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Lee Odden

Tips for Online PR

By Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Online PR, Press Release Optimization, Reputation Management, SEO

[TopRank is a full service provider of digital public relations services]

I did an interview recently and thought some of the Q/A would be useful for Online Marketing Blog readers:

What’s the difference between online PR and offline PR?

Basically, online PR invlolves activities geared towards influencing media, communities and audiences that exist solely on the Internet using online channles. That includes search engines, blogs, news search, forums, discussion threads, social networks and other online communication tools. Brand reputation monitoring and management is also a focus area for online PR.

Offline PR deals with the same things except with print, radio TV, conferences/events and other “real life” venues. One difference between online and offline PR is in pitching. For example, before pitching a print journalist, the publication’s editorial calendar is researched to see if there are any planned story opportunities. The subsequent pitch is specific to the upcoming story.

Popular blogs can be as influential as many print publications, but pitching a blogger requires a careful approach. There is no editorial calendar for blogs so it is important to read previous posts and become very familiar with the subject matter covered. When pitching a blogger it is better not to include the press release in the pitch, since most bloggers don’t write stories based on press releases, they point links to a release and write their own commentary.

When you pitch a blogger poorly, they may post your pitch to their blog for all to see. A print journalist will just hang up on you.

Are online PR tactics appropriate for any business?

As with all marketing tactics, a company should really consider the overall marketing strategy and choose the appropriate mix of tactics that will support the execution. That said, I’m a bit biased as my company focuses on SEO, blog marketing and press release optimization. The mix of those online PR tactics along with integration with offline marketing/PR tactics can be very powerful.

If a business has news, they should make it easy for the media to find out about that news. Tools include press releases, wire servies such as PR Newswire and PRWeb, an online media kit, an optimized blog and a good SEO effort. Whenever a company gets online media coverage, they should be sure to use social bookmark services such as furl.net and del.icio.us to archive them. It’s also a good idea to use a company blog as a way to reach out to other blogs in the same space to encourage coverage of company news.

What are your favorite online PR tools and sites?

PRWeb has a great mix of tools for distributing press releases as well as hosting high resolution images, permanent redirects for URLs and a podcast feature for certain levels of press releases. PRWeb also offers a trackback url on press releases so blogs are encouraged to link to them. Doing so creates an automatic link back to the blog. Other wire services we use include: PR Newswire, Business Wire and PR.com.

Some of the online PR sites I like most are: micropersuasion.com, mediarelationsblog.com and thenewpr.com. There are many more, but I like to keep it simple.

The most important online PR resource you can have is a talented PR pro that can research story opportunities and persuasively pitch both online journalists and bloggers accordingly. Sending out press releases alone is like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. Software tools can help make things easier, such as blogpulse.com or Google Alerts for brand monitoring, but it is human interpretation that provides the most value.

What skills, knowledge and contacts are important for online PR practitioners?

Like SEO, online PR requires a mix (although in a different order of priority) of social, creative, persuasive and technical skills. Developing relationships with online publication editors and bloggers is also particularly useful.

When is it a good time to outsource public relations and when should you keep it in-house?

When companies have an internal public relations staff, they often only need consulting from a online PR specialist on best practices or with a particular situation. For companies that do not perform their own PR, then an online or offline PR firm can help on an ongoing basis for as long as that company has a need for public and media relations.

What is “reputation management” and should companies be using it for their own sites?

Basically, reputation management (online) is the business of monitoring what the marketplace is saying about your brand. It also means responding to situations before they run out of control. Venues include blogs, discussion threads, forums and social networking sites. A simplistic forumla is to allocate a proportion of resources to reputation management in relation to how important your brand is to your overall business.

Monitoring how consumers talk about your brand can provide early warning signs for product or service issues as well as promotion opportunities that can be leveraged. Companies can start by subscribing to RSS feeds of search results on their company name from blog and news search engines, set up a Google Alerts account or use the BlogPulse conversation tracker.
What three tips would you give companies that want to optimize their press releases for search engines?

The first priority for the release is the reader, not the algorithm. An optimized press release is the means, not the end.

Map keywords to the press release like you would map keyword phrases to a web page. Use keywords in the title, sub title and in the body copy of the release.

If possible, create a strong call to action or incentive to click through on the release to destination content on your site. A free guide, report or discount can be effective. Use tracking urls to determine how effective the release is at generating traffic and inquiries.

Be sure to check out a previous post, Lowdown on Press Release Optimization for more information on how to leverage press releases for SEO and online promotion.


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