One day, when sending a Twitter pitch to a reporter, I thought to myself: "Just seven years ago I was blasting an impersonal fax to a list of 100 nameless reporters and editors, then reporting the campaign's success by sifting through heaps of magazines and newspapers and working my scissoring and gluing magic to create a clip report."
Fast forward to 2012. Long gone are the days of shadowy media pitching, offline promotions, and untraceable success. Advances in the digital world have revolutionized media. Public relations (PR) digitization has improved the industry by facilitating more informal relationships between journalists and PR professionals, simplifying measurement via real-time Internet analytics, and allowing greater accessibility for the general public to influence a company's reach.
"So, where am I missing the boat on this digitization?" you ask. Whether optimizing your content for search engines or pitching your company's news via social media, you may have multiple areas in which to improve your online reach.
Here are five tips to master the digitization of public relations.
1. Optimize your content
Creating a riveting press release about your product or service is one thing; getting people to actually see your release is another. One key tactic for maximizing your online exposure is to optimize the content within your release for search engines (search engine optimization, or SEO). The process is fairly simple:
- Navigate to the Google Keyword tool.
- Type in three or four words or phrases that relate to your drafted press release.
- Fill out the captcha, and a list of related keywords will appear (sorted by volume and related search engine competition).
- Select two or three keywords that have a high volume of searches and fairly low competition.
- Integrate the selected keywords into your press release a few times each, and (if applicable) hyperlink the keywords to relevant pages on your site.
2. Use Twitter to pitch reporters
According to a report by Cision and George Washington University (GWU), 52% of journalists have Twitter accounts. And that was two years ago! See an opportunity here?
I have successfully pitched to USA Today, The Huffington Post, SimplyHired.com, AOL.com, and many trade industry publications via Twitter direct messages.
More and more, journalists receive their news via social networks. Use the social channel to start the dialogue with new reporters within your beat. You won't be disappointed.
If you haven't yet created a list of journalists on Twitter in your niche, use tools such as MuckRack.com, a website that lists journalists on Twitter by beat. Then follow those journalists on Twitter and start engaging them by responding to some of their tweets and direct messaging them. You can also conduct a simple Twitter search by hashtag or keyword to research journalists or media outlets in your beat.
3. Be selective in your connections
I recently attended the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association Summit and a session titled "Blogs, Bribes and Blasphemy: Engaging Influencers in a Changing World." In that presentation, the speakers underscored the importance of targeting a few ringleaders in your industry rather than a list of 100 nontargeted folks.
"Influencer marketing" is a tactic that has emerged for targeting key people rather than a target market as a whole. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association defines an influencer as "a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace." Influencer marketing focuses on social influence to advocate for your product or service. Though you are connecting with a smaller pool of people, your reach via those influencers will double or triple a standard noninfluencer-focused pitch (the age-old "quality over quantity" approach).
Use that tactic in your PR campaigns by creating a list of the top 25 influencers in your niche. Research their social media authority via tools such as Klout, track their online and offline presence and authority, and then start building relationships with them so you have a shoe-in the next time you are promoting a specific event or product launch.
4. Send press releases via nontraditional media
Case in point: My former employer's blog gets 40 times the number of unique visitors that the company's news and media room gets. The Cision/GWU media survey also found that 89% of journalists use blogs to source their stories.
In addition to posting your news release on your company's newsroom, repurpose it as a blog post and use your social media networks to pitch it. Use event posts, video blogs, podcasts, and even infographics to promote your business. Nowadays, nearly all journalists source news from blogs, so why not repurpose?
5. Track your success
Unlike 10 years ago, when press releases were very difficult to track, the Internet has made measurement much easier. Media platforms such as Cision and Meltwater News allow you to track media placements and create customized clip reports with corresponding metrics. Google Alerts provides real-time placements from your email inbox.
You can use data on sites such as Compete.com and Alexa.com to track the number of visitors that have viewed your placed article, and you can create a custom URL via Google's custom URL Builder and link-shortening services such as bitly to track the click-throughs on each link placed in your release.
Allie Gray Freeland is PR director at NYC- and Phoenix- based iAcquire, which offers digital marketing services that encompass organic search, digital PR, and social media.
LinkedIn: Allie Gray Freeland