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Online PR and Search Engine Optimisation

Oct 11, 2007
Traditional PR is about getting your information to be seen where you want it. That would have generally meant in a magazine or newspaper, perhaps outside the right event or location or even within an opinion article. You generally start by getting to know who the editor of the publication your target audience reads is, sending them something of interest or influencing them enough so that they are inclined to publish your information. Ok, there is a lot more to PR than this, as I'm sure many of my friends that work in the industry will be wailing as they read this blog entry, but thats the fundamentals.

Online PR is much the same, except its done online. Instead of key publications and locations, you're looking for the key websites, blogs, social networking/ bookmarking sites to get your message across. At the end of the day you are just looking to influence the influencer's to get your message out there.

So how do you start? Well say you have a news story you think is of great interest and you want the world to know. How do you get it out there? There are a few routes you can take in areas we cover elsewhere on this site; You can optimise your release so it gets picked up and ranked in the search engines. You can use Pay Per Click to make sure that your news article appears for certain search terms. But what else can you do?

Firstly you need to identify where people that would be interested in your news will be looking. What are the key blogs that your target audience may read? How about discussion forums and communities they may be a member of? What will they be searching on when you think your story will be relevant? This key identification stage is massively important. You need to work out where you target audience is reading and engaging online and then you need to get yourself in that space. You can use your search engine of choice to see what the key sites are for your key search terms. You can also use tools like Googles Blog search and Ask to see what the key blogs are. Have a look at the Online PR Resources page to see some key tools and brief descriptions of what they can do for you.

A fair bit of creative thinking is needed to work out how you can get yourself into the blog, newsite, etc that you need to target. Influencing bloggers is generally a matter of ego. Essential the popular bloggers are freelance journalists (weather they think of themselves that way or not) so the normal rules apply. Flattery will get you everywhere and bribery will get you further! Corporate gifts, events and invitations to press events can really help you get to know and influence your key bloggers. We all love a complement and anything that drives more traffic to a blog will keep a blogger happy.

News and community sites are different. You need to provide something of value to the audience and a plain old news item may not be what they are interested in. What content can you provide to interest the audience and how can you get your news into that content? A great example is Sony's approach to releasing its Bravia ads online, publishing excerts and info on there creation online in various forums and blogs.

Don't pretend to be somebody else when you're using a discussion forum or community site and then recommend yourself - this will more often than not end in disaster as you are outed and flamed to death! Engage in discussion forums, allow your input to demonstrate your knowledge and the value of your input. You can then happily poit people at an article of interest if you make it clear that its related to your company.

As well as getting your information into the right places you also need to monitor the impact of your efforts and see what else is being said about your business or story. You will need to look at your own website as well as the places that you are being discussed or have published your story. There are various tools that can help you with this such as Google Analytics, Google Alerts and Technorati and these can be found on the Online PR Resources page.

Online PR can be a thorny issue because as well as being highly effective and it can be highly dangerous. Because bloggers tend to comment on each others blogs, one story can very quickly explode into a very big deal. A story gets written, it gets commented on and picked up in various other blogs and suddenly it getting commented on and the whole thing can mushroom. This quite often happens with negative news and there are a lot of examples of this that have had very severe financial impacts on the companies being discussed.

Apply felt this first hand when the iPod Nano was released. Sales where going well and Apple was happy. People loved the product and tens of thousands were being shipped across the world. Then something drastic started to happen. A few people in discussion forums mentioned that when they were out and about they had manged to scratch the screen of there Ipod very easily and it was now ruined. After a few comments come hundreds of "me too's" and it very quickly surfaced there was a flaw in the design. This happened so quickly and so massively that it was on International TV within about 48 hours and sales ground to a halt. Sony took too long to respond because the news had flared up so quickly where they weren't looking. A tough way to learn a very serious lesson but a very good example of what can go wrong when your not looking!

Online PR offers many opportunities and just as many pitfalls. You need to be creative, target carefully and above all be honest and open.
About the Author
John McElborough is a Internet Marketing consultant and publishes articles and tutorials on Internet Marketing at http://www.besidethesea.com
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