Online PR Archives - Stephan Spencer

Social Media! Web 2.0! Twitter! Some other random buzzword!

By | Branding, Online PR, Social Networking | 4 Comments

I realized while writing my last post about press releases optimized for social media and SEO that “social media” may not mean anything to some readers and to others (particularly the early adopter types) it may mean the world. Some folks even react to the term with religious fervor.

But you know what, “social media” isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. Nor is Web 2.0. Nor is Twitter.

I know it’s what everyone in the blogosphere keeps buzzing about, and when you hear it enough it makes you want to get in on the action. But guess what? Most people in your target market I bet don’t have a clue what such buzz words mean, nor how to use them even if they did. The fact of the matter is, not every new thing will be right for your business.

So what I’m saying is: Don’t just get involved in something because everyone else is. If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, does that mean you should too? (with the exception of bungee jumping, of course! ;) ) If you are going to get involved with a new technology, don’t just jump head first without taking the time to understand what you are about to get into.

For example… a lot, and I mean A LOT, of social media sites will start ranking for your name if you use them heavily and garner several links pointing to your profile pages. Because of this, it they can be used as great reputation management tools and push down some bad press. But at the same time you can inadvertently misuse them and end up putting a face of your business forward that you don’t want the public to see.

You’ve been warned.

Optimize Your Press Releases for SEO and for Social Media

By | Online PR, Search Engines | 2 Comments

The press release is an often overlooked factor for online marketing success. Press releases not only promote your company/brand and raise your online profile, they can also increase targeted traffic by helping with your SEO. Specifically, the release can – in its own right – gain visibility in the web search results and the news search results (e.g. Google News and Yahoo News). And the release can boost your own site’s rankings by building quality backlinks.

If you aren’t writing press releases, you should be. Or if you are but you aren’t optimizing them for search engines and for social media, you should be.

A standard, run-of-the-mill, un-optimized press release about a new hire or a promotion within the company won’t do much for you on its own. Booorrring! I think I speak for all journalists when I say that I do not seek out press releases nor do I have any patience for pitches that are merely press releases. As a freelance journo who writes for Multichannel Merchant and MarketingProfs and various other pubs – and as a blogger – I get plenty of press release pitches and they only serve to annoy me. Even clever tactics to get the journalist’s/blogger’s attention like mentioning him/her in a blog post may not work anymore as we all have gotten a lot more jaded because of the ever lowering signal to noise ratio.

This means you have to be smart about the press releases you churn out.

If the news releases aren’t terribly interesting, or if they aren’t written with search engines in mind (and therefore are keyword-rich), or if they aren’t syndicated to the right outlets, or if they aren’t “optimized” to include key elements like text links and multimedia calls-to-action, then they won’t be terribly successful at driving traffic to your website.

Here are some of the outlets you could syndicate your press release out to:

All of the above sites offer various packages/levels of optimization and social media plays. For example, PR Newswire allows for embedded keyword-rich links which will help improve the search ranking of the linked page for the targeted key phrase. Note that other sites that pick up your press release from PR Newswire probably won’t retain the links that you’ve embedded into the body of the release. So you’re really only “buying” a link from PRNewswire.com when you pay the extra fee for the embedded links; but it’s still probably worth doing. In addition to working text links into the copy, write the press release’s title and body copy as you would any other search engine optimized copy. Do your keyword research using some of the available tools and include the important keywords prominently in the title and body.

Beyond the search engine optimization aspects, there’s also the social media optimization that will help your release get syndicated into the social media realm. There’s an excellent social media press release template you can use as a starting point, which will remind you to include such key things as:

  • a link to your “News Releases” RSS feed
  • multimedia call-to-action (e.g. “download white paper”)
  • photos (product pictures, executive’s headshot)
  • podcast feed and/or MP3 file links
  • Skype and IM addresses
  • link and RSS feed to a del.icio.us page containing relevant historical, trend, market, product and competitive content sources (which you should keep up-to-date so it continues to be a resource to journos who subscribe to this content source)

One last thing I’ll mention about press releases… you should try to keep your frequency up too, just like with blog posts. A single press release per year isn’t going to do much for you. Plan to push out press releases throughout the year.

To All the PR People Clueless about How to Talk to Bloggers: Stop Pitching Me!

By | Blogging, Email, Online PR | One Comment

I’m so sick of hearing from PR “professionals” who don’t have a clue about how to pitch bloggers. It’s obvious they don’t even read my blog. This is spam, pure and simple. It’s just the next evolution of spam – the progeny of the “reciprocal link request.” I used to get those every day before I started blocking unknown senders (i.e. those not in my extensive “white list”) using SpamArrest challenge-response. Frustratingly, SpamArrest doesn’t keep the PR flaks away, because they respond to the SpamArrest challenge-response test, thus proving they are warm bodies.

Blogger-spamming PR flaks need to understand that bloggers will not respond positively to getting spammed with press releases. Indeed, bloggers love to out them on their blogs. (Any PR is good PR? I don’t think so!) So, in that same vein, for your reading pleasure, I include a real example that just arrived in my inbox today (congratulations, Stella Parkes, if that’s your real name).

The moral of the story, for those not in the PR industry: Don’t ever hire a PR firm that does “blogger relations” like this. Or if you already have a firm doing this on your behalf, fire them.

Dear Stephan
Ive been reading your site and as you write about email marketing I wanted to get in touch to see whether you are interested in receiving relevant news from Epsilon International, the UK arm of the US-based email marketing business?

We aim to send only newsworthy stories for consideration and hope that getting a heads up on research findings or changes to our business will be interesting. If at any time you want us to stop then send me an email and I will remove you from our press list.

Below is a news release about a new senior hire  Jon Maddison  who has joined Epsilon as its first client services director. If this is not relevant then please let me know. In the near future we have some research findings, which may be of interest.

Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.

Stella Parkes

For Epsilon International

EPSILON INTERNATIONAL STRENGTHENS SERVICE OFFERING WITH APPOINTMENT OF FIRST CLIENT SERVICES DIRECTOR
Jon Maddison hired from Loyalty Management Group to boost senior team
www. epsilon. com/international

Epsilon International, the global arm of the worlds largest email marketing services business, has hired Jon Maddison as its first UK client services director.

[...rest of verbose and pointless press release omitted...]

Stella Parkes
Account manager
Renegade Media Ltd

PR for media and creative businesses

Office: +44 (0)1452 760 147
Mobile: +44 (0)7740 432 112
Email: stella@renegademedia.net

Real Social Media Friends

By | Branding, Online PR, Social Networking | One Comment

Social networking is all about being social and networking – duh ;) The question is: How do you do this; what does that mean? It means being active in the community; it’s saying thanks to people who vote your stories up; it’s responding to comments on your blog; it’s posting comments on other folks’ blogs. It’s starting topics of conversation and being a part of other conversations.

Be careful though, it is very easy to destroy your online reputation by being a jerk, so watch what you say. Don’t just go and type in your gut reaction to things like you would if you were having a conversation with someone. The same care and attention in crafting responses is required in social networks as in email, since the emotional cues that are present in in-person and over-the-phone interactions are missing in online communications. You have all the time in the world to make your communications and your online persona funny, witty, insightful, thoughtful, ingenious. So take that time. Ultimately, however, your true character is going to shine through – but this is a good thing!

Being honest and open with people is what will net you real friends – friends that if you happen to be in the same city will buy you a drink, show you around, or even put a good word in for you if you’re looking for a job. It’s these kind of real social media friends that will bend over backwards to help you out if they can. If you’re a freelancer or a business owner, they might even recommend you to people they know.

Just by being yourself in social networks you’ll find that you are making friends with people of similar interests and humor types – people with similar personalities that actually like YOU and not just your online presence.

Company names don’t always translate well to domain names

By | Branding, Online PR, Search Engines, Web Marketing | 7 Comments

Be careful when converting your company name / brand name into an (available) domain name; it can have embarrassing repercussions.

I was reminded of this fact recently when seeing an email in my inbox that was sent to multiple recipients, including myself. One of the recipients was someone at arsecommerce.com. This domain name may appear rather ordinary to us Americans. But to those who speak “the Queen’s English” – including those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – I bet they get a chuckle when they see it. I can imagine them thinking to themselves “Is this the company that put the “arse” in commerce?”. The company is ARS Ecommerce, not Arse Commerce.

Company names that work well in one context may not work so well in another. I remember a classic example of this from a hilarious piece in Business 2.0 magazine (circa 2001) called “Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History“. Here’s the money quote:

In October 1998, an e-commerce software vendor launches with the name Accompany, which, when said aloud, sounds exactly like “a company.” As in “Hi, I’m calling from Accompany.” “Which company?” “Accompany.” And so forth. It changes its name to MobShop in March 2000.

In my post on the News.com blog titled “Eleven steps to buying a domain name that doesn’t suck, I give another classic example of a domain name faux pas: therapistfinder.com. No, it’s a site for finding therapists, not rapists.

You also have to consider whether your choice of domain name will get you inadvertently blocked by email firewalls or the search engines’ adult filters.

Take for example this parts store – partsexpress.com – hyphenating the two words would have been a good idea. Ditto for whorepresents.com, an agency that represents celebrities.

Here are a few other examples of domain names gone horribly wrong:

  • cumstore.co.uk for Cumbria Storage Systems, Ltd.
  • choosespain.com to travel in Spain, pain-free!
  • mammotherection.com deals with modern architecture and engineering
  • cummingfirst.com is for a church in Cumming, Georgia

While these are pretty funny (and/or disturbing, depending upon your point-of-view), these are reputation management nightmares. Sadly, they were all preventable — usually with merely a well-placed hyphen or change in keywords. NYCanal.com could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment by choosing ny-canal.com or newyorkcanal.com instead.

Preserve PageRank with an Easy Fix

By | Online PR, Online Retail, Search Engines | No Comments

Big name companies often miss out on one of the basic concepts of SEO: Canonicalization, which means “identifying and consolidating to one, definitive source.” How are they missing out? Grab a handful of your favorite companies and see whether or not they have a http://www.yourdomain.com and a http://yourdomain.com that leads to the same page. You’d be surprised how many “culprits” there are out there that don’t have a 301 permanent redirect in place to preserve their home page’s Page Rank. By having two sets of pages out there, it creates duplicate content because the search engines see pages based on their URLs. So instead of splitting your Page Rank between two, identical URLs, take control over your traffic and make sure you have a 301 permanent redirect in place.

For more on this topic, read my full post on my CNet: Searchlight blog.

Link building into “Blog Carnivals”

By | Blogging, Online PR, Search Engines | One Comment

You may or may not have heard of a blog carnival. Blogging colleague Toby Bloomberg first introduced me to the concept and I must say, as a link building afficionado, my eyes lit up at the potential these traveling columns have for building links.

A blog carnival is, in effect, a column on a particular topic that is passed on from blog to blog, with each blogger adding their own thoughts or findings to that topic.

If you have expertise, for example, in nonprofit marketing, you can join the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants. There you will find other members of the nonprofit blog carnival adding posts on this specialty topic.

Think of the potential. By participating as a host (dare I say, carny?), all the other host members of the blog carnival will link to you.

Each issue/edition will link to a handful of blogs and sites as well, so if you have something useful and intelligent to say on the topic, you should submit your link for consideration by the host(s). And even if you don’t actively participate, it’s good to get on the radar of those contributing to it. You never know, they may see one of your articles or blog posts and discuss it within the carnival. Just by reaching out you may see your site mentioned as a useful resource. Now that’s potential.

Aftermath of the Kryptonite Blogstorm

By | Blogging, Online PR | 6 Comments

It’s been a rough ride for Kryptonite Locks. Last September a blogstorm erupted — due to their unresponsiveness after the discovery that an ordinary Bic pen could pick their bike locks — costing them an estimated $10 million. It all happened so quickly, as you can see below:

Chart showing the chronology of the Kryptonite blogstorm

(Source: Fortune, 2005)

But 10 months later, online Kryptonite still publicly suffers from the aftermath. As you can see, it’s not their home page that ranks #1 or #2 for “kryptonite” in Google, but their product recall pages that bloggers had Googlebombed to those top positions. Worse yet, the #5 position is occupied by a blogger (Engadget.com) who rails on Kryptonite, complete with video.

Google search results for kryptonite

In a sense, Google (as well as the other engines) “ear marks” victims of blogstorms. I learned last week at Williamsburg while on vacation with my family what “ear marking” originally referred to: someone put in the stocks would have their earlobes nailed to the stocks. Then when it came remove them, their ears would be torn, as a form of permanent public humiliation. So when you saw someone with torn ear lobes, you’d know immediately that the person had been in the stocks at one point in time. The 21st century equivalent: the top Google results for your company name endure long after you’ve been blogstormed.

PR in the blogosphere

By | Blogging, Online PR | 5 Comments

Public relations in the blogosphere seems to operate under a new set of rules than traditional PR. With traditional PR you hire a PR firm that has relationships with various journalists and media. With the new PR, you start your own blog (assuming of course you have something worthwhile to say) and you work to become one of the blogging elite. The goal is to get the more influential bloggers to notice you and blog about you. You wouldn’t just leave this to chance; you’d help the process along. If, for example, you want to catch Scoble’s eye, then you would say something interesting that somehow relates to Scoble and work in a mention of his name. Scoble, like many other bloggers, follows what’s being said about him in the blogosphere by subscribing to a PubSub search results feed for the word “scoble.” If Scoble likes your post, you could end up with a mention on Scoble’s link blog or, better still, on the Scobleizer blog.

Imagine telling a PR person 10 years ago that, in the future, the way to catch the eye of various journalists is to become a journalist yourself and then write about THEM, that PR person would think you were off your rocker. My, how times have changed!

As an up-and-coming blogger, you might be tempted to brown-nose the A-List bloggers. Don’t kiss up to them, but don’t denigrate them either. This isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule, just a suggested guideline. Some bloggers are quite open to being taken to task. They even encourage it.

There is a line of course that shouldn’t be crossed. Always act in good taste. Scoble himself described, during our MarketingProfs Thought Leaders Summit last month on business blogging, how it really isn’t a “line,” it is more like a “membrane.” There is give-and-take, and flexibility with what’s ok to say in your blog and what’s not, particularly as you build rapport with different bloggers in the blogosphere and you build up your reputation. But don’t push too hard or too often, or that “membrane” may rupture!

Now I wonder if Scoble will blog about this post…

Getting noticed in the blogosphere part 2

By | Blogging, Online PR | One Comment

As a follow-on to yesterday’s post about getting your blog noticed by influentials, i.e. A-List bloggers, I thought I would describe a scenario just recently presented to me.

I have been asked by analyst Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester Research if I would be willing to blog about their upcoming boot camp on integrated marketing on May 5. It’s a full-day intensive workshop being held at their offices in Cambridge. I said “Sure, I’d be happy to mention it, but I don’t think it will get picked up by other bloggers and thus it won’t spread through the blogosphere.” So the effectiveness of such a promotion strategy is limited.

A-List bloggers, like everyone else, are forever tuned in to the station “WII-FM” — What’s In It For Me. As such, Forrester’s message would be much more contagious, if there was a “free prize inside,” so to speak, for the bloggers who read my boot camp “plug.” In other words, the way to spread the word about the Forrester boot camp is for Forrester to make an irresistible, exclusive offer to bloggers who blog about the boot camp.

For example, what if Forrester gave away some exclusive piece of research that normally only their clients have access to? It doesn’t have to be an entire report, just something exclusive and something bloggable. Like a “scoop” on an upcoming report. Or a synop0sis of key points or perhaps a mini report. Now what if the bloggers who blog about this integrated marketing boot camp get access to this exclusive information as part of the deal? In fact, what if Forrester Research turn this into an ongoing program, kind of like how Microsoft is wooing influential bloggers with their “Search Champs” program (where they hand-pick influencers and fly them to Redmond to wine-and-dine them and to discuss how Microsoft might improve their MSN search engine).

Hmm… “Forester Research Champs.” Sure, they’d be buying off bloggers. But everybody would win, including blog readers. Bloggers get access to exclusive research early and often — as long as they agree to blog about Forrester. It is an interesting proposition. Forrester, what do you think?