Public relations, otherwise known as PR, play an important role in any business, whether for a large group of people (a company or an organization) or an individual (celebrity, professional, freelancer or entrepreneur).
Quoting what American marketing strategists Al and Laura Ries said about it from The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR (HarperBusiness), public relations has become the most efficient way to build a brand.
But what is public relations exactly?
Although public relations is usually associated with marketing and press releases, it’s actually more than that.
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
From the definition, we can assume that PR is not only about communication, as it’s also about strategy and management, with the end goal of building mutually beneficial relationships between two parties (e.g. provider-consumer, business-customer, seller-buyer).
Public Relations’ Changing Landscapes and Methods
Just like many industries, public relations’ landscape and methods are changing because of the influx, rise, and migration of businesses toward digital technology. Digital or online PR is another aspect of public relations that one needs to cover or monitor.
News can spread further and faster towards a more directed but equally vast target audience. While it can be a great positioning campaign and sales strategy for marketing experts, it can also be a nightmare for public relations officers because of the potential damage it can bring to a business or brand.
With digital technology, news can literally spread like lightning, with its thunder (or noise) increased exponentially. One can only go to Google and search a particular person and instantaneously trace history as far back as possible. A customer complaint or video can quickly go viral as well and can make or break one’s reputation.
What is Online or Digital PR?
Online PR is all about these things:
- It’s the strategic management of disseminating information about an organization or individual and the public within the digital world.
- It’s about building an online presence and managing online reputation.
- It’s about building and managing (or maintaining) a brand identity and maintaining its credibility and trustworthiness, so audiences associate well with it.
As you can see, it’s very much like traditional PR but with different tools. Think content marketing (press releases, articles, and blogging), video and product placements, sponsorships and ads, SEO, social media and community management, reputation management and even customer service—all these aspects are under just one umbrella and part of Online PR. Digital PR can no longer be contained in just one silos, as it usually transverses many aspects of a business.
Is Digital PR similar to Social Media Management?
The common misnomer is that Online PR is the same as social media management. However, social media does not equate to public relations.
While social media management is an aspect of handling one’s digital PR, its scope doesn’t end there as it can also be part of marketing and promotions. It’s also treated differently, considering that it covers different digital platforms.
PR can make a difference with a single “hit” based on key relationships with influential people and usually works at a particular angle—a message, a press release, or a product.
Social media, for it to work for a business, needs to sustain its communities from different networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. This requires building relationships with each member of the community they are building.
While PR works at an angle for it to work for a business or brand, social media works on developing its voice, strengthening its brands, or building relationships with its customers—even possibly all three.
From all the aspects of digital PR we mentioned above, two are becoming increasingly in demand and necessary—the reputation management and online community management. We have seen much growth in digital marketing with every business utilizing the web to market their services or products.
As customers and consumers prefer online means to communicate with businesses and use the Internet to do research before buying a product or availing or hiring a service, businesses also need to ramp up their reputation management and online community management, most especially if they haven’t considered this aspect of digital PR yet.
Chapter I. Reputation Management
Simply put that one’s reputation is important. For an individual or organization, one’s reputation is associated with credibility, trustworthiness, and ultimately drives one’s success. As people increasingly live their lives online as evidenced by the huge amounts of data we can collect from the Internet these days (that a new term, big data, has been coined and a new industry, data science and profession, data scientists, have formed to meet the need to understand what big data can give to specific industries), the shift to manage one’s reputation online increased as well.
It isn’t totally surprising considering these facts. According to the Local Search Study in 2012 (Pew Research Center):
- 44% of adults online have searched for information about someone whose services or advice they seek in a professional capacity (doctors, web designers, etc.)
- 50% of ALL Internet users over the age of 18 have left a review online
- 78% of Internet users conduct product research online, believing that reviews are the most credible form of advertising
- 80% of people surveyed had changed a purchase decision due to a bad review they saw online
Clearly, monitoring one’s reputation online is imperative, especially for an entrepreneur or company.
What is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management (ORM) is about improving or restoring your name or organization’s good standing. This is done by weakening or eliminating negative material found about you on the Internet by countering it with more positive and current content to improve your credibility and increase customers’ trust in you.
Take note that every transaction these days begin with a search online. And even when there is nothing to be found about you, it only means that your digital or online reputation needs work, as it isn’t doing the work it should—building your credibility. It’s like being a web designer without having a portfolio of designed websites. If they can’t find anything about you, it means you’re not worth considering hiring.
So, negative AND zero results about you or your company equate to a less than stellar online reputation.
Why is Online Reputation Management important?
Like we said, everything these days begin with a Google search with which restaurant to try, what hospital to bring one’s child, which doctor to consult with, which Internet service provider is better. If you don’t control your reputation online (or what others can search about you), then someone else will.
ORM takes a defensive stand and is also a good business practice. It protects you against bad or negative feedback (in the form of blog posts, unflattering pictures, private or confidential social media posts, bad history, etc.) and at the same time gives you an idea how to present yourself better to the public, specifically online. Consumers, business partners, marketers, co-workers and even prospective employers conduct searches, and it’s in your best interest to “be found at your best”.
ORM managers are excellent PR managers and tech expert gurus, as they can give your presence online a total makeover, often burying negative search results and promoting content that highlights your desired image. As Michael Fertik of Reputation.com said, “The good news is that if it is off page one of Google, it basically doesn’t exist.”
ORM can do that, and even more for you or your business.
Chapter II. Online Community Management
As more and more consumers use social media to do research, get feedback, and reach out to businesses, and as businesses increase their social media presence to connect and engage with their customers and potential followers, the tendency to build communities have become natural.
If people are satisfied with a particular product or service, they’re likely to share their feedback among their followers, which in turn creates a ripple effect—building a stronger and larger follower base for a business and eventually, a community is born.
And while it is ideal for this formation to be organic, marketing strategies have been discovered to help businesses grow communities through social media management. And in part, most have been successful.
The challenge now is maintaining engagement and satisfaction within that community. This is where online community management comes in.
What is online community management?
Online community management is the process of growing, building, and guiding an online community whether on social media or an owned platform.
Why is online community management necessary?
Managing communities provide several benefits for you or your businesses, even without the marketing component:
- Customer retention is easier. Remember that keeping existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones.
- Customer attraction. Marketing alone doesn’t entirely make consumers hooked. It can bait them, but it’s in cultivating relationships with them through community involvement, which makes them customers and even loyal brand advocates.
- Developing your brand and the products or services you offer is easier. By continuously engaging the members of your community, asking for feedback, listening to suggestions, and acting on them, you can refine your products, strategize your business goals better, and position your campaigns easily without investing on other services. Simply maintaining your community does this for you!
- Better for your brand reputation. Community management doesn’t only increase your sales through customer retention and attraction. It also positions you as a reputable leader or influencer in your industry for the long-term.
Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager
Social media and community management are very much intertwined because they need to work together to get the desired outcome for your business. They need to work together but separated from one another, as they need to be managed differently. Social media managers and community managers function differently.
|SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER||COMMUNITY MANAGER|
|Manage brand recognition and reputation||Manage customer relationships|
|Focus on listening and evaluating brand perception, planning campaigns to promote message||Focus on flow of information and knowledge,|
|Building and leveraging social network platforms to facilitate communication between business/brand and consumers||Strengthening relationships and promoting collaboration between the community|
|Connected with Marketing, PR and Sales||Connected with Editorial, Product and Business Development and Marketing|
|B2B Success Measure|
Raise product or service awareness
Increase visibility of company or individual, product or service
|Customer service – customer questions (FAQs)
Learn from customers – feedback for product developmentCustomer satisfaction (retention)Customer empowerment (engage customers to ask and get help from each other)
Increase product usage
Think of it this way: your social media marketing is one big circle.
Social media managers operate at the boundaries, amplifying your products or brand message, and luring consumers into your circle. Once they are lured in, community managers are responsible for keeping them by engaging and building relationships, and eventually turn them into customers.
Chapter III. Skills and Qualities of an Online PR Manager/Practitioner/Professional
As companies recognize the benefits of building and monitoring their online presence, social media, and community development, the number of opportunities for professionals with community building and reputation management also increases.
In fact, LinkedIn reports a 29% annual increase for the community management profession.
What are the qualities of an effective PR manager?
Take note that PR managers, when working digital platforms, usually take on many hats in the form of social media managers, community managers, and ORM experts. They are seldom required to wear these hats all at once, but they are usually expected to know how each role is performed to collaborate better with other managers in different aspects of digital PR management.
Even if they’re contained in a particular function, online PR managers must possess the following skills and qualities required of companies today. The skill sets required for traditional PR include excellent writing and communication skills, attention to detail, being proactive, having good work ethic, and an understanding of media relations business practices and ethics.
In addition to these traits make for an exceptionally qualified online PR manager:
Flexibility is needed when you want to be a successful online PR manager since managers, as mentioned, usually wear a lot of hats. They can be a marketer one day, a PR person next, and then a communications rep who needs to respond to a story or feedback.
2. Background on Analytics
Digital PR managers do not only conduct traditional PR management, they also need to know how to read analytics, since PR strategies and communications need to go with these reports. They listen and set benchmarks on engagement based on content, sentiment, or other metrics to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. Short of being a data scientist, they know how to distill the right KPIs from data.
3. Experience with Technology
Closely related to the skill above, managers will be working with several tools to oversee communities and manage campaigns. They need to be knowledgeable about these tools and keep pace with technological trends.
4. Understanding of Product Management and the Potential of Development
A strong understanding of product management and the potential of communities to contribute to development will ensure that the community’s purpose is always aligned with the goal of solving or meeting customers’ needs.
5. Customer Reference Skills with an Orientation towards Customer Care
Turning customers into advocates is one of the end goals of community management. As a manager, one needs to know how to identify members that have the potential to be community leaders. You also need to help the community thrive by educating and encouraging members to help one another.
6. Fast Problem Solving Skills/Crisis Technician
Digital communities work in a fast pace environment. Managers need to be alert towards any signs of potential problems and be quick to respond whenever problems arise. In short, they need to learn how to put out fires quickly as well as know how to anticipate and prepare for the worst-case scenario without overreacting.
7. Strong Knowledge about Organization’s Procedure, Mission and Vision, and Core Values
Managers must have a substantial knowledge of the different business operations, core values, goals, current initiatives and plans, and translate all of these into a structure for the community.
8. Relationship Manager
Online PR managers need to know how to handle and cultivate relationships, from its initial stages until its last phase (customer advocacy). They know how to get customers excited about a product launch but also know how to transform an irate customer to a happily engaged one through a direct and efficient customer service.
9. They Can Orchestrate Social Media Posts into an Organized, Effective Curated Form
Online PR managers can be compared to orchestra conductors. They know how to produce live, responsive content and make it public at the time when engagement is at its greatest potential. They know how to tap into content sources (images, articles, videos, apps, webisodes, etc.) and give them to communities to get valuable customer interaction.
They do not only take care of front-end relations but also ensure that the back end stays clear. Legal and public affairs are swiftly considered and noted before publishing timely and highly relevant content.
10. They are foremost your Brand Ambassadors – Your Voice
As brand ambassadors, they need to be passionate about your product or service and sincerely believe in your values, as they represent your voice and your brand!
Sounds like a tall order, right? To be a successful and effective online PR manager, you aren’t just required to have stellar social media and traditional PR skills; you also need to bring a wide range of non-social media skills to the table—setting you apart from the rest.
Chapter IV. Online PR Tools
Here are five tools to help keep you in the loop for expert inputs in your industry or connect with other reporters, journalists, or bloggers.
- HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – This is a PR tool that helps connect journalists with industry experts to obtain advice and quotations for their stories. In other words, this is an excellent way to get a client in the press, not to mention that it’s free and easy to use! It works by sending you a few emails a day of journalists looking for sources. About 30,000 media members have quoted HARO sources in their stories, including media giants like the New York Times and Huffington Post.
- News Certified – It has a searchable database of credible, interview-ready experts, and story ideas that are accessible 24/7.
- Media Diplomat Send or receive requests from reporters seeking professional and expert comments for free.
- Gorkana – Considered as one of the best-known PR tools in the business, the Gorkana Media database contains details of almost 200.000 journalists and bloggers, allowing you to create unique lists and target individuals with relevant information. It also offers monitoring and analysis services to deliver you the coverage and insights that you need. It all comes at a high price, but many agencies will agree it is an invaluable PR tool.
- Cision– Another significant provider of comprehensive PR services such as a massive media database, monitoring and analysis, Cision also comes with a premium price. It’s worth comparing some of the big PR tools to see which one is the most appropriate for you.
Tools to help you write press releases and create newsrooms
These tools assist you with content creation, topic brainstorming, and influential topic discovery.
- Mindmeister A mind map tool that helps you brainstorm alone or with others and save your thoughts.
- Tame This tool helps you discover the most shared URLs, most used hashtags, and most mentioned people on Twitter.
- NewsWhip – This is a great source of inspiration when producing news by knowing the world’s currently most spread news, either based on location or topic. Most functionality is free while the product Spike is free, at least while in beta.
- AirPR Analyst This tool has realtime data aggregation and dynamic data visualization of only the most authoritative and impactful information across articles, blogs, and social. Track the media activity of your top competitors and understand gaps and opportunities for future PR decision-making.
Tools to help you distribute your press releases
- Vocus Use their premade media database comprised of 1.4M journalists, bloggers, and influencers. Connect with journalists and bloggers, send press releases, monitor news, reach influencers, and measure and share your results. The monthly fee varies from $300 to $2500.
- PR Newswire Send press releases to PR Newswire’s network of more than 200K media points and 8000 websites. Annual membership fee: $195 $249 or $99 for nonprofits. A press release starts at $680.
- Businesswire Send press releases to major media outlets in defined geographical areas and track results. Price starts at $275 for a press release.
- MarketWired – Access to a worldwide network of media contacts, social media channels, etc. A press release starts at $460.
Tools to help collaboration between in-house PR and PR agencies
- Mustr Keep an updated media database of your media contacts by allowing collaboration between companies and PR agencies. Companies (in-house PR teams) remain owners of the database and can easily change the PR agency if needed, while not losing the updates. PR agencies get an organically grown database through their clients. Price: $49 per month.
Tools to build and manage your media database
- Mustr Mustr helps you organize and contact journalists and bloggers. It also allows safe sharing of your media contacts with PR agencies while remaining as the owner of the database. It uses made-for-PR filters to target influencers. Media outlets are crowdsourced by all the other Mustr users and kept updated by the Mustr team. Also including the possibility to add and send press releases directly through the platform. Price: $49 per month.
- Prezly Offering contact management tool, multimedia newsroom, and online distribution of press releases. Share stories via email & social media press rooms. Analytics & insights included. Pricing: $65 per month for PR teams and $250 for PR agencies.
Tools that help you write
- Headline Analyzer helps you write better headlines by analyzing your current headline for emotion, influence, and other factors.
- Blog Post Idea Generator and Linkbait Generator will give you catchy and sometimes crazy blog post ideas.
- 100 PR Buzzwords. This blog post from MyntPR is a comprehensive list of buzzwords that each PR person needs to strike from their memory.
Tools for blogger outreach
Blogs are an excellent way to help spread the news online. So, tools are on hand to help sift through the many blogs out there to find the one you’re looking for. Start with Google Blog Search and then move on to these three services.
- Blogdash – Media database that allows bloggers to choose opportunities open to pitching, and brands looking for the right bloggers for their projects or campaigns.
- Guestr – Service that helps website owners find writers and quality content. It’s also useful for writers searching for guest post opportunities.
- Blogger Linkup – Join this service to be added to an email list filled with bloggers looking for expert sources, requests for guest posts, guest posts on offer, and PR reps and others seeking reviews of products.
Tools that help amplify the media coverage you got
- Buffer Social Media posting scheduling. Buffer shares your content at the best possible times throughout the day, allowing your followers and fans to see your updates more often.
- TweetReach – By simply signing up and posting in a tweet, TweetReach will give you insights into how many consumers it reached through tweets and retweets.
- Tame.it – A free PR tool that offers in-depth analysis into your (or your client’s) Twitter followers, and the kind of content they are sharing. Tame.it shows you the top 10 hashtags being used, links being shared, and users being mentioned by your followers, which can be analyzed at different time scales in the last seven days.
- Wildfire– This is an impressive social media marketing tool to help build campaigns, maximize exposure, and measure ROI.
- Hootsuite– A cohesive social media management platform where you can manage and monitor Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ for several different accounts. One of the ways this works best as a PR tool is the ability to save relevant searches and hashtags, and then view them all as a stream within the Hootsuite dashboard. This way, you won’t miss out on the relevant conversations and news stories on your industry.
Tools to track media mentions or monitor coverage
- Precise – One of the several well-established and popular PR tools, Preciseoffers a comprehensive monitoring service across both mainstream and social media. It helps track down coverage quickly and demonstrate the value of your PR work through their media analysis service.
- Google Alerts – While PR tools such as Precise offer a much more sophisticated monitoring system for new online mentions and coverage, Google Alertsis still a reliable tool to stay informed of new web results about your clients. As it’s free and pretty accurate, it’s certainly worth signing up for.
- Mention – Mentiongoes one step further in tracking all mentions of any name across social media platforms as well as the web. So if someone tweets about you or your client (without including @username) you’ll still be able to see it. It starts with a free plan for up to 250 mentions and goes up to $99 per month for up to 50k mentions.
- MuckRack’s WHoSharedMyLink Displays the total number of social media shares for an article (for free), and the registered journalists who shared it (paid feature).
- Twilert Twilert monitors what’s being said about you and your brand on Twitter. It helps you keep an eye on your mentions, hashtags, and manage your online reputation. Starting at $9 per month.
Chapter V. Online PR Best Practices and Strategies
As we have defined public relations in the introduction, PR isn’t self-serving. With a comprehensive and properly executed PR strategy, you can successfully communicate your message to your audience all with the end goal of building a mutually beneficial relationship with each other.
As this is the end goal, here are some best PR practices from the experts. Note that there are some differences for PR when it comes to doing it online.
Online PR Best Practices
1. Write content for a target audience, not for everyone.
There is no way to reach everyone with just one message. To effectively send a message, narrow your target audience and then write for them. Once you write for them, the chances of establishing a connection increases, and the more likely can your message take root and spread.
2. Consider the relevance and timeliness of what you’re saying.
BuzzFeed’s Andy Wiedlin suggests you do the Facebook test on all the content you’re planning to run. If the content is something you would want to see on your own Facebook News Feed, then you can share it. If the answer is no, you bet the content wouldn’t be likely to be shared as well.
3. Keep them hungry – share content in snack-size bites, making them more shareable.
According to Wiedlin, keep your message short and simple and in PR management cases, don’t be afraid to reiterate.
4. Show me – walk the talk.
Your company should always come off as transparent for every PR campaign it rolls out. Emotional engagement is the key to making customers return to you, according to Kym McNicholas of PandoDaily.
5. Learn to tell your story.
PR is really about creating stories and ultimately being able to show them to a group of people that will affect them in the way you plan to.
What the public wants to hear is a great story. Good PR is good story telling. PR narratives that touch people at a personal level and emotionally connect with them are what make PR campaigns great.
Online PR Strategies
Now that you know the best practices of online PR, it’s time to identify some strategies straight from the experts:
- According to Dee Rambeau of DVCO Technology, the use of these six tools will help for a strategic online communications strategy and make PR communications really web-enabled: a company web site, a media room, a blog, a crisis site, a company intranet and a client extranet. It will also help to make all sites mobile-compatible. While not of all these tools might apply to every business, a quick run-through of each of the tools’ purpose will acquaint you whether or not your company will benefit from getting one.
- Make use of online PR tools. We’ve come up with an extensive list in the above section, just learn more about each tool, and then decide which one fits your business, and make use of it!
- Moz came up with a PR-based SEO process that clearly defines what online PR is and makes you realize that you might be doing online PR already, even if you think you aren’t! The whole post breaks down the basics of PR strategy and outlines a process for SEO that helps build online PR.
- Make it easy for journalists and fellow PR professionals to find and identify your experts. Hubspot shares that you shouldn’t only optimize your site, you also need to optimize your digital assets in the form of your writers, managers (you!) and executives to make it easy for journalists to contact your internal experts. Why should you do this? Experts within your company have great potential to be thought leaders and influencers, which will do wonders to your online PR
- Keep up and (sometimes) associate with the trends. This is a great PR and marketing strategy. Associating your content with real world events and trending topics is a great way to engage your audience and increase your chances of having the content go viral. Search trends in social media and Google.
Chapter VI. Online PR Disaster Stories 2015 and Lessons to Learn From Them
Experience is most often the best but most hurtful teacher.
Here are six online PR disaster stories for 2015 that we all need to draw lessons from:
Nestle India had its chance to rectify the worst PR disasters for a company in this age of social media back in March 2014.
Charged with unhealthy food practices and deceitful labeling, Nestle appealed about this issue after four months. In July 2014, Maggi was sent for testing to a laboratory where it was found that the product had high levels of lead and MSG. The result came out April 2015, and the media picked up the story a month later.
Nestle had a full month to deploy its PR machinery and do damage control but alas, their social media response was robotic, its lines of communication completely inaccessible save for a computer-generated statement and perhaps the worse yet, the global Nestle company didn’t even acknowledge the controversy in India.
What We Need to Learn:
Owning and recognizing the issue right away (even if the claim has not been proven) will be better in the long run than not acknowledging and even denying it outright. Nestle India could’ve recalled the product involuntarily and issued a statement right after the charge was made. But they didn’t.
When it comes to online reputation management, the timing of the response is the key. Loss of public trust increases proportionally to one’s response time to a situation. Nestle could’ve owned its mistake, made its apology, and earned its way back to customers’ hearts (and stomachs). This way, its public perception and brand value wouldn’t have gone way down the way it happened.
2 – 4. Nissan’s Reddit PR disaster, SeaWorld’s #AskSeaWorld epic fail and Twitter Q&A #AskELJames PR nightmare
These three stories have two things in common: 1) these were planned and coordinated PR events, all with the goal of increasing public awareness, trust, and building reputation and 2) they had their top men (and in one case, woman) take center stage.
How could such planned and coordinated PR events go awry? For one, Sea World announced a social media Q&A session and encouraged fans to ask them any questions about SeaWorld and its animals. Fans’ questions went unanswered because of the sheer volume, and instead of making #AskSeaWorld trend, the hashtags #Emptythetanks and #AnswertheQ trended.
With author EL James, instead of having fans ask questions about the new book, Grey, a perspective of famous character’s Christian Grey on the popular erotica series, 50 Shades of Grey, James got a truckload of comments from bashers and citizens opposed to the trilogy.
What We Need to Learn:
It’s never a good idea to do a public, specifically, not moderated and spontaneous Q&A sessions with controversial companies, celebrities, or brands. Once the event (or in this case Twitter session) has gone live, you cannot do anything about it and just let it run its course. It would have been better if the Q&A session was announced with the intent to collect questions from fans, and have the celebrity or company answer it in the form of an FAQ on their site or as a blog post.
Conversely, one cannot also manipulate social media Q&A sessions. Renault-Nissan made a bold move and had their CEO Carlos Ghosn on Reddit for the site’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions from the Detroit Auto-Show. While the PR staff made it a point to have the public ask questions, they were also accused of manipulating the AMA session or astroturfing (seeding questions on the site), creating new user accounts to field specific product questions gauged to have marketing-type promotional answers. The public went livid.
What We Need to Learn:
As we have said, a basic PR practice is transparency. Customers will not trust a company if they aren’t honest and transparent with their intentions.
As with Nissan, by controlling the outcome of a session they planned, they came out dishonest and manipulative.
5 and 6. Top Honchos fail miserably: Vogue Style Editor von Thurn and Taxis and AT&T President of Content and Advertising Slater
In these two PR disasters, top honchos of big brands made the mistake themselves.
Former President of Content and Advertising sales at AT&T Aaron Slater lost his job because of a text he sent to a friend that included a picture of a dancing African child with the caption, “It’s Friday, N Word” that was clearly racist.
Vogue Editor’s Elizabeth von Thurn and Taxis posted a photo on Instagram of a homeless woman reading a Vogue magazine with the caption, “Paris is full of surprises and @voguemagazinereaders even in unexpected corners.”
What We Need to Learn:
An organization’s greatest asset is its reputation, and the frontrunners of this are its executives, with only PR managers secondary. Business owners and leaders need to be careful about what they do or say and think about how each action can affect the company.
Apologizing can only do so much (Van Thurn and Taxis apologized after a whole day; Slater was fired after the charges were filed), but once public trust and perception has been betrayed, it’s hard to gain it back.
Clearly, online PR covers advertising, marketing, customer management, community management, and online reputation. It seems like a vast industry to get involved in and a tall order to be considered an expert at. But at its core, online PR is really just about building good and long-lasting relationships with your clients and presenting a transparent and positive image to the public.
Technology has helped PR tremendously and being online made amplification and outreach much easier. It comes with a price though, as there is no room for error and the need to stay on your toes is imperative, as one small mistake can blow up into a disaster.
It also makes sense that given online PR’s coverage is huge, the job isn’t solely confined to PR managers or community managers alone. Everyone in the company, from the top executives to its employees, need to realize that they’re also responsible for handling their organization’s PR and helping shape its reputation.
Every time you interact with someone online or help curate or write content for articles, you’re doing a PR job and that you help impact how your company or organization is seen and perceived by the public.
A good PR manager knows all of these and helps the company put its best foot forward by ensuring that a strategy and a good positioning campaign is in place. They have the necessary knowledge of how the online world works and translates that into action steps, goals, and integrated plans within the company. They also know how to read the pulse of the target audience, can utilize the necessary tools to merge what their gut is taking them, and to what the data is representing.
Bonus Content: Online PR Tips from the Experts
We rounded up some direct quotes from the experts themselves about specific online PR tips one needs to remember:
On PR Pitching:
When pitching to a journalist or website, make sure you get to the point quickly. You are approaching busy people, so they only need to know the important information. Don’t waffle! – Leslie Gilotti, Digital Marketing Manager at Groovarium.
On Crisis Management:
Actively monitor not just your reputation, but also the activities of your protagonists.
Develop clear, effective and platform-appropriate messaging. In other words, be where your crisis is happening. “If your crisis is happening on YouTube, make your response a YouTube video,” Lawrence said. “Have the capability to shoot that video. If it’s Friday at 5:00 and you need to shoot a video of your CEO, do you know the logistics of being able to do that?”
Be sure you know what you’re talking about during a crisis. “The only thing worse than saying nothing is saying the wrong thing,” Lawrence said. Yes, you must move quickly during a time of crisis, but that doesn’t give you a reprieve from fact-checking anything you plan to tell the public.
When you blow it, own up to it: “When Ashton Kutcher tweeted his outrage after Joe Paterno got fired, he had to admit that he really knew nothing about the subject. Lawrence said that, while that was an avoidable scenario, Kutcher did properly tweet afterwards, “As of immediately I will stop tweeting until I find a way to properly manage this feed. I feel awful about this error. Won’t happen again.”
Don’t forget your secret weapon. Your employees can be your most powerful allies online—if you engage and arm them in time. “Who has the biggest investment in the survival of a company? The people who get a paycheck.” – Dallas Lawrence, chief global digital strategist for Burson-Marstelle
On Ramping Up your Business through Online PR:
Utilize customers for voice multiplication. “You may not have a following socially, but when you combine all of your customers’ reaches, the depth can be impressive. Focus on an extremely well-tuned customer experience to wow them, on top of providing them something so impressive they can’t help but want to impress their friends with it. We’re not talking “look at my new Rolex” impress, we’re talking “I know they’ll love this and I want to tell them about it first” impressing of friends. That excellent user experience will come from actual usability testing, not guesswork, hunches or first ideas. The part about being impressive, well, that comes down to how well you position yourself, and the actual value your site, service, product or app provides. If it’s new and fresh, it’ll kill.” – Duane Forrester, Bing.com
Know who your customers are. “One of the keys to growing your startup is really understanding your customer. Where are they? What are their pains? How does your solution solve their problem? What sites do they frequent online? How often will they need to use your product? Does it pass the ‘Toothbrush Test?’ – traviswright.com
Branding is everything. “Focus on branding above all. Strong brands naturally attract attention, links and buzz, which are all elements that play into search engine rankings. As such, building a strong brand actually helps improve SEO, helping you get more traction, more quickly.” – Jayson DeMers, www.audiencebloom.com.
Build something innovative. “Build something your customers want to be passionate about but don’t know it yet. Passionate customers are by far the best sales people in the world.” – John Rampton,www.adogy.com