When PR (public relations) is mentioned, people typically think about traditional media relations: working with television, radio and print outlets to obtain a glowing story on one’s company or product. Everyone wants a positive recommendation from a trustworthy source—that leads to more business, higher profits and a faster ticket to the good life. However this constant jockeying for product or company exposure means that the news outlets are bombarded with stories via news releases, pitch letters, calendar announcements and media alerts.
Now, take a step back from the maelstrom of traditional PR tactics . . . what are you doing right now? You are reading this blog on the Internet. How much of your news and information is coming from online resources?
According to Pew Research’s State of the News Media 2011, 46 percent of people say they get news online at least three times a week—considering that statistic, it’s no wonder that newsrooms have shrunk 30 percent in the last decade. Today, 47 percent of people also say they get some form of their local news on a mobile device.
What makes media coverage credible is its integrity—a third party endorsement of a product is generally free of bias. Unlike advertising that is paid for (PR), third party coverage can be extremely valuable to an organization. Just look at the number of products that had skyrocketing sales after an appearance on the Oprah show!
So, how do you best utilize online channels for free PR? Today, reaching out to news outlets includes email submission of pitch letters and press releases.
Press releases are vital to your success online. Not only do they encourage more credibility for your business, but they also encourage backlinks to your website. With these additional links, your business website will rank higher in Google rankings, which encourages more website visitors. All of this attention from a well-written press release allows you to build and to strengthen your company’s brand awareness on the Internet.
Many publications separate the print or traditional editor from the online editor, so it is important to know which editor to contact when submitting your organization’s latest news via email. Of key importance is gaining the reporter’s attention with an attention-catching subject line. The information contained within the body of the email should include a short pitch letter to entice the editor, reporter or news director to pick up your story by suggesting how it ties into a recent story or how the news would be of interest to the readers. Press releases should be incorporated within the body of the email. Be sure to have a link to your website in the article. Additional material like photos, charts and other information should be accessible in your organization’s online newsroom or sent upon request to the media.
When writing the press release, make sure it is newsworthy. Don’t try to promote every little step your company takes; those small events are unlikely to be picked up as a news story. Use a release for the announcement of an event, personnel changes, new product lines, quarterly earnings or new partnerships. The key to getting good coverage is multiple follow-ups and creative approaches.
With traditional media, it may take several weeks or even months to see the resulting story. Online coverage is practically immediate, with some outlets picking up stories the same day they receive them. Your news items may appear on the first page of your company’s results within days. Well covered articles also help with search engine optimization (SEO) by getting higher visibility in the search engine ranking results (i.e. top of Google, Yahoo or Bing), which means more people will read that article and then visit your site.
Press releases may also reach the media through a distribution service. Although there are free online press release distribution services, paid online distribution services are extremely effective and relatively inexpensive. Sent at the $200 level, a recent press release went to 2,264 media outlets; received 475,369 impressions; and had eight solid pages of Google results of media outlets that had picked it up.
Some companies combine the two strategies in getting the word out, using both an in-house list of PR contacts and a distribution service to maximize the possibilities.
Today, PR can have a great impact on your bottom line — even more than advertising. A recent blog in the Harvard Business Review discussed how even Coca Cola is shifting dollars from advertising impressions to online expressions to reach their markets. How will you incorporate online PR into your marketing strategy? Are you ready to make the shift?