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The World of Public Relations has Changed Dramatically: Say “Hello” to Media 3.0

Media 2.0 is has run its course: Media 3.0 is the new reality . The traditional public relations agency is on the verge of extinction, tried and true programs are rarely successful—even expensive public relations databases can’t keep track of the changes in the editorial space.  If your public relations agency is talking about things like podcasts, editorial calendar tracking or the value of company news for generating results: BEWARE!

What has happened you might think?  Many of us in the profession have taken a hard look and it can be summarized as follows.  Today, the value of SEO is golden because today’s buyer wants to begin their own form of product selection.  So where do they start? Google or another search engine. So now, content is truly king.  And while in the years circa 2005 to 2007, quality content was the king (Google had even trained its sophisticated search engine to discriminate what was quality content vs. what was not). In 2017, all of that has gone out the window.  Now when marketing professionals say “Content is King” we mean the amount of content.  The actual talent and writing required for good content is almost irrelevant.

Today’s audience has the attention span of a gnat (they don’t call it the ADD generation for fun).  You’re lucky if today’s reader gets through the first paragraph of your content. Instead, readers want quotes, pictures and infographics to spoon feed them their news. With the overwhelming amount of Internet content available, it’s all they have time for.

Publications have figured this out and are quickly changing their tactics to accommodate today’s reader. Flarrio.com is a great example of this.

Publications know companies rarely will pay for advertisement, so to keep enough revenue going, they are moving their pubs online and letting go of high paid editors first, and anyone else that is expendable.  The blood bath of iconic editors that have been let go and are now freelancers or marketing writers is unimaginable and tragic.

To compensate for needed content and dollars, publishers have turned to other tactics.  One of the biggest changes is the advent of paid editorial “thought leader” communities, where vendor experts appear to be editors. Only after layers of click-throughs, can the average reader see that he or she is viewing vendor sponsored editorial. So publications are utilizing paid content from the technology community to fill their pages while paying their bills.

In response, we offer a few suggestions for this particular change.

  1. Make a list of your client’s most valuable pubs and do the research to determine if they still offer free “earned media” or free placed editorial opportunities and then have a plan to submit content to all of them.
  2. Direct budget to this new area of paid submissions and sign up your company’s most relevant executives to get them in the these “Thought Leader” communities so they can write as frequently as possible.
  3. Consider hiring editors that have been laid-off to write your company content that requires quality and expertise from a top writer.  Sometimes it’s possible they will leverage their industry contacts for potential placement or other valuable introductions (more on that in a coming blog).

Well, I’ve just scratched the surface. Moving forward, I’ll be digging a little deeper and looking at other aspects of this major public relations shift so you can make the best out of what seems at first glance, an impossible change to manage.

How to Use PR to Improve SEO Results

If you want to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) results (or squeeze out a competitor in page ranking), a properly leveraged PR program could be just the boost you need.

Relevant keywords. Link building. Delivering fresh, quality content. These tactics top the list of requirements for a successful SEO strategy – and a well-executed PR program can deliver on all three with just a little extra effort and planning.

Use these tips to make get the best SEO results from your PR program:

  1. Choose Keywords Carefully. Keywords should not be approached as an after thought once a release is written. If you have a list of keywords already in use for SEO campaigns, deliver the list to your PR writer, if not, do your homework and come up with a laundry list of relevant keywords that can be leveraged across all communications. When brainstorming keywords, consider which terms your target audience is likely to use when searching for your type of products or services. Free tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool or WordTracker, will provide useful search volume data that can help you refine your list. Eliminate words or phrases that cannot deliver significant website traffic due to insufficient search volume and consider cutting any popular terms that put you in competition with 1M+ search results. Try to create a list of 10 – 15 targeted keywords that can be leveraged repeatedly in your press campaigns over time. (Note: your actual list may be shorter or longer depending on the size of your company, scope of offering and SEO budget).
  2. Be Aware of Keyword Placement and Frequency.  Each press release should be optimized for 1-2 keyword phrases. Include keywords in the title, subtitle and first paragraphs, but don’t over stuff your press release with keywords. This practice will dilute the effectiveness of your media communications – remember ultimately, humans, not bots, read press releases. Ideally in a 500-word press release, your chosen keywords should appear 2-4 times.
  3. Include a Call to Action with Hyperlink.  Search engines favor sites that have a high number of inbound links from other popular sites. Press releases can be a very effective way to earn those inbound links. News distribution sites that copy content from newswire feeds often convert full URLs into hyperlinks. Use this to your advantage by making sure that every press release distributed across the wire includes a call-to-action with a full URL link to your site (not an embedded hyperlink). Also, be sure your PR person asks journalists to include inbound links in any feature news stories (To be successful, you may need to get creative and provide a reason to include the link, i.e. come up with a special or exclusive offer for the publication’s readers). This strategy won’t always yield results, but it’s definitely worth a try – just a few links from top tier publications can do wonders for your SEO program.
  4. Add Images and Video.  Multi-media can give your company added visibility in search engines and make your press releases more shareable. To get the best SEO results, add descriptive titles that include your chosen keywords to all embedded images and videos. News distribution services charge extra for the inclusion of multi-media, so you may want to strategically plan which press releases are worthy of the added cost or stagger your distribution of multi-media releases throughout the year.
  5. Create an Online Newsroom and RSS for News Distribution.  Search engines, especially Google, love blogs for the fresh content and highly structured data. If you don’t already have an online newsroom, consider adding a blog style newsroom to your website. By posting releases to your site and distributing through RSS, you can get even more mileage from your PR program. Be sure to choose a SEO friendly blog platform and include tags for your keywords with each post. Bookmark and share each post and provide sharing tools so that others can easily do the same.
  6. Make Headlines Tweet Friendly. Keep your press release headlines short (less than 70 characters, if possible) to improve tweetability or consider adding suggested Tweet text at the end of your release to make sharing of your news easy for readers (and be sure to include a shortened URL that links back to the full-text release on your site).
  7. Automate Distribution of News Across Relevant Channels. By using a news distribution service like BusinessWire or PR Newswire, you will be able to extend the reach of your news and get pickup of full-text press releases (complete with keywords and hyperlinks to your site) on thousands of downstream sites, including Internet portals, search engines, websites, financial services and database systems. Choose the level of distribution service based the relevancy and newsworthiness of the communication you are distributing. For instance, you may want to consider lower cost “online only” distribution options when the primary goal of the release is to aide SEO efforts (as may be the case with a media alert announcing the availability of a company sponsored informational report), while a larger distribution would be more appropriate for a press release that is likely to earn your company feature news stories.
  8. Keep a Steady Pace.  Ideally companies should aim to distribute a minimum of 2-3 releases per month to help boost SEO results. Understandably, it can be difficult for smaller companies and start-ups to keep this pace. Having a back up strategy in place can help fill news gaps when they occur. Momentum releases (that package multiple smaller news items into one communication) or media alerts (that publicize events/information vs. news) can keep your SEO-friendly PR program afloat despite a slump in media-worthy news.
  9. Measure Your Results.  Web analytics are essential – if you don’t already have a web traffic-monitoring tool, get one. Google’s free web analytics offers a wealth of information on the origin of website visitors and keywords. Use this information to track the progress of your efforts and identify areas for improvement.
  10. Be Patient.  Neither PR nor SEO are about instant gratification. Often it takes months to see results and this is especially true for smaller or new companies. Set realistic expectations from the beginning and give the program a minimum of 6 months to deliver measurable results.
  11. Make Adjustments.  SEO isn’t a one-time event. Search engine algorithms change regularly, so the tactics that worked last year may not work this year.  Keep up with SEO best practices and make adjustments as algorithms change to ensure the best results. SEO requires dedication and a long-term commitment but the pay-off will be worthwhile for those that keep with it over time.

B2B Inbound Marketing Quick Start Guide

We’re several years into the era of “Marketing 2.0” and I’m still surprised at the number of B2B technology companies that have not modernized their marketing approach. Just take a look at the websites of so many technology companies, small and large, and it clearly looks like they are stuck in the early 2000’s – or even (gasp)… the 90s.

While I don’t believe in doing trendy things just for the sake of doing trendy things (a.k.a. keeping up with the Jones’), I do believe it’s prudent to take stock of the most current marketing tactics – learn what’s working for companies in the same industries you serve – and implement the most impactful changes.

For decades now, marketers have been focused on traditional “outbound” marketing programs such as television and radio advertising, trade shows, direct mail, online banner displays, pop-up ads, email blasts and the dreaded telemarketing, to name a few.

However with the advent of social media marketing and the social web, a dramatic shift has occurred. Today’s customer no longer wants to be “sold” – instead they prefer to find products and services online on their own or through friendly referrals. This shift is called “inbound marketing” and focuses efforts on web optimization, content marketing, social media optimization and customer referral programs.

Here are some basic tips that should help bring you up to speed on 2011 marketing must-haves and provide a solid foundation for inbound marketing success.

#1 Web Optimization (including SEO)
The corporate website is often a company’s most tangible and visible face to the world. When properly executed, a website can become a powerful marketing tool that not only serves the needs of existing clients, but also provides an opportunity to capture new customers. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your business website is properly categorized in the search engines (especially Google) and comes up high in the search results. Another big ingredient of SEO is link building, or getting other relevant sites to link to yours. Although it has been around for years, SEO is still critical in making your business more findable on the Web. It is a long-term strategy, however, and the results may take time to kick in.

#2 Content Marketing
We’ve said it before but “Content is King”. Content marketing is about creating demand through compelling, highly relevant content. This is includes white papers, strategy guides, blogging, infographics, contributed articles, podcasts, videos, data surveys, news articles — anything that offers value to your target customer and helps differentiate you in the marketplace. This content, especially blog posts, gets picked up by the search engines and can help fuel your social media strategy.

#3 Social Media Optimization
Social media sites and associated spam are growing in volume every day as new-bees jump on the social networking bandwagon in hopes of growing their network and making a splash – or at least being heard. The key to successfully leveraging social media is to define the most appropriate channels and best ways to engage key audiences in the right environments, at the right time, with the right messages. This may include the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); specialty networks, such as Biznik; local directories, such as MojoPages.com and Kudzu.com; social bookmarking sites; video platforms; article directories and blog and forum comments.

#4 Customer Reference Programs
Word-of-mouth marketing is arguably the most powerful way to market your product or services. As discussed in a previous blog post, customer testimonials can greatly enhance the credibility of a company and result in increased sales, media coverage or add the fire to your viral social media campaigns. When customers talk favorably of your product or service, they send a free, credible and targeted marketing message. Customer endorsements can be used in one or more of the following marketing mediums: media/analyst outreach, collateral, social media and/or inclusion on the website.

It’s 2011 and marketing has changed, even in the world of B2B technology. Your customers have different expectations about how they want to find, buy and validate products. If your marketing tactics haven’t kept with the times, you may be missing out on lucrative sales opportunities. The good news is… it’s not too late to adopt an inbound marketing game plan to extend your marketing reach and win more business.