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Online PR for Brands: How to Make Company News, Real News

Posted on Apr 10th, 2013
Written by TopRank Marketing
In this article

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    Online PRMost companies understand the benefits of a well-executed online PR strategy: improved brand visibility and industry reputation, increased traffic to the company website and even sales. It’s no wonder that companies trip over themselves to come up with a regular stream of PR related content.

    Unfortunately, lower barriers to entry for publishing and distributing information have resulted in a plethora of non-news littering the web.

    Is there any harm in “putting it all out there,” as in writing and distributing a press release for every event, newsworthy or not? I’d argue that yes, there is potential harm. As an industry journalist, I’ve personally become annoyed with companies or PR people sending me twice-weekly emails about everything under the sun. Whether someone has moved up internally or a company is seeking another round of funding, isn’t exactly compelling news.

    Pitching of that type is not bad PR. What’s being pitched just isn’t news to me.

    When bloggers and media become annoyed by irrelevant content, they’re not all that likely to write about your company or contact you for expert opinion on industry news.

    At the same time, when it comes to brand content, customers don’t like to have to dig for the information they need to make buying decisions. They may even stop reading your missives altogether and miss out on the real news. This is not a good thing.

    The problem, then, is two-fold: too much non-news content, and poor targeting of good content. Ideally, you will create relevant, targeted content, whether for customers, prospects, investors, distributors, or other groups who may have an interest in your company news. Then it needs to reach that specific group.

    Avoid confusing your different audiences with fluff content and news announcements because you feel it’s time to publish something new just to attract their attention. “More” attention isn’t nearly as desirable as the right attention.

    To implement online PR tactics with more purpose and truly integrate those tactics with the rest of your online marketing strategy, read on for tips and best practices.

    Know Your Goals

    Set SMART goals for your online PR contentThere are two parts to this: what are your goals for your PR strategy overall as one facet of your digital marketing activities, and what are your goals for each PR piece you publish? For the purpose of this post, we have to assume you have some overarching strategy in mind and focus on individual pieces of content (or this could turn into a novel).

    Think of the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting model when planning your PR content; goals must be:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Realistic
    • Timely

    “We want to tell people about x, y, z,” is not a goal. Writing or otherwise creating content and throwing it into the ether is not enough. You need to know the goal of each piece of content so you can optimize and distribute it in the way that best helps you achieve your business goals. You may remember the 5 Ws from school (adapted for online PR):

    • Who is my target audience?
    • What are they going to want to do when they read this?
    • Where do they live online?
    • When is the best time to reach them with this news?
    • Why are they going to care about this news?

    This might seem like a tedious exercise, but going through these considerations intentionally will help you develop a mindset where putting your reader first and aligning content with business goals becomes a habit.

    Target Smartly

    Is it news? The piece of information you want to release may be news to one audience segment and not another. This may be defined by considering what action you expect people to take upon reading your news piece. Are you looking for mainstream media coverage? Don’t blast a press release to your entire email list; write to journalists. Then segment your email list down to journalists. Use social tools available to you, like InMail and targeted status updates on LinkedIn, or lists on Facebook, or Google+ Circles, to deliver your news to the audience for which you wrote the piece. You need to know exactly who this is going to be before you write a word.

    Your news might also be news to a very niche selection of publications. Do your research and know the editorial calendars of publications you’re targeting in upcoming months. Find the angle that makes your company news relevant and newsworthy to each and give them plenty of lead time to work you in.

    Don’t Make It About You

    That’s a tall order when you’re trying to share your own news, isn’t it? If it’s worth telling people about, it’s because it offers some value to their life or business. What is that value offering? Don’t make customers or shareholders connect the dots, but give it to them straight by writing from the perspective of what they want to know, rather than what you want to say. For example, say the news you are planning to announce is a new campaign within your customer loyalty program:

    You can easily sit down and write about how proud you are to offer this new program, tout its benefits and have your company executives share a few really intelligent (and probably boring) soundbites about how great this is for the company and its customers.


    You could lead with the news that explains exactly what this means to customers and have actual program members explain it in their own words.

    Which version is a more compelling read for customers: an announcement with executives telling them what’s good for them, or someone they can relate to telling them what they’ll get out of it?

    Think Hard About Format and Get Creative

    Get creative and come up with fun angles for online PR contentNot everything that happens within your company is newsworthy on its own. If you find that you have a collection of maybe-its-news accomplishments or achievements you could share over the course of a couple of weeks or a month, consider starting a series. Sometimes, two or three items together carry more firepower. Sequenced content, whether on your blog, in video, via email marketing, or in another format, is a great way to interconnect your company news pieces, resurface historical content and create audience anticipation for the next piece.

    The answer to “Where does my audience live online?” will also help drive your decision to publish in one format or another. Video and imagery are fantastic engagement tools on social networks, while blog posts or press releases are great opportunities for written content media can quote, cite or link up.

    If you’re having trouble finding anything newsworthy at all to announce but know your PR strategy requires more visibility, get creative. What can you do today, within your budget, that is both newsworthy and helpful to your audience? Here are a few ideas:

    • Produce an industry survey with a corresponding report.
    • Perform original research into a known issue in your space.
    • Support local initiatives through charity or sponsorship.
    • Release statistics or insights gleaned from your customer data (following an accepted statistical model).
    • Develop relationships with industry media and serve as an expert source in ongoing coverage.
    • Challenge the status quo; just be sure you can back up your position.
    • Stay ahead of trends and be the first to offer insight to journalists on breaking or upcoming news.

    Nurture Relationships

    Do you find yourself often approaching media or influencers cold? Online PR is give and take. People in your community will support your business by engaging with your content and sharing your news; not every time, but more often for established connections than companies pitching them for the first time.

    One of the top three reasons customers follow brands on social channels is because they find their content interesting. Further, 90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. Once that connection is made, it’s up to you to continue to deliver on that promise and build a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Good Online PR is a Mindset, Not a Process

    As you can see, there is no magic formula or simple step-by-step process for making company news more interesting and relevant. Rather, it requires research, goal-setting, creativity and careful measurement to weed out underperforming tactics and hone in on the winners.

    Have you struggled to make company news interesting and engaging? Please share your story in the comments.

    Images courtesy of Shutterstock.