Basic Online Public Relations, Marketing and Customer Relations Tools
Online public relations is not a separate skill set or specialization of traditional public relations, it’s an integral part of it. Anyone familiar with traditional PR will have no trouble learning how to use these online PR tools to help almost any type of small business.
This page provides a quick overview. For more detailed information, please click on the links for each respective topic.
Websites – a good Website is the heart of any small business marketing and online public relations effort. All other online public relations and marketing activity is tied to your (or your client’s) Website. Key points:
- Keyword research and search engine optimized writing are essential.
- Search engine algorithms keep getting more sophisticated – they now are starting to recognize and reward good, informative content (even if a keyword or two is out of place).
- Good sites require thoughtful planning to develop a hierarchical structure that is easy to navigate.
- Search engines reward a steady flow of new content, including specific topic pages, press releases, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, video and updates from social media sites.
- Writing for two audiences of equal importance – humans and search engines – requires solid writing skills.
Online press releases – the building blocks of online public relations, are nearly identical to traditional press releases, with a few significant differences. Key points:
- Content is based on keywords derived from keyword research.
- Where the words go in the release and how often they are used is important.
- Typical length is 400 – 600 words.
- Well crafted online press releases contain links back to your Website or your client’s.
- Online releases may incorporate logos, photos and video. A number of formats are in use, which we will cover in more detail elsewhere.
Article marketing – is similar to issuing online press releases. The main difference is you deliver a finished product directed at non-journalist audiences. Key points:
- Articles provide a quick and inexpensive way for small businesses to build a strong online reputation and generate Website traffic.
- Based on keyword research, placement and density.
- Distribution, usually free, is made through article publishing sites, not newswires.
- Links are not permitted in the body copy.
- Articles can be somewhat longer, preferably 500 – 800 words.
- An “author block” provides a brief description of the author’s credentials. This is the place to provide one or two links, no more.
Online newsletters – are a great tool for any small business, yours included. This one is a no-brainer for online public relations work and PR pros – it’s story telling. Key points:
- 3-5 short articles of 100 – 300 words.
- Use photos, charts, graphs to illustrate stories.
- Short, punchy headlines and email subject lines.
- eNewsletter software is part of many Website content management systems, but several good stand-alone alternatives are available.
- Most newsletter software as a service is priced by number of addresses on your list, not the number of newsletters you send each month.
- Costs as little as $15 per month for up to 500 addresses.
- Can be posted to Website to add more good content, build site visibility.
Blogs - by all laws of nature and online taxonomy, blogs define social media, but because of their importance, we will consider them separately here. We put blogs at the top of the list for online public relations and marketing strategies. Key points:
- Blogging is universally popular, and now is taking a bigger role in small business.
- Top bloggers consistently provide great content that answers questions and helps people solve problems.
- Blog posts enjoy favored status with search engines.
- Blogs are incredibly easy to start and maintain with services such as blogger.com – but if you plan to do much with it, get your own domain name so you build content for yourself.
- Wordpress is perhaps the most popular software for creating stand-alone blogs. It’s free, and a huge developer community keeps delivering plug ins that make it a good choice for building small business sites, if you have some programming knowledge.
Other Social Media – The key to social media success is to join a conversation, not try to dominate it. Social media sites are a perfect fit for online public relations because they play to the strengths of PR professionals to build relationships. Key points:
Don’t Be a PR Purist
- Social media sites work well across all traditional PR functional areas – media, internal and community relations.
- Social sites provide instant feedback about products, consumer complaints and preferences.
- Popular social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr make excellent platforms for small business marketing.
- You must have a strategy and key messages to get the most from social media sites.
- Many companies now use social media sites for primary customer relationship management.
- The list of sites keeps growing: no one can use them all, and there is no need to.
If you’re a PR purist you may find some aspects of online public relations uncomfortable. That’s understandable, but if you to embrace it, you will open new avenues of business for yourself and your clients.
The fences built between marketing and public relations in many big companies don’t exist in small businesses. Let the convergence of pubic relations, marketing and customer relations work to your advantage.