CIPR Digital Impact Conference – 24 May

17 05 2010

There is a great digital PR conference lined up at the CIPR in London next week which I’m thrilled to be taking part in.   It takes place next Monday 24th May at the CIPR HQ in Russell Square, WC1.

Understanding and using digital channels should be part of what all of in public relations do, every day.  This one-day conference provides an opportunity to discuss ideas, hear the thoughts of some of the industry’s leading practitioners in digital PR and will show practical examples of how companies have successfully embraced social media.

The eminent list of speakers is as follows:

Paul Armstrong – Director of Social Media, Kindred

Drew Benvie – Managing Director, 33 Digital

Daljit Bhurji – Managing Director, Diffusion

Amanda Brown – Head of PR, First Direct

Rob Brown – Managing Director, Staniforth

Steve Earl – Managing Director, Speed Communications

Russell Goldsmith – Digital Media Director, markettiers4dc

Katy Howell – Managing Director, Immediate Future

Marshall Manson – Director of Digital Strategy, Edelman

Kieron Matthews – Director of Marketing, Internet Advertising, Bureau

Julio Romo – Communications and Social Media Consultant, twofourseven

Philip Sheldrake – Chartered Engineer, Founder and Partner of Influence Crowd.

There are still a few places so if you think you might be interested don’t hesitate and book now.





Why PR Needs to Wake-Up

4 03 2010

The bulk of the PR profession needs a wake up call and fast.   We have seen what is happening to print media at a regional level in the UK and US and the UK national newspaper heartland will be the next sector to feel the squeeze.  Never mind the quality of the Sunday papers, feel the width.  Not as bulky as they used to be are they?

Broadcast media is changing too, with event TV dominating schedules and more traditional content being driven by on-demand services.  The cosy relationships where PR people sit between journalists and clients trafficking ‘news’ just isn’t enough any more.

So here are five things every PR person should be thinking about.

1. Earned Media 

Media coverage achieved for clients in the digital world falls into three categories; bought, earned and owned.  ‘Bought media’ was always and is still the province of the advertising business.  ‘Earned media’ is the heartland of PR.  At one level this is just the online version of editorial but it is richer and deeper than that.  We should be collaborating to create content that will earn coverage.  Audio interviews, creative videos posted on YouTube and disseminated across the web as well as words and pictures are the collateral we must use.

 2. Owned Media 

We can create our own spaces on-line that have the capacity to become channels in their own right.  I firmly believe that PR people should blog but the concept of ‘owned media’ can extend much further.  Relevant content brings people to you.  The PR and corporate communications team at ASDA know this.  They have 18 million shoppers, mostly mums and they have used that weight to engage with the major parties during the coming general election and will be using their ‘owned’ channels to host political debate.

3. Reputation Online

“Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system. And that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”  These words were written by Clive Thompson in Wired almost three years ago. PR has always been about reputation management  and arguably a key determinant of reputation is the content on page one of a Google Search. Search therefore is very important to PR.

4. PR & SEO 

If you’re not sure what SEO is you may be in the wrong job.  The most important tool that search engine optimisation specialists have at their disposal is now the ‘press release’. They may in many cases be badly written, off message and even inaccurate but the SEO companies are all using them, with embedded links.   This is a serious threat to the PR industry as it stands.  If we don’t educate ourselves about the value of good editorial and link strategies as part of PR, we’ll be left behind.  Whatever you think about the idea of ‘social media releases’ when you send out content to the media you should embed links. 

5. Evaluation     

We’ve always claimed we don’t like rate card equivalent and then used it any way.  Well now is our chance.  So much of what is online can be measured, sorted and analysed and we need to know how to do this.  Every PR person should have a least a working knowledge of web analytics and should be able to manage tools for analysing conversations on-line.

All of these areas are natural extensions of traditional PR but that doesn’t mean we own them.  We need to stake our claim …or others will.





Snow Brings The Blog Traffic

11 12 2009

Adding snow to this blog has made Christmas come early.

The seasonal feature has increased traffic to the blog by more than 5% for the same period for the previous week.  The ‘snow’ feature is a WordPress plugin that allows you to make things a little more seasonal with a single click.

OK, it’s an entirely spurious claim and the blog traffic to this site fluctuates up and down by more than 5% most weeks.  However there is a slightly more serious point.  What really does drive blog traffic is dynamic content or put simply stuff that changes.  Usually that means new posts or new images but who is to say that adding a little frosting won’t make the site a little more appealing at this time of year.   Blogging about snow at this time of year also attracts the attention of the hordes of people Googling to see if we are going to have a white Christmas.  No harm in adding a little white hat SEO to the snow.





Google Says No Need to Tag Along

23 09 2009

It seems that meta tags are no longer worth the paper they are printed on.  Google does not actually use the tags that we add to our posts for search.  

At a recent event (the video is included below)  Matt Cutts who works as a software engineer specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO) at the Search Quality Group in Google, gave this somewhat startling information in response to a question.  He said that Google “disregards keyword meta tags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present”.  The reason being that they had been abused so extensively is the past.  Essentially this means that Google regards tagging as ‘black hat’ (or unethical SEO) irrespective of how responsibly the tagging is done. 

Google does however use the meta description (essentially the short summary tag) in some cases to offer a description of the page in the search results but they still don’t use this in the ranking.  So as far as Google is concerned the content is what matters (and the headline or the H1 tag as it is known in SEO circles).  So for the very first time I am going to add a blog post without meta tags…and hold my breath.

Google’s Matt Cutts





SEO and the Written Word

19 05 2009

In the rush to populate web copy with keywords the most important thing is sometimes forgotten.  The copy needs to well written, lively, interesting and relevant.  It is astonishing how often this is forgotten in the charge to upload text that will rank highly in Google.   

Engaging content can have a direct impact on search engine rankings and consequently on traffic.   Some websites sacrifice the need for good written content because their search engine optimisation advisors have influenced key words and their placement in the text to such an extent that the site no longer informs or entertains.

What this process fails to acknowledge is that the quality of the content is critical to receiving high rankings, because it will affect the number of pages viewed and the stickyness of the site.   Crafting words is a core skill for the majority of PR people.  We also need to consider how to deliver quality content in all of its other forms – still images, audio and video.  Whilst using the agency or in-house digital camera is useful for the old application for important work we will still tend to use a professional photographer.  The same should apply for audio and video content. 

Words still lie at the heart of all of this.  The right words will bring audiences but in the the wrong alignment they will drive them away, perhaps never to return.





Not All Content is King

18 05 2009

As PR communicators we need to be very careful about content.  PR people have a tendency to feel that if something is published then our goals have been achieved.   The ease with which things can now be published undermines that presumption.  The sheer volume of web content means that a lot of the stuff that appears on the net is of little interest to anyone other than the publisher.  That which has no interest will have no impact.

There is simply too much out there and many sites and pages will quite literally never be viewed by anyone other than their originators.  For print media cost is a barrier to entry for organisations wishing to act as publishers;  there needs to be a sufficient audience in order to generate revenue to keep a publication afloat.   What that has meant for PR people is that coverage, even in a niche publication would have some relevance and in almost every case we could quantify the circulation and readership and understand certain things about people who were reading the title.

We must not allow ourselves to be fooled that just because something appear on the web it has an audience.  It is similar to the old argument that it is not sufficient simply to measure column inches.  Fortunately there are a lot of tools at our disposal to measure what is going on on the web and the impact and authority of individual web spaces.  Many are freely available.  It is vital that we use them.





Sharing the Hyper Love

30 03 2009

heart-chainIf you want people to link to your content you need to start with good content.  You should also have clear and relevant outbound links from your site.   A persuasive argument for other sites to link to yours is that you have already linked to theirs – it’s called link love. Reciprocal linking works well but not all sites are of equal value.  It stands to reason that if you can engineer a reciprocal link from a site that ranks highly on Google that will deliver more than a link from a site that doesn’t.   An effective linking building strategy involves generating links that will drive traffic.

You should avoid working with companies that offer to create multiple false links; these are known as link farms and this is a form of ‘black hat’ search engine optimisation. Not only is this unethical but it is one of the best ways to get Google to eliminate your site or relevant content from their databases altogether.    By picking a few good sites, emailing them individually with details of exactly what you can offer and where you think a link might fit in with their existing content, you will not only get a greater response rate, but the links you get are sure to be far more valuable.

Finally do not treat the social web as if it exists in isolation.  One of the best ways of building interest in your content and persuading people to link their content yours is to have conversations and interaction in the real world.  Issue press notices about your content and send them to off line as well as on line media. Talk to as many people as you can about what you are doing.  Send links to interested parties in an email or DM them through a social network  – make sure they are likely to be interested, don’t spam them.  Spread the word, but make sure its relevant.  

This article is adapted from a more in depth piece in the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ published this week and available  from Amazon.





Link Building the New Cross Promotion

26 03 2009

For twenty years or more the marketing industry has been obsessed with the idea of integration.  The nature of the internet is such that if we don’t integrate our online communications may for ever languish in some digital backwater.  

The idea of a link or hyperlink is central to the concept of the world wide web.  If we want to increase traffic to our online content then we need to find ways of creating links that will take people to it.  You need to understand how links work and build linking strategies into your digital PR programmes.  You can if you choose, work with specialists in this area, but if budgets don’t allow there are some basics that you can learn and should implement. 

Unless you have used a search engine, following a link is one of the most common ways to find new content on the web.  A link suggests authority not just in the Technorati sense but in the literal sense.  If a site you trust offers to lead you somewhere for more information you are more likely to have a look.   Link building is about quantity, but for this reason it is also clearly about quality.  Links also elevate your Google rankings. Search engines give sites with good genuine links a higher ranking. 

In many senses the social web is about community and by having links to other places you are playing your part in the community. Effective and appropriate linking can make you part of a powerful network.





WOM on SocNets, is it the Future?

17 02 2009

Last night I got involved in a heated debate about PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) .  Partly because the debate was on twitter and it was late into the evening (I think most of us were on UK time) it was fast moving, free flowing and it also involved many of the people who know most about the emerging roles of digital PR.

The discussion became confusing at times…talk about distributed conversations.  I think however that the main points can be summarised as follows, (and there may be I admit a little bias towards my own views here):

  • Public relations on line can play a significant role in SEO or raising the rank and therefore importance of sites in Google and other search engines
  • It is an inexact science, there are probably lots of ways to make this work but they are not publicly available or widely discusssed in the PR community
  • Some SEO agencies know this and are hiring PR people
  • Some PR people know this and are hiring SEO people
  • The PR industry has lost out so far to the SEO industry in selling skills in this area to major companies and brands
  • Planning and use of analytics will be key to how the PR industry develops in the field
  • WOM in SocNets is the future (or even the present).

I want to take issue with the last point not because I disagree but because it points up a problem.  I’ve been in PR a long time and have been involved with the social web in various ways for a good few years but the phrase threw me and I had to look it up. When I found that it meant Word of Mouth in Social Networks I felt like a fool…of course.  Let’s demystify and let’s not be too enthusiastic about the next big thing before it happens.

It is true that social reputation and peer to peer recomendation will assert themselves in the digital space but let’s not downgrade search just yet.  I went to Twestival in Manchester and met lots of mates ….it was packed with PR people and digital marketing people, so I conclude that at the moment we are talking to each other a lot of the time.

For the time being search and content are critical for the PR industry but let’s keep and eye on the growing importance of SocNets.

Many thanks to Tim Hoang, Stephen Davies, Stephen WaddingtonJed Hallam, Jaz Cummins, Lewis Webb, Melanie Seasons, Pete Goold, Ian Delaney and many more!

Stop post (that’s stop press for the blogging era): read Stephen Waddington’s take on the debate here and Jed Hallam’s note from the geekfest here.





The Marriage of Search and PR

9 02 2009

1 + 1 = 1 by Grrrega. “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system, and that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”    These were the sage like words of Clive Thompson in a piece called the ‘The See-Through CEO’ in Wired. March 2007. He identified a major new challenge for the PR industry; the need to consider and deliver against the results of relevant search.

Many forms of PR related content are starting to rank highly in search.  Social networks have become important in terms of creating searchable and relevant content. Considering the increasing importance of public relations generated content we now need to deliver that content in a way that is itself optimised for search. The public relations industry needs to start adopting some of the techniques of search engine optimisation or SEO. For example the type of language that we use in our written output needs to use terms more likely to be used when our audiences are using search engines. We must avoid complex or convoluted terms and phrases that in the past have been favoured by some branding campaigns to more straightforward and descriptive terminology that will raise our search rankings.

The need for this and the positive results are becoming increasingly clear. Properly used editorial content can push web sites to the top of Google search rankings without spending a penny on traditional SEO.

 








<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: