, so both the organization and your business receive the spotlight treatment. Thinking locally like this can create the buzz, contacts, and confidence needed to take your PR strategy a step further. If you have a good track record and relationship with local writers and editors, national media professionals are more likely to take notice.
And what about the other side of PR? What I like to call “perception and reputation.” Perhaps you are active on social media and are receiving some nasty or negative comments. Part of a good PR strategy or reputation management is to prepare for this type of public feedback. so you can respond in a way that best reflects what your business stands for. How you handle negative feedback online and off is its own form of PR. While you might not like a comment left on your Facebook wall, how you handle it here may impress or turn off others reading it. Do you ignore it? Address it? Argue back? All of these responses send a message, so respond honestly, appropriately, and in a way that remains consistent with your core brand messaging.
Tracking Your PR Efforts for SEO
From an ROI standpoint, it is important to track the data points around how media coverage is impacting your web presence performance. You can review the traffic back to your site from offsite content in order to see if a piece of coverage has driven visitors to your onsite content, as well as insights around social signals for your brand.
Overall, your PR strategy should serve to reinforce and support all of your other media and advertising efforts. While a little luck goes a long way, knowing who you want to talk to, where they are going to be and how you want to communicate your message creates more likelihood for a winning strategy with the media.