You might be getting some website traffic from your press releases, but when was the last time a reporter contacted you for a feature story based on something they received down the wire? Although there are still benefits, press releases have lost the impact they used to have. If you’re seeking to gain major publicity and meaningful website traffic, press releases are not the magic bullet. Instead, marketers need to consistently develop relationships with influencers online and offline to gain the publicity they’re looking for on behalf of their brands.
So while the decline of the press release may be saddening for you, especially if it’s been a pivotal part of your strategy in the past, don’t lose hope. There are practical steps you can start taking today to build and maintain the brand recognition you’re looking for.
1. Influencer Marketing
a) Identify Key Influencers Online
I’ve written about influencer marketing before, so you may already be aware of this. But influencer marketing is like online public relations in that you identify influential people online who are reaching your target audience, develop relationships with them, and get them to reference your brand in some way. They then drive their fans to your website, just as a traditional journalist would get their readers to learn about your company through a magazine or newspaper. You can read more about that here.
So how do you identify influencers? We’ve used tools such as BuzzSumo.com and GetLittleBird.com and have been happy with them. As with any tool, both have their pros and cons, but each offers a free version for you to experiment with. There are also more substantial tools out there that cost more depending on your needs and budget. Also, we regularly help our clients identify influencers so please contact us if you’re looking for some help in this area.
b) Develop Relationships With Online Influencers
One you identify the ideal influencers for your brand and campaign, start to develop a relationship with them. Effective influencer partnerships rarely happen overnight. High quality influencers want to make sure that what your brand is trying to accomplish is also in line with their personal brand. Influencers are focused on maintaining their reputation with their audience so who they partner with, and how they partner with them, is something they consider thoughtfully. Be prepared to invest some time and money into the relationship, but you can expect great things when they have a large audience.
c) Create Opportunities for Influencers to Share: In-Person and Online
As I mentioned, how influencers partner with brands is just as important as who the influencers are. Make sure you develop campaigns in line with the expectations of the influencer’s audience. Also, make sure your efforts are shareable and measurable. Giveaways work great with some audiences, quizzes another, and sometimes an infographic or other quality content is enough to get people talking. Evaluate your resources, your audience and your goals to come up with the best type of content for your campaign.
2. Social Listening
a) Know what people are saying about you
Public relations is not just about getting influential people to talk about you. It’s about being aware of what your audience is saying about you. For that reason, social listening is a crucial part of any online public relations effort. Use a social listening tool to monitor brand and non-brand mentions, and keep an eye on competitor mentions in the social space. You can use news monitoring tools like Google Alerts to see when other online content is created that mentions your brand. To learn more about social listening and recommended tools, read our previous post here.
As you’re getting started with your online PR efforts, you might be tempted to put social listening on the back burner, but it’s truly an essential part of your overall effort. It’s easy to overlook what the general public is saying, assuming it won’t have that much impact. But to do this would be a big mistake. Here is an article on major PR disasters that occurred when major brands ignored negative social media comments.
When people mention your brand online, whether or not you think they have a large influence, engage with them as much as possible. Even simple interactions by your brand with your audience leave a lasting impact. Leave positive impressions by personalizing and using humor as much as possible. Jet Blue and Old Spice are great examples of brands who have done this well.
c) Identify ambassadors
Beyond listening and responding to online commentary, identify ambassadors of your brand. Ambassadors are people who, on their own, rave about how much they love your brand. These are the kinds of people you want to keep talking. Give them a reason to do so by offering incentives and encouragement. Send them exclusive offerings, free products, or other things relevant to your brand that will make your new ambassador super excited and share more about you online.
3. Healthy Link Building and Content Creation
a) Identify websites looking for article submissions
Link building has developed a bad reputation over the years, but it’s still very valuable for establishing higher search engine rankings and gaining more website traffic. However, because of Google’s various algorithm updates, it’s imperative that they types of websites that do link to you are quality and relevant. So put a little more elbow grease into your research. Find websites that are reputable, are reaching your target audience, and are relevant to your brand. Contact their content managers through their blog or contact page and find out what kinds of content they’d be interested in. Then create content useful to them.
You can also search online for industry publications and try to view their editorial calendars. Sometimes publications will make public their request for articles. You can submit articles on behalf of your brand, or that mention your brand. But remember that these publications are probably not looking for advertorials or anything that overtly promotes your company. Instead, write as an expert in the space who happens to represent your brand.
b) Create shareable content
Create quality content on your own website that people will want to share. Make sure you have a regular email list that people can subscribe to and stay updated on your content. Readers can then easily share this with their network. Online influencers may also repost depending on the quality and relevance to their audience. When it makes sense, provide embeddable code for people to repost content such as infographics onto their site, ensuring that you get the links and references you’re looking for.
c) Promote through social media
Make sure that whether someone else publishes your content, or you create quality content on your on site, that you’re sharing about it on social media. Social media is perhaps the most important way to connect with influencers online. Make sure your brand is active on the social networks that are most important for your audience and influencers. For more information on choosing the best social networks for your brand you can check out this article.
First Things First
Now you may be thinking, “This is a lot of stuff to do, where do I get started?” That question will depend on where your current team’s skillsets lie. I’d recommend beginning where it’s easiest and building on your efforts as you go. But definitely include quality content creation, because that’s the foundation for all other efforts. It will be hard for people to share about your brand, or you to promote your brand to others through social media or otherwise, if you don’t have interesting content to be shared.