For all of its virtues, the Internet has a serious issue when it comes to authenticity. While it does give everyone a voice that can be heard anywhere and everywhere, sometimes this freedom creates legitimacy out of false information. Do you believe everything you read on the Internet? Unfortunately, many people do, and this could produce seriously negative consequences.
Take this post from Gawker Media that shows just what could happen when the wrong information goes out onto the Internet. Spike Lee was justifiably angry over the Trayvon Martin shooting, but then he tweeted out George Zimmerman’s address to his 500,000 Twitter followers, which was then retweeted to millions more. The problem with this action, aside from the obvious ethical dilemma it creates? He got the wrong address.
The address, in reality, belonged to an elderly couple who, following the tweet, received a number of death threats and violent acts against their house. Lee, to his credit, did eventually settle to the tune of $10,000, but the elderly couple is still suffering. Sadly, this tweet is still getting out there without the disclaimer, so the couple sued Lee again for damages sustained after the original settlement.
While only time will tell whether the couple will get more money for the nightmare scenario they’ve been put through, it does go to show that too much information without any editorial process can be a dangerous thing. Spike Lee did not mean for this to happen, but he put the information out there, and those who are late to the game and have no knowledge of the lawsuit may still think that is Zimmerman’s real address.
So what’s the lesson that we have learned here? Besides the fact that Lee should spend more time making movies and less time tweeting and hanging out in MSG, it’s that the Internet is a powerful medium for information — information that people will believe with or without any authoritative punch behind it. Therefore, any business or organization should carefully scrutinize online branding for both awareness and PR purposes.
What does effective online branding include? In general, it could mean anything that builds positive awareness about your company — it could include a combination of press releases detailing new product lines or charitable initiatives, YouTube videos with the enhanced potential of going viral, or a strong social media presence that encourages collaboration and participation by fans.
The point is to get positive, correct information out there to offset any misinformed tweets or other pieces of unauthoritative, untrue information that tend to make their home on the Internet. Don’t believe the power of the Internet? Just ask Eddie Murphy how many times he’s supposedly died. For more information about building a stronger brand online, please download this White Paper.
In baseball, the perfect pitch rockets right past the visiting batter as they take a desperate swing at the ball, which is already in the catcher’s glove as the umpire calls strike three, much to the delight of the home crowd. In public relations, though, the perfect pitch is a soft, underhanded lob that the journalist smashes out of the park. Your company can certainly get a base hit by incorporating a typical press release into your SEO campaign, but a carefully crafted media pitch can provide the huge home run you’ve been looking for.
There’s nothing wrong with press releases – in fact, we assist our clients with creating and distributing them on a daily basis. They’re a great way to announce company news, promote an upcoming product release, or inform consumers of exciting things a business is doing. However, in some cases, it can be more beneficial for our clients to send out a media pitch instead of (or in addition to) a press release.
Press releases are typically posted online for mass consumption without any particular recipient in mind. The hope is that news sites, blogs, newspapers and magazines, and even radio or television stations will come across the release and find it interesting enough to publish or report on. Press releases are a tried and true way to get your company name in the news, but in many cases, media pitches can be more successful because they offer a more targeted approach to drawing attention to your business.
With a media pitch, your company (or an organization like WebiMax that helps with your PR work) sends a targeted news announcement, along with a “call to action,” to specific journalists and media organizations that will likely have an interest in the news. In addition to being more specifically targeted than press releases, media pitches usually offer something exclusive or particularly insightful that will entice a journalist to jump on a story before their competitors. Just like your industry is competitive, so is the news business, and reporters love an inside scoop. By extending an offer to a reporter and indicating your willingness to work with them on a story, you are giving them a reason to respond.
In sticking with the theme, let’s say your company makes sports equipment, and you’re ready to release a brand new kind of baseball bat that helps batters hit the ball further. If you put out a press release announcing the upcoming release of the new product, news organizations would undoubtedly be interested as long as you provided the pertinent information. Is the new bat approved for use in Major League Baseball? What players will be using it? Where can the general public buy it? How much will it cost? What type of research was done to prove the bat’s increased effectiveness over traditional models? As long as you include the answers to these basic questions, it’s easy for reporters to repurpose your release into a news story, and you there’s a good chance you’ll see it a few minutes later on your favorite sports blog, hear about it on the news that night, and read it in the paper next day.
However, if you were to send out a tailored media pitch to select journalists, it might result in more substantial and in-depth coverage. Perhaps you could put out a media pitch inviting some of the most respected sports writers to a preview event, where there would be a hands-on demonstration of the new technology. Or, maybe you could offer journalists an exclusive interview with the scientists who worked to develop the new bat, or with one of the star MLB players who will be using it. A media pitch includes that more personal, more direct, and more exciting call to action which a press release often lacks.
A media pitch can generate substantial press coverage, both online and in print, if done correctly.
Of course, sending out a media pitch means there’s going to be a bit more work on your end. You need to be willing to put in the effort to host the event you’re pitching, or to send out the samples you’re offering, or to provide the interviews you’re promising when journalists come calling. However, the time and effort you put in to make the pitch worthwhile can pay dividends when it results in a home run of positive media coverage for your company.
(Looks around) Psst. Hey you, come here. I have a secret. I’m not always ‘working.’ Well, better defined, I’m not always doing what I’m paid to do. You see, I’m not being disobedient or having a Peter Gibbons moment. I love my job. I’m just not always doing it. (Gets up, stretches, does some pushups, takes a sip of coffee, then looks out the window.)
Here are a few things I’m doing when I should be working.
(Puts down US Weekly) I don’t believe ‘reading’ is in my job description; yet, I do a whole bunch of it throughout the day. I’ve taken it upon myself to become completely immersed in my particular vertical. In my vertical of online marketing, many bloggers and associated sites exist. My eyes ravenously encounter a litany of lines during business hours. Shh – don’t tell my bosses I’m becoming more proficient in my respective area of concentration!
Well, maybe it’s not so roguish. A little while ago, one of our strategists of SEO, Chris Countey, sent me an email. It was to commend me on my ability to engage the community and vertical. He asked how ‘we’ can replicate such behavior for our clients.
I told him it’s sort of difficult to make suggestions without knowing particular clients’ verticals and goals. Actually, I caught one of Todd Bailey’s suggestions in a recent CNBC Google Penguin post:
“Businesses need to get rid of the philosophy that they need to get as many links and as much content out as there as they can,” Bailey said. “They need to look at a public relations strategy and try to produce quality content by pitching news outlets, doing press releases and guest blogging.
Wait. Todd’s thinks a PR strategy is a sound marketing decision. Well, that’s not in my job description either; yet, I think I’ve found something else to do when I should be working.
Actually, I read a great post on using social media for prospecting and building relations recently.
I used to engage in PR activities; now, I’m technically a copywriter; yet, I might as well summons what I’ve learned while I’m not working. There are a number of social sites like Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. Personally, I’ve cultivated an affinity for Twitter. I can cover a lot of people and information that way. It works for me in my particular situation.
I know I suggest otherwise in yesterday’s social media post; but, I’m a rebel, remember? Actually, I share a lot of other peoples’ stuff. As a result, I think people who want to learn more and be exposed to different information appreciate my shares and passion for knowledge.
As a peer mentioned yesterday, I’m an ‘outstanding Twitter citizen.’ That means a lot, to me and to the brand; because being a diligent and considerate socialite helps us make more connections and get more solidly ingrained in our respective space. Shh – Don’t tell my bosses I’m building rapports within our vertical!
If you’ve seen a guest post or two by me, it’s because I cared about building relationships in my respective vertical. It’s beneficial.
I’m not sure if thinking is listed on my job description verbatim; but, I’ll assume it’s indirectly implied; though in my younger years, I’ve heard, “You’re not paid to think” a time or two. Why would my bosses want me thinking when I could be working? Hmm.. I recently read a good post by Jon Morrow at Copyblogger (Do you want to learn how to write better copy for the Web, and just period? Read Copyblogger.) Jon’s post speaks of sleeping while making money. I haven’t tried sleeping while working yet…but, I’ll leave that to Jon for now.
In his description of learning ‘how to sell,’ Jon suggests listening to salespeople, or those who know the product/service. I’m ingrained in the online marketing world. I’m a worker bee. I know the service. As Jon suggests, brand messages should reflect that of those who know the product/service; because, those souls better understand how a service/product addresses a client need. Moreover, being on the internal squad, I’m marketing a marketing company; so, I also have suggestions on how to market ‘our’ company too. Shh – don’t tell my bosses I’m always thinking of ways to improve things for us and clients.
Those I report to encourage any ideas or thoughts of mine, which I believe could improve the internal and client process. There’s no quota or specific time of suggestion. I relate ideas and processes when such inspiration strikes.
As you can read, this was another tongue-in-cheek post. I want to get you thinking, and doing PR, and reading too; but, only if it makes sense regarding your vertical and personal contribution. I’ll assume you have a ‘job description’; but, does that mean you have to confine your workday to such? Yes, of course- attend to what’s expected; but, don’t be ‘shh’ shy about doing more professionally for you and your brand.
I’m an ‘armchair PR quarterback.’ I have experience in the field, but currently reside in PR hibernation, focusing professional attention on writing and internal marketing. However, my former professional sentiments can’t help but fuel my interest and inner passion. I regularly trace the PR operations of brands, shouting at the computer screen like an aged, high school quarterback who lends his voice to the television screen while assuming the Lazy-Boy position. “C’mon how could you make that PR play!”
Today I offer a few sentiments I would like to see better implemented into your public relations strategy.
Outsourcing is a choice for some and an absolute, immediate necessity for others. However, I suggest considering going with a boutique supplier of PR services. For one, there’s a learning curve associated with your respective vertical. A PR person really needs to know the ‘lay of the land’ to ensure effective campaigns. Don’t assume bigger brands, which address PR in several verticals, are going to assign you with a person well familiar with your vertical; it’s highly unlikely this ‘perfect match’ will fall into place.
However, the learning curve drastically decreases when partnering with a boutique service provider, which specializes in your particular niche. An immediate advantage is the list of apropos contacts and relations the boutique may have already established. Let’s face it; you’re electing to outsource due to a lack of internal resources, you want the outsourced entity to act as an ‘internal teammate’ as much as possible. You don’t have time to educate the person on your vertical; you expect momentum. Siding with a boutique service can expedite the process.
Products/Services Shouldn’t Need Attention, Consumers’ Needs Do
I take notice of brands after the production phase. It would likely be disappointing for some owners to hear my questions as to why some products/services made it past the production phase. In short, there are a lot of products/services out there of poor quality. PR won’t help as SEO can’t compensate for poor quality…
That being said, a PR professional should not have to do any work for the products/services. In short, products/services should ‘sell’ themselves; or, your company has many issues to address other than PR. I see a lot of PR efforts mirroring the error in logic of a lot of ad copy. Make the endeavor about the consumer and not about your services and products.
I’m sure some are confused; isn’t PR about my business? Yes, but PR is public relations, meaning the process involves relating (your brand and associations) to…the public. The public part is important. I don’t care what marketing processes are being leveraged; marketing is always about engaging the consumer. So, even if you’re involved in a product launch, the approach necessitates people-centric engineering. It’s not about how awesome the product is; it’s about what an awesome job the product does in addressing a consumer need and desire. I hope you understand; because, this is a crucial insight to ‘get.’
Service Person Neglect
As a copywriter, I sometimes felt neglected by clients. It was my job to create something based on little to no initial information. Many times, clients neglect to inform service providers, which is mind blowing. If I wanted another entity to do ANYTHING in my business’ name, I would most definitely ensure my provider was on the ‘same page.‘ That would a huge part of my responsibility regarding the partnership. Business owners, do you host the same concerns? I really hope you do.
Again the PR person is the translator, like a ghost-writer. It’s absolutely essential the PR person is using your words and sentiments, truly understands your brand and direction, and sees eye to eye with the executives and brand represented. PR is very important; whose mind are you letting make maneuvers for your company? It’s essential the public relations rep understands key execs and the essence of the brand. Otherwise, there’s no way an outside entity can properly represent your brand to your public. If there’s a lack of understanding, it’s in the best interest of your brand to address it. Any gaps or misunderstandings can be avoided through proper lines of communications. Never neglect communications with an outsourced provider. Each passing, neglectful moment negatively affects your brand.
PR and Social Media
Public relations probably needs a new definition or at least new consideration within the backdrop of online marketing evolutions. Yesterday we had PR; today we have social media, which can achieve a lot of the initiatives PR always has. PR is not extinct; but, such processes should include social media usage. I’m sure many PR providers are presently not social media providers too, making things complicated for service seekers. In my opinion, the two worlds need integration.
If you’re outsourcing PR but doing social media in-house, you need integration. If you’re doing PR and social media in-house, the processes need integration. If you’re doing PR in-house and outsourcing social media…well, you get it.
Formulate a strategy, leveraging the two processes, especially if different people are addressing them. Strategy enables more reach and efficiency on both fronts. You need the two marketing initiatives working together. For instance, your PR professional landed your company in a major publication. How are you going to perpetuate the exposure? Social media is a good choice. It’s not about choosing some processes over others; online marketing is about using available tools strategically, ensuring all brand endeavors are working in harmony. It all warrants a bit of quarterbacking…zero quarterbacking begets frustrations. I don’t want to be jeering your PR decisions from my computer screen; I want to be cheering them. The ball’s in your hands.
“Godfather, be my friend,” a man pleads as he kisses Don Vito’s hand. The former was really asking of a favor. The Godfather knew. It’s VERY LIKELY those on your ‘let’s be pals’ radar know your immediate intentions too. It’s okay; be aware of their awareness and proceed…naturally.
I’ve been pretty successful in making friends throughout my life. I’m actually pretty cool; but, that’s for me to know and others to notice. In social life, I can be a bit lax, allowing things to happen at a gradual pace. I’m a tough sell. I’m not going to ‘be down’ with just anyone. In my professional life, things are a bit different, warranting a mixture of friendly and professional sentiments; but, I’m very similar to other professionals in that regard too. I’m not going to be ‘cool’ with just anyone. If I did want to begin a relationship, I would go about it in the following manner.
The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever engaged someone in conversation, knowing there is an ulterior motive for the union, yet it goes ‘unpublished’ in conversation. It makes for an awkward guessing game of what the other person is thinking. Be honest whenever approaching or PR pitching another professional. Would you like their help? Would you like them to read your blog? Would you like to be considered as a source in an article? All of these ‘selfish’ desires are acceptable; however, don’t ‘beat around the bush.’ Just be direct. Being direct doesn’t guarantee a disarming welcome; but, it does let the other person know you’re a straight shooter, honest, and not wasting their time.
Some time ago, I wanted to guest post on Mike King’s blog. I hit him up in an email; and, though may have been a bit complimentary in the opening, I was succinct in my intentions. I wanted a social media post on ipullrank’s blog; however, it was important to offer something to Mike’s readers too. Why else would he accept if I wasn’t creating some sort of value? Mike posted on the wrong and right way to ask for a guest post.
My mom thinks I’m special; that goes along with the job. I know. Do others? Perhaps, but it’s because I earned their respect. I did; I inspired; I worked; I expressed; I did a number of things to openly demonstrate (out in the practical, wide-open world) I can offer some sort of value. Think of other professionals as active musicians. By adding your presence, does their professional world become more harmonious? If not, they’re likely to want you to ‘sit this number out.’ Maybe you can try-out again when you have something of value to offer.
Value is subjective; but, the need to offer ‘something’ is an objective reality. What can you offer?
- Humor (maybe you make them laugh with your take on the industry)
- Research (maybe you’ve crunched a lot of data, elucidating a new trend or previously unseen ‘truth’)
- Exposure (maybe you have a high number of followers and can introduce a personality to a new pool of subscribers and vice versa)
- Guidance (perhaps you have experience in a particular area and can offer insight)
Think about what you can add. It’s a delicate dance of give and take. If you’re not offering anything valuable, there’s no reason for professionals to jump at the chance to ‘make friends.’ Many will question why you thought a union with them was apropos in the first place. Have you researched?
I recently read a great explanation of why doing your homework in a respective vertical is important. You see, it’s not about ‘just getting exposure.’ It’s about finding the right fit; it’s about making the right kind of relationships. I’m a writer. Is making a contact with NASA the right fit though NASA is an incredibly respected entity? Unless NASA wants me to help them with content marketing, the relationship is ill fitting. I’d be better off finding better niches, befitting to my networking wishes.
Check out Chris Dyson’s post on chasing footprints for linkbuilding. Knowing the right paths to venture is crucial. Next, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the personality of interest. That’s how you would normally go about making relations and conversation, right? Consider the alternative:
If you are going to pitch me, at least check out my freakin’ site first. Otherwise, I just hit the “delete” button. Sheesh!
You’ve heard of link building, the reason why many people approach others for immediate connections. Awesome, you’ve made a connection and got a valuable link. The link is good in and out itself; but, I liken the process as getting the opportunity to shake the Dali Lama’s hand but not engaging him in conversation.
The reason it’s so important to research relations above, is because like online marketing, relations take time to build momentum and strength. What’s better, getting one guest post link or cultivating a relationship, resulting in future guest spots, insight and guidance, introduction to other ‘doors’ of opportunity and personalities, etc? Lightning storms are pretty and exciting; but, the excitement is short-lived. I’d rather invest in my time in building lasting weather patterns.
Pro tip: PR (I think of it as peer relations) is not for everyone. Are you stuck in a connection rut? Do you wonder why you and yours are shunned by others? Something is off; you’re doing something wrong.
Do you see relationships merely as a means to an end? If so, PR is not for you. You don’t ‘get it.’ No matter how much work you put in, you’re likely missing an integral piece of the puzzle. PR is a practice for the genuine and forthright. You can roll your eyes all you want at these sentiments. Go ahead and try to prove me wrong. The following video is for those interested in building real relations with peers. All others need not apply.
Which camp does your approach fall under? I can tell (I’m just nice about openly id-ing the former group.) Don’t be foolish. Others, who are PR savvy, can ‘see’ your approach too.
Discussion has arisen in the world of link building of late, for good reason. Google made modifications; the search engine came down on suspicious linking practices. The purpose is to rid the Web of unrighteous rankers and unscrupulous link building practices.
I’ve read a number of posts, urging clients and brands to rethink linking. That’s great; I have experience in public relations, an aspect of link building many good practitioners encourage. I’m no Seth Godin; but, the union of link building and PR has knocked at my intuition’s door for years. Links are like votes. How do you get votes without a little socialization, facilitating exposure and understanding?
Why PR Wasn’t Always Needed
I see you. I understand how some brands got in trouble in the past; and, why some may be approached, to endure lost rankings or penalties in the future. It’s anxiety. Brands are anxious to compete in a competitive vertical.
Brands thought, “Gee, we don’t rank for major keywords right now. Natural progression takes time. How can we be impatient and get rankings now rather than later? Hmm…we can get links from anywhere, just for now…”
Many sought unscrupulous ways to build links for desired keywords. I’m not judging; however, many know the difference from a quality, natural link and one chased purely for rankings. Usually money is the only necessity to get lower-valued links; when you’re not gunning for quality, PR is not a need.
Regardless of your past or present philosophy on link building, understand that getting good-fit links is building to last. Other endeavors may not necessarily lay any lasting foundation at all; on the contrary, as we’re seeing, a short-term ‘fix’ can drastically breakdown future pursuits of success.
Why PR is a Need Now
PR is an inextricable need in organic link building these days. I hope it stays that way. My intuition tells me it will. In short, this is why PR matters when it comes to rethinking linking:
- Quality links come from quality sites. For instance, many news sites are high authority sites. Reporters and editors may randomly come across your URLs; but, don’t rely on chance. Be proactive. Find news sites covering your vertical. The former may do so in a general or niche manner, either way, this is good. What do you have of value to offer them?
- Quality links come from quality personalities. Many individuals write blogs or reference in-vertical material for readers. Do you engage in your vertical? If you don’t, bloggers (like the reporters and editors above) won’t just come across your material. However, if you regularly read blogs, comment, and show a social presence in your vertical, you can build relations and links in the process. What value can you offer bloggers and the community?
- Quality links go to authority sites. Rank is contingent on worth…to the browser, to the consumer. Other sites, bloggers, and people will draw attention to your URLs if the pages are of quality. Engagement in your respective community and engagement with consumers warrants effective PR. Effective PR doesn’t guarantee you have quality pages; but, it makes it likely you’ll be seen and gain ongoing attention. I’ll say it again; PR is a means to an end of greater exposure, but doesn’t guarantee the end itself. What value do you offer, warranting increased exposure?
Maybe this is the best way I can phrase it. Like rank, PR and link building gain a business more exposure. Getting more exposure is like your brand’s elevator pitch to the public; it helps get them to look your way and hear what you have to say. Are goods, services, and Web properties deserved of quality attention? That’s the first question to ask. Poor quality attracts the same brand of attention. Excellence begets excellent links and attention. Can you be excellent?
Chris Dyson – Optimize Your Link Building with Twitter
John Doherty – Link Branding: A Link Builder’s Marketing Mindset