How to use online PR effectively to increase sales

hands-1167619_1280The discipline of public relations (PR) is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing.  PR is essentially managing the flow of information and news between a person or organization and its various publics such as customers, partners, employees, bloggers, journalists, and others.  There is a lot to like about PR, particularly when brands can tell their stories in far greater detail and at a fraction of the cost of a typical advertising campaign.

A well executed public relations program has many benefits—from an implied third party endorsement of a company to enhanced customer relationships and industry reputation.  The end result is an accelerated buying process, moving leads deeper and faster into the sales funnel towards conversion. In the “old” days a publication senior editor acted as principal information gatekeeper and decided which news announcements or press releases would be shared with readers.  However, with the arrival of the Internet, PR practitioners were able to extend their communications beyond journalists via online news release distribution services directly to customers, bloggers, writers and other industry influencers.  This was indeed a game changer in public relations, whereby even the smallest company could now reach tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands of people—at relatively small cost and lightning speed.

Besides reach, there are many advantages of publishing a news release online, including increases in brand awareness and website traffic; search engines love keyword-rich announcements; and there is always the potential buzz factor when feeding the publicity news engine.  Don’t forget to also include a number of back links (a.k.a. anchor text) in the news release copy directing readers to the corporate website for even better company search engine ranking results.

Get started by checking out news distribution sites from leading companies such as Marketwired, PRWeb and PR Newswire.  They include a wealth of information on news release writing and a step-by-step guide of the news distribution process.  For only around $100 a company can be on its way to get noticed.

Send out announcements every few weeks for optimal results.  There is no shortage of possible news to share, including new product offerings, industry awards, case studies, favourable product reviews, speaker engagements, new partnerships and alliances, event participation, white papers, survey results, and more.

Generate even more awareness by posting news releases on company websites and blogs, emailing announcements to customers, and encouraging sharing on popular social channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Measure the success of public relations programs by tracking media interviews, page impressions, article features, product reviews, awareness, and social media followers and likes.  There are many ways to monitor brand mentions using the metrics toolkit, including Google Alerts, Google Trends, Google Blog Search, Social Mention, Topsy, Bottlenose, and HootSuite.

Additionally, stay focused on Web analytics to see which pages receive the most page views and determine which keywords are sending visitors back to the corporate website.  Google Analytics has become a PR person’s best friend in measuring and proving ROI.

Keep the online press room of a company website “fresh” and easy to find from the home page.  It is often the most visited area of buyers, seeking to discover the latest offerings from a vendor.  Ensure that each listed news announcement has a unique URL for better search engine rankings and is enabled for social sharing.

It is recommended that an online newsroom also include executive biographies, high-resolution photos, corporate backgrounders and fact sheets, and opt-in email lists.  Make PR contact information highly visible so that journalists and other interested parties can reach the PR person easily.

Overall, good public relations programs begin with sound objective setting, identifying target audiences, developing appropriate story angles, and writing great content to be shared by brand communities.  Do not write exclusively for search engine results, but always keep in mind what is of interest to customers.

In a crowded marketplace, it is critical to express what is special and unique about your organization.  Customers think about, “What’s in it for me?”  The online news release is one of the best conduits of brand differentiation and key messaging.   Remember to keep the news flowing and watch your business grow.

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