The transition from old to new technology creates both challenges and opportunities for communications professions. The field of public relations is directly tied to the publishing industry which of course, is directly connected to business and consumer information discovery and consumption. The migration from offline to online has left these industries in a state of flux and traditional PR becoming increasingly digital is no exception.
There are tactical challenges as well as strategic. For example, the shift towards digital communications means a new set of tools must be learned in order to accomplish today's PR goals. Now more than ever, public relations professionals need to familiarize themselves with a new arsenal of tools to adjust and thrive in a digital world.
Which tools and tactics are most effective for online PR? What are the best practices and guidelines for using each tool appropriately? Here are five tools every digital PR practitioner should have in their online PR toolbox.
Search Engine Optimization - Search is the top method for finding information online. Keyword optimizing news content is a key device for digital PR professionals. News content that is ripe for optimization ranges from press releases to media coverage to digital assets such as images or video. Optimizing news content for relevant and popular phrases can help that content rank well in the search engines. Improved search visibility helps marketing efforts, online reputation and it can attract analysts, journalists and bloggers researching your industry.
Social Media - Understanding social media relations is an important part of a digital PR effort. The audiences a company is trying to reach or influence are spending time on and being influenced by social media. Social participation in a digital PR program means connecting with and engaging influentials and customers to perpetuate a positive brand image as well as identifying and empowering brand ambassadors. Proactive content optimization of social media content and building relationships with fans helps dispel negative brand attention and accentuate what's positive. It is essential to be open with and useful to social communities and to adhere to both implicit and explicit 'social rules' rather than just dropping links to what you're promoting.
Digital Assets - "If it can be searched on, it can be optimized". The video, audio, podcasts, images, and many other digital assets hosted on most company websites represent many opportunities for pull based PR. Optimizing digital assets with relevant keywords and either promoting or submitting to vertical search engines like YouTube and Flickr can provide additional exposure to media that conduct online research as well as end customers. In a survey of journalists and reporters conducted by TopRank, 91% of respondents indicated they frequently use search engines to do their job. Optimizing more than standard text content for PR creates additional entry points to news content and can improve search based discovery.
Blogging - When done right, a company blog can be an incredible PR asset. A company blog is an opportunity for a brand to create and publish its own content to a relevant online audience of content creators. Well-optimized and linked blog posts can rank well in the search engines making them easy to find for journalists and bloggers researching stories. Blogger relations is often more successful when the company being pitched has it's own blog to point to.
Search and Social Media Monitoring - With so many content creators online, the chance for both negative and positive brand mentions increases dramatically. Yet many tools exist to help the online PR pro effectively monitor brand reputation. Companies can set up free alerts using tools like Google Alerts, Social Mention or Twitter to watch for mentions of their brand name, competitors' names, industry news, and important key names. Social media monitoring data can be used to mine new ideas, keep tabs on competitors, identify brand ambassadors and address any negative press quickly and directly. Monitoring search engine rankings of news content can provide important feedback for news optimization efforts and provide insight into search traffic effectiveness.
A well-stocked PR toolbox should at the very least contain these five tools and the skill sets to get the most value from them. Whether it's to identify and build relationships with influential bloggers or making it easy for journalists to find your company/client when researching stories, standard PR tactics can no longer be relied upon. Creating and promoting content on the social web in addition to leveraging keyword optimization can provide PR practitioners substantial advantages over their legacy minded peers who continue to rely on press releases, email and phones as their sole tools for gaining media coverage.
What digital PR tools would you add to this list? How are you using blogging, social media and SEO in your online PR efforts?
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