June 21, 2008

Blog Potomac - Interview with Kami Watson-Huyse of the Communication Overtones Blog

By Li Evans

At Blog Potomac last week, I got the opportunity to do a live interview with Kami Watson-Huyse, principal of My PR Pro and owner of the Communication Overtones blog.  Readers of Search Marketing Gurus will be familiar with Kami since we did a interview with her back in October.

Kami took time out from her speaking duties at Blog Potomac to speak to us about social media's affects on public relations.

Full video interview transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Blog Potomac - Interview with Kami Watson-Huyse of the Communication Overtones Blog" »

May 27, 2008

Online Marketing Tips Video: Press Release Optimization

By Li Evans

Tuesday's Tips in Online Marketing is back with another video.  This week we're featuring some tips on how to optimize Press Releases for the web.  Got a press release?  Want to just slap that thing on a web page after you've emailed it out to over 100 media outlets?  Think again, at least if you want it to get somewhere in the search engines.


Full Transcript after the jump...

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Press Release Optimization" »

May 02, 2008

Truth in Marketing - Customers Demand It, Even Online

By Li Evans

Is There Anybody Out There?Social media is fast becoming an integral part of marketing campaigns.  The more the internet pushes the boundaries of communication and how fast it can deliver multimedia such as videos and photos, the more it becomes ingrained into the very essence of everyone's day to day activities.  People communicate in much broader ways now than they every have.

We used to have the pony express, then it was the telegraph, then the phone brought us even closer even though were hundreds of miles apart.  When the computer started to be a way to communicate (think ARPANET here), that's when things really started to expand - emails, message boards, then instant messenger soon came along.  Forums & message boards never went away, they just began to morph into communities, soon enough you had intricate profiles, as well as blogs and now even multimedia can be added in.

So where am I going with this? 

Continue reading "Truth in Marketing - Customers Demand It, Even Online" »

February 20, 2008

SES London 08: News Search Optimisation

By Li Evans

Dsc_3184 Ann Kennedy introduces the panel of Tim Gibbon, Greg Jarboe and Lee Odden for the News Search Optimization Session.

Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR:
Last year's SES London, he told you somethings about press release optimization.  Everything has since been turned upside down.  This is bigger than a bread box and impacts all of us.

On 2/1/08 queries for Microsoft Yahoo spiked.  Google's Hot trends will show you the top 100 trends over the last 24 hours.  This is where hot keywords can surface.  This is where "the fish" are.  Brand new term "microsoft yahoo", somewhere around 7 a.m. in the morning.  Something happened.

If you went to Google and typed in that new term, what comes up first, it's news results not the typical blue link.  Shows Microsoft has bid on Yahoo!  If you had scanned down the results, you find "blog posts" at the bottom of the page.  Those blogs listed there were not on MS's blog relations list.  But it was hard to find what triggered this, but the end was a press release and letter from MS, he had to work hard to find "Microsoft Yahoo".  But this story triggered over 10k stories.

Everything you knew a year ago is wrong.  Press Release optimization is a tactic in a long strategy.  But everyone is doing it now, you need to take it to the next level.  Where you want to take it next is into a new realm, new relations - blogger relations.  You can focus on media relation.  The news sources for Google don't include the usual suspects. Google news is important, in December 3 million in the UK.

Focus on BBC News, Google UK News, Times Online, Google, Reuters UK, Guardian Unlimited, Google UK Image Search, Press Association.  Press Association was not part of Google News until Aug of last year.  Their content is now hosted in Google News.

90% of journalist say that visuals are important to their stories.  41% surveyed visuals could dictate content.  A release e-mailed with a jpg or tif file has a much better chance of making it into our newspaper. 

In many industries, blogs have become the new trade press.  Blog post generated 30 times more visitors than identical news articles. Articles and posts referred 34.4 times more visitors than releases.  Google is filtering press releases, they don't appear in the results.  The art of schmooze has turned news search SEO upside down.  If you think beyond the press release there is a world of benefit.

NewsKnife.com can give you a listing of all the news sources used by Google.  News sources also seem to take the "hard leads" first.

Lee Odden of TopRank Blog:
Intersection of SEO and PR - Pull PR.  Push being outreach, this is turning the news optimization world upside down.  Pull PR - standard search, news search, blog search, media search. Pull PR = SEO.

Why Optimize News?  Make sure whoever your intended audience is it's easily available to them in the formats they prefer.  Ranking on search engines brings credibility not unlike media coverage.  PR tactics used to improve search rankings.  Optimizing press releases and newsrooms are good tactics.

64% of journalists report they use the either Google or Yahoo! news at least once a week.  85% visit at least once a month.  Optimizing news makes it easy for users (journalists to find).  You are creating a wider footprint on the web.

PR content to Optimize - new releases, op-eds, media kits, corporate PR content, blogs, white papers, reports, webinars and demos, email newsletters, interviews, podcasts.  Optimize both onsite and offsite content.  Onsite - press releases, etc.  Offsite - social media profiles.  Inventory your digital assets and identify the appropriate channels of promotion.  Start with the outcome in mind, do keyword research.  Publish on your version first on your site and link back to it using "originally posted at" or "source of release".

Dsc_3185 Tim Gibbon of Elemental  Communications:
More people are using search to find what they need.  We need to communicate and challenge the way we meet media and bloggers.

Services like aggregators, news wires, news sites, portals. Each site offers different services and reach different audiences.  Evaluate them - who are they, how credible are they, where will your news appear, how did other releases do on their site, who are they affiliated with?

Manage your content, take control of it, optimise it, build quality content on your site, manage it.  Submit to generic and niche resources and sustain your efforts.  Fundamental SEO tactics should be applied to press releases.

Tim then shows some successful PR initiatives with clients.  Do's and Don'ts... Do's - implement measurements before you begin, prepare variations of the release, time releases for off and online communications, reach out to vendors and ask questions.  Don't - overload press releases with key words and phrases, expect online PR and social media to be a silver bullet, ignore offline media.

January 17, 2008

Target Apparently Doesn't Understand New Media

By Li Evans

File this under "Stupid Responses from Public Relations Departments".  Target, apparently only deals with "Traditional Media".  Wow, talk about being in the stone-age. Hat-Tip to fellow local twitterer, Annie, for this piece.  Gawker Media has a short piece about a letter sent to Target calling them out about their latest ad campaign, and also the rather, rude reply.

Target Ad in Times Square, Photo Credit to Flickr User Bennet4SenateAmy Jussle, who runs a blog called "Shaping Youth", blogged about and contacted Target about this ad, that's being featured in Times Square in New York City.  Whether you agree with Amy's position on the ad being subversive or exploitive, isn't really why I'm bringing it to the attention of this audience.  Target's reply is what I want to bring to the forefront.

via Gawker (emphasis mine):

"Good Morning Amy,

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day."

*just blinks for a few minutes*

Target is now in for a rather rude awakening I think, they are apparently rather clueless to the online marketing world around them.  It's not the "traditional" media that's going to affect them, those pesky "non-traditional media outlets" like ummm lets say.... bloggers .....that are going to be their problem.  A few prominent bloggers have just got wind of this and well lets just say, the power of the blogosphere is a heck of a thing to contend with.  I wonder how long the PR Idiot at Target that decided to respond to Amy with that response will have their job after this?

Photo Credit: Flickr User Bennett4Senate

December 13, 2007

What Social Media Isn't - 10 Misconceptions

By Li Evans

Public_relations As I delve deeper and deeper into Social Media and it's practical uses in online marketing, I'm just amazed by the lack of understanding, especially by PR Firms and Advertising Agencies.  I've worked in PR, one of my degrees is in it, and when I see other PR Professionals just jumping into the Social Media waters without even thinking things through for clients, I just want to stand up and scream "Hold On A Minute!" 

Sometimes the PR Agencies and Ad Agencies gloss things over with how many awards they've won, not with the true success stories they have had in social media, and that's unfortunate for the companies that look to them for their social media strategies.  Social Media is an entirely different animal, and it needs an entirely different school of thought to be successful in.

There are so many things that Social Media is, and covering those would take a rather long time and make for rather long post.  However, I felt compelled enough after researching and dealing with social media strategies, to address what 10 things Social Media Isn't.

  • Social Media Isn't:  Easy
    So many public relations professionals, advertising agencies and even search marketing firms see Social Media as this "bright, shiny, new medium" that's easy to just throw things out there and think it will automatically just work.  If it were only that easy!  Social Media takes a lot of hard work and it also takes time (the next bullet item).
  • Social Media Isn't:  Fast
    "I put it out on Digg, it should hit the front page in an hour!"  If you have worked in Social Media, and heard anyone say that, more than likely you've snickered at hearing a statement like that.  Only in the very rarest of situations does social media take off like a rocket.  Most plans take time, effort and planning to make them successful.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound SEO Practices
    Not ranking in the Search Engine Results?  Think Social Media will shoot you up to the top in no time flat?  Think again!  There can be some cases where it might happen (the keyword "purple and blue polka dotted widgets" comes to mind here), but for any competitive keywords, Social Media alone just won't cut it if you want to rank for keywords.  Websites still need sound SEO fundamentals if they are going to compete in competitive markets.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound PPC Practices
    Just like still needing sound SEO fundamentals, if you have a PPC campaign, don't abandon it just because you're dabbling in Social Media.  Social Media can be fleeting.  You can hit big one day and it may last 2-3 more, but then you can sink like a rock for weeks to come.  Abandoning your PPC would only hurt your online marketing efforts.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Practice to be Done by Interns
    If you are a big company looking at interns to "play around in Facebook", please stop.  Actually, maybe you should, then, you can call a professional (like me, or many of my fine colleagues) to fix up the mess your intern created.  Seriously, Social Media is serious business, stop and think, do you REALLY want to leave your brand's identity in the hands of a college or high school intern?
  • Social Media Isn't:  Another Place to Distribute Your Press Release
    If your public relations company is saying "Oh we'll send this out to the social media outlets, too", run, run far far away.  Ever hear of the "Bad Pitch Blog"?  If your PR Firm or Advertising Agency is offering this, you'll end up there in no time flat!  Then you'll be paying the PR Firm (or it might be better to hire a social media or search marketing professional) to dig you out of the mess the PR Firm created in the first place.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something That Will Work if Your Site is "Broken"
    How is your conversion rate now?  Are people reading what you want them too?  Are you getting the subscribers you want to your email list?  If your site isn't working - forms are broken, links are broken, shopping carts are difficult to use, etc., Social Media won't fix that.  In fact it might make things even worse, or make you believe your Social Media plan isn't working. 
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something To Send Out Mass Emails For
    This really, absolutely, makes experienced bloggers irate.  Your email gets dumped in the trash.  If you send out a mass email with the same exact wording to bloggers, word will get around and you will likely end up on that Bad Pitch Blog.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do Without Participation
    Many marketers are under the assumption they can just submit things to social media sites and they will have success.  This is where their thinking/judgment errs.  Social Media is about .... *drum rolls* .... being social.  Without a conversation, without being part of the community, the community will backlash and "out" you for what you really are, a marketer.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do in Disguise
    You might want to ask Edleman, Walmart, Sony and Microsoft about this one.  Social media communities can smell a fake right away, and when they out you, it isn't pretty.  Even a year later, we're still pointing to these major snafus as what "not" to do, that should be enough to show you, be transparent from the get go.

Ad_agencies_buttons I could probably add about 5-10 more, but I think these points drive home the point, it takes more than just luck to work with Social Media.  If you are a company that is employing a PR Agency or and Advertising Agency who "Just started a social media practice", please stop and rethink this approach. 

Don't look at the awards they won - awards won't get you conversions or make you reach your "engagement" goals for users.  Look at established internet marketing firms - ones that have experience in how to optimize a website, some of the same principals carry over to Social Media, and having someone that knows that is invaluable.

September 26, 2007

Blogs: Making Your Pitch - What Not To Do

By Li Evans

As a blog gets older, grows in audience and continues to put out content that proves it is an active blog, it's inevitable that the blog will get pitches about stories "they must" cover.  Coming from a PR background, I really wonder where some of these PR practitioners learned their trade, based on the couple of pitches SMG receives a day.

A few weeks ago Lee Odden at TopRankBlog posted a great list of "How Not to Pitch a Blog".  I'd like to add a few more bullets to the list, or give a different perspective or meaning to some of his bulleted points.

  • Blogging Investigate the Blog:   Learn everything you can about the blog, check out the "About Us" section, reader the bloggers profiles, find out if they even take pitches. 
    • Who owns the blog?
    • Is the owner of the blog a writer?
    • Do the contributing writers have their own blogs?
    • Can you contact the writers' individually?
    • Has the blog written about you before?
    • Has the blog written about your industry before?
    • Does the blog or blogger(s) subscribe to your service?
  • Don't Email Blast Your Press Release:  If you want to pitch a story, email the blogger.  Bloggers are rather unique individuals and like the personal touch.  To be honest, we hate the canned automated messages, especially ones that have "Error! File Name Not Specified". 
    • Pitch the blog before you mass email your press release
    • Make it personal - address the blogger individually, point out why you believe the story would be important to them.
    • Don't send the same message to all the members of the blogging team, especially if only one contact email is listed for the blog.
  • Don't Treat Bloggers as Just Another Press Release Outlet: Don't just email the press release.  Unless of course your Google, Yahoo or Microsoft, you will just annoy the writers, editors and owners of the blogs.  Again, it goes back to making it personal. 
    • Bloggers are not just another outlet to mass email your press release too
    • Unless the blog has a general email they say "send press releases to this address", resist the urge to add that email you see to your distribution list.
  • Take the Time and Email and Establish a Relationship with the Blog:  Yes, I know, this takes a bit of time. However, if you know anything about Public Relations, it's about establishing relationships.  A blogger can become an important resource for you, if you take the time and nurture the relationship.
  • Public_relations Remember, Bloggers can Tarnish Your Name, Just as Fast as They Praise It: Piss off a blogger with your email blasts about your boring product launch, and it's likely a blogger will out you, your client or company.  They might even dig for information on something your don't want to be reported.
  • Remember, Bloggers Talk to Other Bloggers:  Especially in niche industries that might not be that large, it is even more prevalent.  Like minded people like to bond over subjects they have in common.  It takes one conversation of "hey did you get that press release from WYZ Company?" and the bloggers discover they were both pitched in the same way.  That gets the ball rolling for other bloggers to just unite and possibly join against you and your PR Strategy.
  • Lastly, Don't Leave Your PR Blog Strategy to Interns: You may think, contacting bloggers is something so simple you can just pass it off to your interns to do.  Resist that urge.  Instead, have the interns do the research on which blogs you should contact and also the research on why you should contact the blog.  The relationship with the blogger should be established by the Public Relations professional within the company, as they are the most experiences about the services, products and reasons the story should be pitched.  Remember in one fell push of the publish button, a blogger can start a campaign against your company, rather than for it, and that could spiral out of control rather quickly.

Public Relations professionals really need to stop and think about their strategies when dealing with bloggers.  Bloggers are NOT your typical news outlet.  Bloggers, in most cases, don't answer to editors, or multi-million dollar conglomerate owners.  Bloggers usually have one boss, their own conscious.  Working with bloggers requires more time and investment, which involves cultivating a relationship. 

Taking the time to cultivate the relationship could possibly be your best break in helping to get your story out to the masses, so don't leave it to just an intern, canned messages or email blasts.  Invest the time and resources and you will find that your PR Blogging Strategy could be a your best bet when getting your story ideas covered.

September 13, 2007

Press Releases and Optimization for Search Engines

By Li Evans

Press releases are a great way to announce interesting, unique or important news about someone or something important about your company.  However, the most important thing to remember is that what you might consider important just might not be that important to the world at large.  Understanding who will find this information intriguing enough to call you to investigate a little more and create a story out of your information is the key to creating successful press releases.

There was a time where launching a new website or a new web site design was newsworthy.  That was back in the day when stuffing the keyword meta tag with over a 100 keywords, might have helped you rank well.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), those days have past and  marketers, web site owners and public relations experts need to find more interesting hooks around the more mundane informational announcements that Presidents and CEO's of companies insist are "most newsworthy".

Along with the fact that press releases need to be more creative to catch the interest of the target audience, press releases need to be "found", or "stand out" among a sea of thousands of other press releases that are being released every day.  Since the advent of the internet, the technology distribution advancements has been both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because it makes it a lot easier to reach a lot more perspective outlets for your press release, but a curse in that it's made it easy for everyone and their uncles' cousin to just the same thing as you are.

So how do you stand out?  How do you get your press release found or have it picked up?  Here's a few tips for creating, optimizing and distributing your press releases.

Continue reading "Press Releases and Optimization for Search Engines" »

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