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TechConnect Newsletter Article

TechConnect Winter 2011

Public Relations Tools

Social Media and SEO for Public Relations
By Lee Odden, @LeeOdden, CEO TopRank Online Marketing, editor Online Marketing Blog

Despite company marketing and public relations budgets being in a state of ambiguity, many public relations organizations are  focusing on social media, trying to figure out “do’s and don’ts” to improve online reach. At the same time, search engine optimization class (SEO) of news content is fast becoming an established part of the mix for many public relations programs.

On their own, SEO and social media channels offer attractive opportunities for reaching industry influentials as well as end-consumers through push and pull public relations. Together, SEO and social media combine to create a competitive edge that can boost online public relations results.

Why is this so? Changes in the way the media and end-consumers discover, consume and share content illustrate the intersection of opportunity for both the search and social Web. Today’s increasingly social media savvy content consumer not only expects to find what they’re looking for on search engines, but to interact with the results. Those interactions take many forms including: commenting, voting and sharing. As a result,  social media can affect search engine visibility in numerous ways, creating new promotion opportunities for public and media relations efforts.

Of course, throwing keywords at social media tactics isn’t quite the same thing as developing and implementing a plan to reach specific goals. Dropping links to news being promoted on social networks can have impact but is difficult to sustain. For long term value from effort with SEO and social media, public relations professionals should follow best practices as well as the fundamentals:  

  1. Identify the specific audience to reach. What are their behaviors and preferences for content, sharing, media types, etc? What keywords are used in a social AND search context? Empathize with their content preferences and the context in which they consume and share. A blogger often has very different preferences than a TV reporter or a newspaper journalist.
  2. Set specific goals and objectives that can be measured. Mentions, comments, links, rankings, traffic, media coverage or other “engagement” metrics. Leverage tools from search engine optimization and social media marketing to track Web-based metrics.
  3. Develop a strategy for reaching those goals with the intended audience. Content creation and promotion is essential for an SEO and Social media public relations effort. Today is not just the age of "Brand as Publisher" but "PR Practitioner as Publisher". One effective strategy for gaining unsolicited media coverage is to become the media. Or at least perceived as such through attracting a significant audience to a brand news portal or blog.
  4. Figure out which mix of tactics (blog, social networks, media sharing, microblogging, etc.) will support and execute the strategy. Original content is ideal but often not practical or sustainable. Content curation mixed with original content can scale. Develop social networks and build channels of distribution for promotion of news.
  5. Identify which specific social tools to use. If social networks are the right channel, which social network? Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or niche networks? If video is in the mix, does distribution need to be limited to YouTube or does it make sense to syndicate to Vimeo, Metacafe and others?
  6. Put proper measurement tools in place and identify what events and outcomes to analyze. Web analytics and social media monitoring services are essential for collecting useful and reportable outcomes from news SEO and social promotion.
  7. Identify individuals and resources necessary to implement. Forecast time, internal reporting, and feedback mechanisms for participants. The most effective social media SEO efforts for public relations involve the agency or public relations practitioner working together with content creators, SEOs, marketers and others in a position to publish and promote content online.
  8.  Plan for success and what it will take to scale when you succeed. Be ready to address issues or failure as well. Test, test, test! Social media SEO can amplify reach but it takes work and resources. Find out what has to be displaced or subordinated in order to incorporate social media and SEO into the online public relations mix.

For another take on SEO and social media for public relations, read  "Social Media Optimization for Public Relations." Also, find more industry thought leadership and insight in the TechConnect newsletter, an exclusive member benefit of the Technology Section. Join today!

 

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