Online Business Strategies to Survive the Recession – Effective Public Relations

Public relations is really a broad category of free promotion you may do online. It includes press releases as well as any other newsworthy type of communications you may create about your business (i.e. video, radio, TV).

The best part of using public relations to promote your business online is that it gives you a lot more credibility than traditional advertising because it is perceived as being newsworthy.

This is the element of your business you really need to focus on in order to be effective here: the campaigns you are creating are news; they are newsworthy.

The first thing you need to do is ask yourself: What is happening in my business that the press or my potential customers want to know about? Answering this question correctly is crucial to the success of your public relations campaign.

So, when you’re first planning your campaign, decide what is news in your business. If you’re really not sure, then I would recommend you take a look at a press release site like PR Web or a news site. Most newspapers don’t tell readers that many of their stories are actually based on press releases. (It’s a labor intensive process putting out a daily publication so newspapers rely heavily on press releases for news.)

Once you’ve decided what is news, then start constructing your press releases. Submit your press releases to the appropriate sites. To increase your exposure make sure that you include Google, Yahoo, and MSN news as sites you want your press releases distributed on.

With Web 2.0, you may want to create what I call “mini stories.” A mini story is a title, short description, and keywords for your main story. You post these on bookmarking sites like Digg, Propeller and others. This is another way to spread your news, and it builds backlinks to your website, raising your rankings in the search engines.)

Finally, as part of your PR campaign, consider video. Depending on the type of news you are creating, videos may be the best way to spread your news, especially if it allows you to demonstrate your product or illustrate something about your business. Videos are highly popular online, and your readers will love it. Submit your videos to video and news sites.

Just remember: think news and inform your visitors, as well as the press, about news in your business. Include a local angle to your stories and submit them to your local papers, TV, and radio stations. This will help you get more traffic and increase your credibility.

Who Needs A Public Relations Specialist?

An organization’s reputation, branding, profitability, growth, and future success depend on how effectively they reach and motivate their targeted audiences. Public relations specialists are communication and media professionals acting as advocates for businesses, hospitals, medical professionals, corporations, universities, nonprofit associations and other organizations. Their specialty is building and promoting positive relationships with targeted audiences for their client’s.

Entrepreneurs, professional service providers, small business owners and business managers are increasingly looking to Public Relations Specialists for assistance with strategic planning.

What does a Public Relations Specialist do?

PR Professionals or firms handling publicity for individuals or small organizations often deal with all aspects of the job. They are in involved in making and maintaining contacts and relationships, strategizing and planning, and preparation of promotional materials. They either manage or are directly involved in advertising or sales promotional work in support of marketing.

Depending on the organization’s needs, PR Specialists are involved with the following:

  • Media relations
  • Press Releases
  • Press Conferences
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Media Tours
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Interview Preparation and Coaching
  • Governmental Relations
  • Employee Relations
  • Investor Relations
  • Reputation Management
  • Crisis Management & Communications

The Public Relations Process

There are a number of widely accepted “Public Relations Process Models”. One of the more popular is the process model by Sheila C. Crifasi (2000) which uses the acronym “ROSIE” to define a five-step process of “Research, Objectives, Strategies, Implementation and Evaluation.”

As with just about any professional service, the project starts with some due-diligence and analysis. Objectives are defined along with the strategies to achieve those goals. Media tools are selected and prepared at this stage. Implementation includes materials preparation and release. Program success or failure is determined in the Evaluation stage.

In recent years the Internet has greatly contributed to the selection and accessibility of media tools with real time feedback. These tools are highly prized by marketing and public relations professionals because they provide immediate information on a program’s effectiveness.

The principal instrument for most publicity campaigns is the “press release”, which provides the mass media with the raw material and background for a news story. There are several on-line Press Release Agencies with targeted syndicated feeds to thousands of journalists world wide, such as PRWeb (www.prweb.com). The better on-line Press Agents provide the original publicist with continual “real time” feedback, including how many journalists have read the News Release.

The client organization’s website statistics is another valuable online analytical tool is. Most website hosting companies provide options for access to a detailed statistical tool such as WebTrends (www.webtrends.com). Statistics are updated on a daily basis allowing trends to be spotted at the beginning of a publicity campaign. This near real time feedback helps provide the necessary information required by professionals to effectively manage a campaign while maximizing impact and ROI (Return on Investment).

Another popular publicity tool is “article submission”. As with the Press Release, there are also good sources for targeted and syndicated Article Submission on the Internet such as GoArticles (www.goarticles.com). These articles are often picked up by other websites generating valuable links and targeted traffic to a client’s website.

Selecting a Public Relations Firm

When choosing a PR Firm an organization is selecting the professionals who will be molding its image for clients and customers, the public and for the media. Image is reality in many societies, this decision can have far-reaching effects.

Here are some suggestions on how to select a PR Firm:

1. Determine your most important PR needs. For Example; Are you launching a new product or service? Are you in a crisis management situation? Do you need to establish a relationship with investors?

2. Determine how long you will need the PR services if possible. Is it a long term or even permanent goal such as establishing and maintaining a relationship with investors, or is it a short term project such as promoting a break-through surgical procedure? Remember most PR Firms will ask for at least a 6 month commitment in order to become established and demonstrate affectivity.

3. Research PR Firms. Ask colleagues and business acquaintances? O’Dwyer’s Directory is a good Internet resource. If you are looking for someone local, specify the geographical region in your Internet search. Many PR Firms and Individuals specialize. When doing Internet research on PR Firms, some may have “Case Studies” which reveal details about strategic successes.

4. Conduct phone interviews with the person who would be handling the account if you were to select that agency. Strongly consider similar experience and personal or corporate compatibility throughout the phone and in face to face interviews.

5. Ask for and check references. Most PR Firms have an on-line presence which usually sports a client list. New or Small Firms will often be less expensive than larger firms have more resources to throw at a large project with time constraints. Smaller firms tend to specialize and may know your business very well.

6. Conduct meetings with the prospective candidates and present your program requirements. Look for genuine interest and healthy idea generation. Larger Firms may send an account representative to a meeting. Ask to meet with the PR specialist who will actually be doing the work, especially if long term compatibility is important.

The Escalating Demand for Corporate Accountability

The need for professional public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment is igniting demand for Public Relations Specialists by businesses, organizations and institutions of all sizes. The value of a company is measured by its balance sheet, but continued success is determined by the quality of its public visibility.

The escalating public, investor and governmental demand for corporate accountability will continue to place emphasis on building public confidence and favorable client image, which are best managed by Public Relations Professionals.

How Important is Public Relation Campaigns to Your Company?

Every company whether large or small should develop a press kit for distribution to media outlets and other news sources. The digital age is here and the greater number of sources that will publish your press releases online the greater your web presence will be in the future, as search engines index these sites and picks up the content. Your press release should contain keywords that you use to promote your product or service to your customers and words that will help you rise to the top of the search engines. Your pr program is another channel for branding your company as well.

Some basic information about your company, products, or services should be contained in your press kit. A press kit allows for easy distribution of company news to media outlets and other news sources. The following is a list of items you should have in your media kit.

Press Kit:

o Catalogs or Brochures

o Management Biographies

o Photos of your products or service

o Testimonials

o Company logos

o News Worthy Press Releases

o Photos of key employees

o Terms & Conditions for proper use of your company logo and/or trademarks

Another good way to build pr for your company is to have a press area on your website. This area should contain press releases from your company so the search engines can index the pages. Content is king! This will help in bringing your website up in the search engine rankings to help bolster favorable public perception about your company. Also, include ways for the media outlets to download copies of your latest press releases and company news (i.e. RSS, simple syndication Feed is Good) A digital press kit is fast and easy. You may want to require a non-formal registration so you can keep track of who is publishing your material. A few simple of tips for creating your press release can increase the publics’ perception about your company.

Tips:

o Always make sure whatever you are writing about in news worthy

o Maximize your product or service keywords through-out the press release

o Always include some response generating mechanism (i.e. special phone number, website landing page, email address, or contact person).

o When writing try to create a picture in your customers’ mind of what it is you are offering.

o Make every press release very exciting.

A good pr program will help your company gain valuable customers’ and gain favorable public perception about your company. 80% of all internet users’ research companies, services, and products on the web before they commit to making a purchase (Source: Marketingsherpa.com) and now is a good time as any to build your public relations programs to bolster your company into favorable standing with the general public.