Lee Odden

Tips for Online PR

[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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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great post with lots of useful links. It’s good to have a nutshell definition of online PR too: I’ve posted about it at http://interactivepr.blogspot.com/2006/04/tips-for-online-pr.html. But who was the interview for?

  2. Even though this article is a bit older, I think online reputation management is just as important now and will become more so in the future. For an online business, hotel, bed and breakfast, etc that advertise what people are saying about them on the internet can be a key factor in business. If you don’t do it right and don’t pay attention, you are going to suffer in the long run. For some more information about online reputation management, sign up to receive a whitepaper one of my colleges wrote not too long go.


  3. Avatar Nick Garner says

    I saw Lee at Pubcon and as ever he demonstrated his deep knowledge of online PR. In terms of the difference between offline and online, I do agree they run into SEO in quite a big way.

    I have found off line PR companies (the less enlightened ones) really struggle to get their heads around online and itsnuances. I think they find the pomotonal processes too non-linear and often fall down as in when they pitch a blogger like a normal journalist or dare to try to understand the relevance of forums or inbound linking…

  4. Avatar Ann Holman says

    I’m new to this online PR stuff so it has been fab to find this great article that is concise and signposts me in the right direction. Thanks.

  5. Avatar Priyadarshani says

    i have just entered this field and was looking for some basics to get started with. i think i was very lucky to have stumbled upon this piece as it explained a lot of things about online pr to me in very simple language (i have read a lot of very complicated stuff too). Plus the links were an ad on. Thanks

  6. Avatar Priyadarshani says

    hi i have a query, it would be great if you could help me with it. see web is a boundless medium, where it is next to identify who to talk to and where…so how doe sone find and identify the target audience. I mean what steps should one ideally follow to help find a group / audience to talk to. Thanks

  7. Hi Lee,

    I find your advice to be the best of the best. I have recently delved into online PR (turning from offline) and I really found your advice to be very helpful. Please let me know where I can read more???

    Another question, how exactly would one choose which bloggers or journalists to target. Is it specific to your key areas (as in topics) or should you gather a broad spectrum to gain mass relationships? And what are the correct steps to approach.

    Last question, a PR nightmare is when one has to fix a brand that is severely damaged. What are the steps to restore a brand name without annoying bloggers and consumers further , adding fuel to the fire?

    Thank you again



  8. Hello Kerry, Most digital PR practitioners use social media monitoring and analytics tools to identify bloggers. As for journalists, most editorial calendar services carry a list of pubs, topics and the journalists who cover them.

    A damaged brand got that way somehow. The fix comes from addressing the source of the issue as well as telling the brand’s side of the story, what they’ll change and of course to open channels for listening and dialogue. If blogs are openly discussing a brand positive or negative, that brand would do well to have a blog itself or it’s missing out on a huge opportunity.

  9. i think there’s a big difference between the pitching nature of offline PR and the more participatory nature of online PR. generally, PR agencies seem better geared to the former…. you need to be in the fold to participate and not many agencies get to be in that spot….


  1. flyte: web marketing strategies for small business says:

    Online PR Tips …

    Lee Odden has another great post (doesn’t he always?) at his Online Marketing Blog on Tips for Online PR. When asked about optimizing press releases for search engines (a common goal these days), he responds:The first priority for the release…

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    Take an SEO refresher course…

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