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On the subject of Online PR

Martina Martina

November 2nd, 2010.

The importance of blogging regularly.

Blogging regularly is important for many reasons. The most obvious being that if your want to retain a degree of professionalism (assuming your blog is not a personal one) then it looks better if you are continuously finding new and interesting things for your audience to read.

Honestly, how eager are you to get involved with a company or a business through its website, when you visit its blog and see that the ‘most recent’ entry has a date stamp of 6 months ago…?

Besides, there are some little gems you may be sacrificing if you neglect your company’s blog – such as:

Being fresh and innovative!

A blog post is an article that varies in length, can be about anything you want and is usually beneficial to the target audience it was written for.  Through blogging, you can use it to encourage people, persuade them or simply to entertain them. Why lose out on something this beneficial? If you are a company or a business that has something you are trying to sell, your blog is the place to do this!

Being seen!

If you want to improve your chances of being visible in search engines (and you do) then well structured posts are essential. A great post can start to rank in search engines over time and could potentially bring in web traffic to your website. (For tips on how to write a great post you can read my earlier article titled ‘Successfully guest posting on A-list blogs’)

Being communicative & media savvy!

Simply because blogging and social media marketing must coexist when it comes to marketing a business, communication is essential.

Social communities, such as Twitter, Digg, and Facebook among others, can be used as a platform for your blog, and so being a consistent (but quality) blogger could create the opportunity for more traffic to find drive its way to your blog. Perhaps most importantly, through these social networks you could gather new business opportunities.

Being heard!

Blogging is a way to explain to your readers who you are as a company. Distancing yourself from the competition is what your brand and your website will attempt to do, but a blog can add that extra panache needed to make your business really stand out. Much like a chronicle, your blog can be how you document the goings on in your company – which will give allow it to develop a voice and a personality.

So blog & blog often!

Matt

July 13th, 2010.

Maximising offline activity to get the most out of your SEO campaign

It often seems to be normal practice to treat SEO campaigns as a stand-alone form of marketing.  Groups of shadowy geeks perform magic in the room at the end of the corridor, with sales and marketing teams avoiding them as much as possible at the water cooler.

However, it’s important to remember that SEO is just another form of marketing – and as such planning and integrating your search engine optimisation with your other marketing channels will mean far more coherent and effective campaigns.

Advertising

All advertising campaigns should have SEO and the company website in-mind. Is it easier for rushed commuters to remember an often random telephone number or a website address?

Do you now see more and more TV and poster campaigns telling people to ‘Google’ or ‘search’ them?   With the growing bias towards the personalisation of Google search results, having users Google and click-through to your brand is likely to mean you’re then likely to appear more favourably for them in subsequent searches.

Any increase in brand searches on Google will also (arguably) benefit your site with increased brand visibility after the UK brand update back in March.

  • Feature your website address prominently
  • Consider asking people to Google/search you – make sure you’re ranking for the term though!
  • Maybe target your SEO towards a memorable phrase you can ask people to search for – “army jobs” is a good current example.

PR Campaigns

Leveraging offline PR campaigns is a great way of getting added value out of both. I’m often surprised how many SEOs haven’t even asked if a client has a PR campaign in place, think of all of those link opportunities that have been missed and all of the great web content that is going to waste.

  • Ensure you have spoken to the PR campaign account manager so they know the importance of asking for their editorial to be placed online and understand the impact of links from their content.
  • Make use of the content the PR is generating. Ask to get cc’d in on their releases and discuss the scope for them to help distributing your linkbait to their journalists and their media contacts.
  • Between you draw up a list of the online properties you want to see your client featured on. Many blogs now have larger readerships than national newspapers – they make-up an important part of both PR and SEO campaigns, you need to make sure you approach these sites correctly with a strong proposition.

Content

Publishing good content is often the stumbling-block that holds-up many good SEO campaigns. The first port of call should be the client, asking the right questions about what’s on their shelves gathering dust can save thousands in content writers fees.

  • Encourage staff at the company to make public the results of any research or industry analysis that they have performed.
  • Ensure your entire product catalogue or list of services is published on your site. The more you can break this down into component products and services and publish these on their own individual pages the better.
  • Consider making any stats facts and figures that you have into an infographic. You’ll find presenting data in a graphical format gets a lot more attention than a simple table of figures.
  • Get the entire company blogging. If you can get everyone enthusiastic about publishing great content it takes a lot of the time pressure away from the SEO and marketing teams. Often the real industry experts in the company lie outside of these departments anyway.
  • Are there already any user guides, FAQs, or client literature already in existence that can easily be published online?

Sales Teams

Keep in regular contact with your sales teams about client feedback. make sure you gather data as much as possible from phone conversations.

  • Find out from your sales teams how customers refer to your products and services. Often it’s different to how you refer to them – the keywords that you’re targeting should reflect this.
  • Get feedback from your sales teams about questions and objections that frequently crop-up. The chances are that if people are asking questions they’ll also be Googling them too so make sure you add these to the FAQ section of your site.

Existing Contacts

In any linkbuilding campaign your existing contacts should be your first port of call. High-quality, on-topic links from relevant sites, as easily obtainable as a quick email or phone call.

  • Partner companies and suppliers and distributors sites are always worth leveraging for links.
  • Encourage your staff to blog if not doing-so already. Either on your own corporate blog or on their own sites. Branding your staff as experts can be as effective as branding your company.
  • Check to see if industry association or corporate qualifications sites offer links back to their members
  • Make sure you put your company forward for corporate awards, usually even the nominations receive links back to their site.

Image credit – Rachel Creative

Matt

April 30th, 2010.

7 Things I Wish PR Agencies Would Understand About Social Media

With the growth of digital marketing and social media participation we’re now starting to see more and more PR agencies looking to online communities as a way of increasing their clients influence.
In my opinion a more organised and structured approach to social media can only be a good thing, used in the right way it can be a very powerful tool, however far too many companies are either not using it to its full advantage, or doing things badly and damaging their brand while isolating themselves from other social media users.

However that’s not to say that every PR agency jumping headfirst into Twitter and Facebook is doing a great job. I still see many agencies that don’t really have a full understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Many cases tend to be client-led, with questions and requests for a social media strategy leading to hasty moves in order to win business and prevent existing clients from potentially looking elsewhere.

In our various dealings with agencies these are the topics that repeatedly seem to reappear…..

Content really does matter – Most Of Your Ideas Will Fail

  • The quality of the content is the key to any social media strategy
  • You can’t rely on contacts for success. There are no friendly journalists or editors that can swing a campaign with a well placed piece
  • Okay, good and great don’t cut it, if you’re relying on people to see your content and pass it on then it needs to be amazing, fantastic or brilliant
  • Let go of the brand – in many cases overuse of the client brand will turn a successful viral into blatant advertising that people have no inclination to pass-on.
  • The trickle-down effect is key to a successful campaign, brilliant content seeded onto key blogs, Twitter accounts and other social news sites will explode onto other social sites, smaller blogs and media outlets without you having to do anything.
  • Having said all of that, most of your great ideas will fail. There really is an element of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of any good fortune that comes your way.

It Isn’t ALL about Twitter

  • Twitter at the moment tends to be used as a buzz-word for social media, desire to participate can often be driven by a CEOs 14 your-old daughter.
  • There are other social sites that are just AS important
  • Sites like Digg can potentially send far more traffic and is monitored constantly by journalists and influencers
  • A well seeded and targeted story on a sites like Digg and Reddit can translate into national and international press

Understand Your Audience

  • You need to understand not just who you’re talking to but why
  • Is your or your clients Twitter account supposed to be speaking to potential clients, existing customers or journalists, bloggers and the media?
  • Is Twitter and Facebook or Digg and Reddit the best way to connect with your linkerati?
  • Spend some time understanding where your targets are communicating with each other. Any time spent on competitor intelligence is worthwhile, but bear in mind they might not have got things right themselves.

Don’t Use Channels In Isolation, Look At The Bigger Picture

  • If you’re just using one social media network in isolation then you’re almost certainly underperforming
  • It’s usually a good idea to create a blog or news section on your client site and then use this as a ‘hub’ for all of their social media activity
  • Cross-promote your different networks, you’ll find that users will sign-up for other networks as well as the one they arrived from

It’s Not Just About What You Say But How You Say It

  • Syndicating content isn’t just about pushing a release through a network like PRWeb, if only things were that easy!
  • Draw up a list of targets for each release – blogs, news sites, media outlets, find their contact details and contact them directly as you would with any offline story.
  • Have some idea of the potential ‘influence’ of each target, record metrics such as domain authority, Compete rank, Technorati ranking, and look at the number of comments each article receives. The idea being you can then identify the top sites in a given vertical and prioritise where you focus your efforts. Remember if you can gain coverage on the larger sites the smaller ones tend to follow.

It’s All About Measurement And Metrics

  • The real advantage of being online is that everything is trackable. You can gain insight into where visitors arrived from, how long they spend on the site and where they move onto.
  • Use this data to understand which elements of your activity work and which ones don’t
  • Sign-up to a reputation monitoring service to track brand mentions online, you’ll almost certainly miss posts, mentions and articles if you don’t.
  • Have a clear plan as to which metrics are important and make sure you track them – visits, views, contacts, sales, comments, signups, links gained, search engine rankings can all be influenced by your activity – track it and report it.

Remember You Have No Control

  • Always remember you have no control over how things are passed-on and how they’re being received
  • Things aren’t always ‘on-brand’ – remember people pass things on because they like them, not because they help you or your clients
  • Be ready to react and respond directly to questions, be honest and professional at all times

Rob

April 12th, 2010.

Comparative charity advertising – the new online battleground?

I read an article on Marketing Week “Advertising industry and green charities welcome code changes“.

The story reports on some changes in the codes guiding TV and radio advertising, and one significant change will be that charities will be allowed to run adverts comparing themselves against another charity.

The new advertising code takes effect from September 2010.

Image from Charity Muggers by Ross McCulloch

Image from Charity Muggers by Ross McCulloch http://blogs.sundaymail.co.uk/thirdsectorlab/2008/11/charity-muggers.html

I believe it is unlikely that this kind of advertising will go out during prime time TV, or drive time radio; it is too expensive and finger pointing in the middle of Coronation Street isn’t the best way to open up the nation’s purses and wallets.

I do think though that the temptation to run comparative adverts during day time TV will be  irresistible to some young up and coming marketing manager.  The cheaper costs would be quite a lure, and let’s face it, day time advertising is really boring.

Where I see the some real change happening is in the search market, and given that Google has relaxed its stance on bidding for brand names, we can expect to see a whole raft of guerrilla style PPC campaigns such as “Donations to us go to good causes, not to fund new offices” or “We’re better as we don’t use chuggers” triggered by searches for charity names.

The meta description section of HTML code will become the marketing manager’s secret weapon, and will be “optimised” to within an inch of its life with remarks the activities of other charities alongside traditional calls to action.

The meta description content does not appear on the pages visitors browse, and is only ever seen as a summary of the page in natural search results.  Where better to put some unsettling comments and inconvenient truths about charities competing for the hearts and minds of the donating public?

Any bets on which charity will be the first to step up?

Rob

April 8th, 2010.

Social Media Principles from Coca Cola

 

This document is a great guide for anyone company setting up a Social Media policy for their company and employees.

Coca-Cola’s approach is mature and shows the situation that we have arrived at: that is to say that they cannot restrain their staff from writing about their job and their company in which they work but that in doing so this also comes with (social) responsibility.

I cant remember where I first found this but it was floating around on the Internet so apologies if you have seen it before.

Coca-cola – Online-Social-Media-Principles-12-2009

Rob

June 26th, 2009.

12 things to check for your SEO Christmas checklist

santa-6-months-copy

Christmas 09 is only 4 months away.  No doubt you’ll already have your products organised and maybe some ideas on offline marketing but what about online marketing.

Because online marketing can take 4-6 months to “kick in” there’s no time like the present to activate your Christmas strategy.   So below are 12 timely reminders on what needs to be in place to ensure that your site delivers this Christmas in a way that would make Santa Claus proud.

1. Blogging – sounds similar to ‘tobogganing’ and is just as much fun

  • Simply, unless you are willing to put the time into adding useful and interesting content on your site then there really is little chance that the search engines will bother ranking you for anything more than your domain name.  You have to deserve to be number one.

2. Social Media – it’s time to get social (both online and off line) – and we don’t mean just churping along with the robins

  • Marketing is no longer a one way monologue.  It’s all about dialogue now and if you’re not up for a chat then users won’t listen.   If you say something  interesting then others will refer to it and pass it onto their friend – if it isn’t then they will talk about your competitors products instead.

3. Link Bait – lay the foundations now and reap the rewards by Christmas

  • How would you like say 500,000 more visitors to your site. Content will go viral if written properly – but before it goes viral make sure that your website can take the strain of the increase in visitor traffic.

4. Mouse tracking – discover how your customers behave online and throw them a lump of cheese…

  • Find out where people are clicking on your site and where they are getting confused. You’ll be surprised by how quickly and easily people get lost and move on elsewhere.  Make sure buttons like “Add to Basket” are big and easy to find (and look like buttons)Â

5. Cross-selling – if your customers have a basket, fill it!

  • Seems pretty obvious thing to do but many companies still miss this easy opportunity to up the customers’ spend by 10% or so.  Ask your web programmers to implemenet basket based offers.

6. Communications – ensure your data management system is working for you and send glad tidings to all your customers

  • I’m presuming you already have an email database.  If not, why not?  But continue to refine your database so that you can target relevant offers at different people.

7. Seven swans a-swimming – (well we had to give some reference to the twelve days of Christmas) Will your customers be able to swim through your site without any hold ups?

  • Should you really be making your customers register before purchase?  Are you hiding your delivery charges? (Hidden delivery charges are the 2nd most cited reason for people abandoning a shopping cart). Is it obvious how to make the order?  All these issues will effect conversion rates.  Get friends to perform specific tasks on your site and see how they perform. You’ll be surprised.

8. Content management system – check that your system will enable you to do everything you require. We’re still working on a turkey cooking programme but we are happy to cover off everything else.

  • Got a great idea for a Christmas offer? Have you checked that your e-commerce software is capable of handling this type of offer.  Find out now and don’t leave to last moment.

9. Reputation management – discover if you are featuring on your customers’ Christmas wish lists this year

  • Find out what people are saying about you with Datadial’s reputation management software and then respond to these comments and start a dialogue.  See how Love Film responded to a post I wrote about them – this was a classic bit of Reputation Management whereby they quashed my negative comment about them.

10. PPC – Pretty Perfect Christmas?  We believe Pay Per Click is the icing on the cake of an online marketing strategy (never the key ingredient)

  • Multi channel marketing includes PPC as well as snail mail.  PPC is expensive if implemented incorrectly.  Get this sorted before the Christmas rush starts.  Do all your experimenting with what works and what doesn’t or else you’ll find all the money coming in one end is going out the other end.

11. Online PR – You don’t need to bring frankincense and myrrh but if you’re doing anything quirky or different then let the blogosphere know about it

  • Do not presume that your PR company can do online PR.  Online PR is an entirely different science to Offline PR and most PR companies do not have a clue about how to create buzz on line.

12. Online optimisation – creeping round every corner making sure everything is as ‘friendly’ as possible

  • This is the most important thing to get right – If your website is not optimised for search engines then it has no chance of being ranked for its keywords.  Ask us to provide a website analysis for you.  If you ask nicely we might even do it for free, seeing as it’s nearly Christmas!

If you’ve got it all covered then you can join our happy Santa on the beach

santa-tanning-300x225

Matt

May 21st, 2009.

SMX London Roundup – More News, Tips, Tricks, Tools And Links

smxlogoAs I mentioned yesterday, we have just returned from the  recent SMX London search marketing conference. Below is our roundup of the best hints, tips and links that we picked up over the two days.

There are also some fantastic posts over at SEOptimise and Distilled that are well worth a read.

The State Of The Search Industry

  • The search industry must focus more on, analytics, holistic search and education for senior management. Cooperation between companies is required in order to grow the industry.
  • During the keynote, Brian Fetherstonhaugh from Ogilvy One pointed out that although search marketing is seen as the holy grail of marketing by the top 1000 CEOs, this still only occupies around a 1.5% mindshare. Search marketers should focus on how search can ad value to existing advertising mediums and can be sold as a research tool.
  • The US has a greater buy-in from senior management. This could be due to an increased understanding/awareness of the technology, or better and more organised education.
  • Integrated search is set to be a huge growth area, both in the form of integrated digital campaigns (SEO, PPC, Digital PR) and also increased synergy between online and offline PR.
  • 46% of respondents to the Guava/E-Consultancy Research were spending a minimum of £10,000 p/a on SEO.
  • 32% are spending a minimum of £100,000 on paid search.
  • 55% of companies predict an increase in SEO spending despite current economic conditions.
  • SEMPO research indicates a shift from paid search back into natural search.
  • SEO is increasingly being used for branding as well as direct response advertising being driven by an increase in local, video and news results visibility.

Keyword Research Tips And Advice

  • Download the Microsoft adCenter Excel Add-In for keyword research. This will help to quickly build keyword lists and give additional demographic information.
  • Don’t just use traditional tools for keyword research. Initial brainstorming with client sales teams is usually an untapped resource for potential keywords, as well as looking at internal site search queries.
  • The credit-crunch has altered search behaviour. Consumers are searching more, researching more but buying less.
  • There has been a 3-fold increase in informational and a fall in navigational search queries. Less brand searches, more price-led queries.
  • Optimise category pages for plural search keywords, product pages for the singular.
  • Use Google Trends to find and keep ahead of topical search terms in your industry.

SEO

  • Wordle is a great tool for finding which keywords a site/page has been optimised for.
  • Using a keyword site:domain.com query you can find the most important pages on your site for a specific keyword.
  • Mis-spellings can be targeted using a glossary or a ‘similar searches’ widget.

Link Building

  • Before releasing online PR/link bait you must understand the reasons that people link to pages. If your content doesn’t encourage people to link in some way, then it isn’t linkbait.
  • A successful linkbait article has an average of 2.7 seconds to grab a bloggers attention. The solution to retaining this attention? A Great Headline. These great headlines should be continued into the subject of the text, and should also be continued into the headlines of whichever social media distribution channel you choose (Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon etc).
  • Websites Don’t Link to Websites- People link to other people’s work. To improve the response from your linkbait, look into the mindset of the blogger reading your piece- why would you link to it if it was your blog?
  • Discussion sparking content – Create content that can spark controversial discussions. Not everyone in your industry will always have the same view, and providing content that sparks such discussions allows readers to get involved in the discussion. Invite other bloggers to get involved in the conversation (subconsciously inviting the blogger to link to the discussion and make a comment on the discussion on their own blog).
  • Actively promote your own content. Build a directory of targets and inform them when you publish linkable content to increase the take-up rate.
  • Link your articles with current affairs, topical news stories, or hot topics in your industry to increase the chances of publication.
  • Link building is very much dependant on the kind of website you’re working on. Big brands can get away with a far lower link quality than smaller companies and brands.
  • Analise the current inbound links- Big brands should have a range of authoritive links, meaning less authoritive links with optimised anchor texts can help when optimising for a particular phrase.
  • Install ‘Links From Images’ Plugin on WordPress. People still hotlink images… why not provide them with the HTML code and include a link back to the page the image.
  • Where possible, remove all social media buttons (‘tweet this’ buttons etc) on linkbait articles- remove the option for visitors to share the content on other networks to encourage linking to the article instead.
  • Six degrees of seperation works online… target the bigger sites in the industry that the smaller bloggers will read to get links from both the bigger and smaller blogs (and scraper sites!)
  • Build a Promotion Network-
    1. Research sites in the industry and see what they link to
    2. Create an email list
    3. Create the linkbait article
    4. Social media promotion- this is mainly for show- the more powerful links will come from the bloggers you email directly
    5. Send a personal email to the bloggers on your email list informing them of the post ahead of the buzz
    6. Watch the links come in
    7. Show gratification- thank the bloggers and show gratification (Tweet/Stumble/Digg their post in return)

Social Media

  • Social media is now sending significant amounts of traffic to many sites, for the right industries/demographics it’s crazy to ignore it.
  • Utilising Facebook connect and the Twitter API is an excellent way of encouraging your visitors to interact on social sites and linking that interaction with your brand.
  • Use the RIOT principal – Relevant Interaction = Optimised Traffic – Massimo Burgio
  • Bear in mind the 4 P’s of social media – Passion, Proactively, Perseverance and Patience
  • Twitter may well become more important in the search engine world as it starts to index the content of links in tweets and starts to rank these.

Reputation Management

  • There are several basic strategies for dealing with negative listings in the search results. 1) Legal action 2) Purchasing the offending site 3) Organic strategies to push other listing above it 4) Paid listings to argue your case/divert attention5) Hacking – not recommended!
  • Resort to legal action only if sure of your legal footing and as a last resort. It’s very easy for aggressive tactic to blow-up in your face.
  • Sometimes authority domains that have negative listings may also contain positive pages that can easily be used to replace the negatives.
  • Reputation management shouldn’t just be thought of in crisis situations. Effectively monitoring and managing online reputation before a crisis occurs can save time and money later.
  • Bear in mind that if people want to look hard enough for negative stories and articles, they will find them.

Analytics

  • SEO is not a ‘free’ medium – everything has an ROI that should be measured.
  • When monitoring the performance/conversions of large groups of keywords, separate them out into groups for more manageable analysis – Top 10, Top 100, Top 1,000 and 1,000+
  • Brand engagement can easily be worked out using BE = #brand searches + #direct visits / #search visits + # direct visits
  • Another metric worth measuring is the % of pages yielding search traffic. Consider replacing or amending under-performing pages.
  • Link building counts are a metric that people should be using. The most accurate tools for tracking this are Linkscape and Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Use the 2nd page traffic filter to spot keywords sending you traffic from the second page of search results. Pushing these phrases onto the first page are your low-hanging fruit.
  • Use multi-touch tracking to find the initial referrer for a sale rather than the final one. Often a sale initially comes from a long tail search query, then possibly a branded search or PPC ad which then incorrectly gets the credit for the sale.

Digital PR

  • Get Known- build a brand, attend conferences, seminars and other industry engagements. Comment in forums and become a noticed resource.
  • Build a Platform- Speaking slots, interviews, trade shows. Announce your presence at these industry events ahead of time
  • Find industry news and get on it

Presentations/Write-Ups Currently Available Online

Dean Chew – What’s New With Social Media?
Lyndon Antcliff – Smash A Brick In The Face Link Building
Richard Gregory – The Latest Stats About The Search Engines
Patrick Altoft – Blow Your Mind Link Building Techniques
Ciaran Norris – Old Or New? The Future Of Media
Will Critchlow- Analytics Every SEO Needs to Know
Lucy Langdon- What’s New With Social Media?
Rich Cotton- Paid Search & Tricky Issues
Rob Ousbey- Brand & Reputation Management Strategies
Guy Levine- Writing Killer Search Ads
Massimo Burgio – What’s New With Social Media Marketing?
Richard Baxter – Diagnosing Website Architecture Issues
Richard Gregory – Paid Search And Tricky Issues
Nick Abramovic – Multivariate Testing

Anything I have missed? Let me know :)

Matt

May 20th, 2009.

Thought You Knew About Online PR? – Think Again

Online PR has been a huge growth area in recent times. As the shift from print to digital media becomes more pronounced, the relative importance of digital PR continues to grow against its more traditional equivalent.

digital-prThe problem for many companies is that there are some fundamental differences between the two disciplines, while at the same time it’s increasingly important to maintain as much synergy as possible between your online and offline PR messages.

Where Does Online PR Fit In With SEO?

It’s often confusing nowadays where SEO ends and digital PR begins, the two disciplines are complimentary and do overlap to a large extent. There are certainly two differing objectives, I view SEO as being more metric orientated, it’s about maximising revenue through increasing traffic sent via search engines, ultimately raising search rankings. Online PR is more about client perception, managing exposure, and building relationships with key influencers. Where some confusion lies is that very similar techniques are now used to achieve both goals.

Developing Key Relationships

Certainly the largest difference between online and offline PR is the diverse and fragmented nature of online media. Your offline press targets may consist of 40-50 publications, online that total may well run into several hundred, potentially more. These contacts themselves will almost certainly be diverse, spread worldwide, some professional writers, many part-time amateurs.

Obviously maintaining one-to-one relationships with all of these people is unrealistic due to time constraints, however, be aware of the key influencers in your industry, find out which sites are the highest trafficked or have the most RSS subscribers and make sure you try to forge relationships with them.

Going Social

A valuable alternative to forming direct relationships online is community participation. A key part of any campaign is being aware of where and how your industry communicates online, these days most industries now have forums and message boards, influential industry blogs and Twitter communities. It’s vital that you’re not just aware of these, but active participation will ensure that you have a direct line to these influencers at what should be a minimal time cost.

Writing For The Web

Often the bane of the offline journalist, mundane press releases and content along the lines of “We’ve just hired John Smith” or “Our new Widget 3000 is the best Widget since the Widget 2000″, these kind of topics just don’t cut it as content any more – they never really did. Whereas before a cosy relationship with a tame journalist may have helped snooze inducing releases get published, online it really is the content that counts. You will find yourself having to water down brand messages and promotion in order to maximise your take-up rate.

Before you sit down and write anything, ask yourself what’s in it for other people. Despite being a great bunch, bloggers (I’m one myself) are generally pretty selfish. They’re not going to publish something just because you ask them to. You have to give them something in return.

6 Great Paths To Publication

  1. News – Bloggers can’t resist genuinely newsworthy stories that aren’t already published all over the web. A possible alternative to this is expert commentary on breaking industry news.
  2. Humour – everyone loves a bit of humour, especially bloggers.
  3. Controversy – Be careful here, controversy works very well at generating publicity, much of it negative. Be prepared to defend yourself and field some awkward questions – Ryanair, we’re looking at you.
  4. Tools and applications – Building great tools and apps and making them available for free is a sure-fire way of getting great publicity.
  5. Resources – Articles that act as how to guides or resource lists are usually well received.
  6. Poll and survey results and data – Try conducting customer and industry surveys and publish the results via press release and offer them to key industry sites in advance of publication.

Writing Tips

  • Be aware of the keywords that people use to find your products/services, and be sure to use these in key areas such as press release titles or page headings.
  • Keep it short and punchy. People tend to scan text online. Bullet points and lists work well.
  • A punchy attention grabbing headline is key, this is what readers will see first and influence their decision to read or not.
  • Work an angle – where possible relate the content to something topical that is happening in the news or your industry.

Time For Release

Once you’re happy with the content of your press release there are several dedicated syndication sites such as PR Newswire, PRWeb and PR.com. However, by just syndicating to these sites you’re almost certainly missing a huge proportion of your market. Contacting news sites and blogs directly will bring far better short term success and will also help to develop a long-term relationship.

  • Start by creating a list of blog and news sites in your industry. Google is a good place to start, use searches like [your industry]+news and [your industry]+blog to find some established sites. Follow their blogroll links to find out who they link to. Search blog directories and Technorati to create an extensive list of your press targets.
  • Contact them all individually, introduce yourself and your company, ask them if they’re happy to receive press releases from you, and ask about their editorial policy
  • Keep a spreadsheet of information such as URL, contact email, key staff, editorial policies and notes on the site content. This will help you later when it comes to choosing who to send individual releases to. For example, some sites may be happy to conduct product reviews, others may prefer to concentrate on industry news. The key here is to continuously add to this and to keep it updated over time.

Pre-release be sure to publish the release on your site and link to it, rather than emailing the whole thing to people. Bloggers don’t generally like to just republish releases, they’ll generally want to rewrite them and offer their own opinions. The editorial integrity of blogs is pretty sacred to many bloggers, don’t try to ride roughshod over this.

Be sure to include high quality images that you’re happy for people to re-use. Again, don’t email these, give them a link to them

Some Examples Of Successful PR/Social Media Campaigns

Will It Blend? – A great example of a brand using the humour hook to generate publicity. Blendtec got around the problem of having a fairly mundane product by videoing their blenders being used to destroy all manner of interesting items.

Compare The Meercat – A fantastic integrated campaign, engaging users on a variety of social media, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and of course the microsite.

obama_hope_poster_faireyRyanair – Ryanair are either the kings of the contraversy hook, or they just don’t care about PR at all. I’d go for the latter, especially when carfully crafted stories such as this, this and this manage to get them a disproportionate amount of media attention from the national press. How damaging some of these stories are to the brand is of course debatable.

Barack Obama – The Obama presidential and nomination campaigns both focused on listening, engaging and getting people involved. Another cross channel campaign, engaging on Twitter and a range of online tools to increase participation.

Measuring Impact

One of the advantages of the internet is the fact that almost everything is measurable. Whereas offline you may be relying on a press cuttings service and measuring success in column inches, online you can measure an almost infinite number of metrics, such as visits, sales, links, search rankings, social media mentions etc.

Of course, to be able to do this you need the correct tools. Some of my favourite ones are,

Google Analytics for measuring traffic, referring sites, keyword search data.
Blogpulse – for tracking brand/story mentions in the blogosphere
Google Alerts – Sign-up to receive an email alert each time you brand is mentioned online
Technorati – Another great way to search what blogs are talking about.

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