Traditional Public Relations, or PR, has been around for centuries. Everyone is familiar with print mediums, advertisements, television spots, and all other marketing communications and physical promotional methods. In the past couple of decades, however, online PR has begun to take off. The Internet has made the world smaller in many ways and it is becoming increasingly easy to reach more people than ever before. Though the Internet has been around for a while, firms are just now starting to really understand how to use it to grow their business in terms of customer communication. Though there are plenty of avenues and tools online that can be used, as well as public relations professionals, understanding them and properly utilizing them to the best advantage can still be tricky.
Web Presence and Customer Service
Though it may not seem essential to have a full public relations program, it seems like to sell anything these days you need to have a website. When people hear about something unfamiliar to them the first thing they do is go online to do research. If you do not have a proper site that is both informative and accessible then you will have a very tough time finding success. This website should be the heart of your online PR presence. Online PR is still about influencing people, which can take the form of blogs and press releases on your website. This is an easy content addition that can either be managed completely in-house or outsourced to a good marketing content writer. This content should be informative and give the reader a call to action to further investigate and buy into what you are selling. It should also be the basis of getting the customer to feel like they are interested in hearing more of what you have to say, leading them to more active engagement.
Social Media for Public Relations
Social media is the king of allowing consumers to engage with a brand in ways they never could before. It allows the business to show some personality and really build a rapport with their customer base while giving the customer a way to provide feedback and feel like the brand hears and understands them. Being able to properly use social media can really strengthen a brand and build a great deal of loyalty to its core customers. Incorrectly using social media, however, can have the complete opposite effect. A business that simply schedules canned content in order to just make sure they have something out there is doomed to fail. This tactic is quite transparent and misses out on the point of social media. Businesses need to have a social media manager who is actively monitoring their accounts, trends, and current events to be able to quickly respond in an appropriate fashion. Being the first to come out with an excellent response to a national or international event can explode the awareness of your brand. Having an eye out for negative posts that link directly to your business and then appropriately communicating with the poster can easily diffuse negative situations and even turn things around to create a positive experience for the customer. Not doing so, however, can lead to a PR nightmare.
Content Creation and Influencer Marketing
A business does not need to be entirely responsible for content creation in order to run an effective online public relations program. Take advantage of other content creators and work out relationships where they promote you and your product in exchange for monitory or reciprocal compensation. If your customers tend to follow certain bloggers or YouTube personalities or Twitter accounts, seek these influencers out and find ways to get their work to benefit you as well. Influencers need inspiration for frequent content creation just as much as businesses need to build word of mouth buzz, so this can easily be a mutually beneficial relationship. Just make sure to do proper vetting and research on them before committing, just as you would any business partner, and keep an eye on their continued activity to ensure they are the kind of source you want your customers getting their information from.
SEO and PR Campaigns
A word must, of course, be said for search engine optimization and online advertisement. If it fits your target audience and your business has the money, search engines like Google have a mind-boggling amount of data available for anyone who wants to pay for it. This data can be used in your PR campaign to figure out exactly what your target audience is responding to and how to best reach them. Use it wisely. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a simple concept but can be difficult to execute so if you do not have the expertise in-house then you should hire for it or outsource to a consultant.
The key to having an effective online public relations campaign is being able to tie all of these tools together, which may involve the service of a public relations specialist. Drop the occasional product or website link into a social media post. Also, be sure to have all of your social media links visible on websites, shops, and blogs. Use press releases to drive traffic to particular areas of your website or social media profiles. Have reciprocal posts with affiliate blogs and websites, where in one post you promote them and in another, they mention and link back to you. The connections are endless and it is important to use them all if you have a wide target audience. Online medium usage is surprisingly variable even among the same target audience so you need to make sure you are reaching as many of them as possible on whatever medium they are most comfortable with.
There are more ways to have a presence online than most people are even aware of. This simple concept can quickly turn overwhelming. Rather than doing a poor job, do not be afraid to hire public relations specialists externally or use PR practitioners from a firm that specializes in online public relations campaigns marketing communications to ensure you get yours off the ground. There are a lot of ways that a consultant can get you on the right path, even if you have already tried and failed at building a presence yourself. Learn from them and give this part of your operation the attention it needs. Being able to master these skills can grow your business well beyond expectation.