via Forbes: I’ve worked in public relations now for 32 years, since 1986. Interestingly, as I look at the PR landscape today, some of the rules are radically different while others remain the same. With that in mind, I want to share a top hits list today for small business of the enduring rules to remember, paired with the most important new rules. Here goes.
The ways today’s PR is different:
1. You can be your own best publisher. While it was not unheard of to publish directly to industry publications in times past, the process has become much different in recent years. Time was, neither the writer, nor generally the publishers, knew just how many views a contributed piece would receive. Thus the name of the game for vendors was to see just how much promotion they could sneak past the gatekeepers without having their submission refused. But viewer numbers and shares now make it evident to writers (and to everyone) whether the information has created engagement or interest. On a platform like Forbes or Huffington Post, for example, with high rank and some 75 million visitors a month, if a piece receives only a few views, (assuming it’s not pulled down for breaking the rules) it’s clear the promotion has created little value or interest. Great content interests and educates your prospective audience. Material that hypes or pitches by “telling your story” in a self-congratulatory way does not. So use the privilege, when you get it, with care.
2. But it is vital to know the difference between owned, earned, leased and rented publishing space. This is a point my friend David Politis stresses in his book “66 Rules for Publicity Success.” When you post on your company blog (or your own), it is space that is owned and controlled entirely by you. This is powerful (although violating copyrights or posting information on a personal blog that embarrasses your company may be a costly mistake). If you publish for national journals or publications, it is a right you have “earned” by proving compelling information within the magazine’s rules. The platform, however, is still the magazine’s playground and you may be cut or banned for any reason they choose. Your social media platforms on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook may feel like your own territory, but in truth, they are not. Social media is leased or rented space, even if you pay for membership or ads. Twitter, Facebook and others can change the rules or pull down your content at any time they wish. Be careful of running afoul of the rules, or of building a community that depends entirely upon somebody else’s continued strength and amenable rules for your own community’s strength to survive.
3. Search results are your greatest ally (and your most significant risk). When you create PR, you are working not only for your customer audience but to gain the maximum possible ranking and favor of Google. Whether we like it or not, Google is the engine that produces the majority of the “due diligence” your prospective customers will see. Have you provided them with enough evidence to validate their decision to do business with you? Likewise, if you face a PR crisis (or even an attack from a troll), Google will report it, and bad or inaccurate information can be difficult to repair.
4. Visual content is increasingly important. While some predictions show visual content out ranking text within the very near future, text continues to rank most strongly. But text plus video/audio information and compelling images creates a multimedia experience that is highly effective at sending the right people your way.
5. Customer feedback is equal (or more) important to purchases than traditional analyst views. While Consumer Reports and industry analysis is important, customers are even more compelled by the candid information from other consumers like them. Do not ever resort to phony reviews or to bribes, but make the effort to be sure this dynamic runs in your favor at all times.
The ways PR stays the same.
1. Press releases are still important. Too many small businesses take great pride in their ability to earn organic press coverage while ignoring the power traditional press releases provide. When press releases are well written and address “evergreen” (long-term) topics, they provide immediate SEO results in Google News. Better still, unlike traditional press information, within a press release, you control every word.
2. Value add information for your audience is more valuable than promotion and hype. Educative information has been the greatest key to successful public relations since the beginning of time. But in today’s connected universe, the value is easier to quantify and measure than ever before. According to Conductor.com, a consumer is 131% more likely to purchase from a vendor who publishes an educational article they have read. You can’t afford to lose an advantage like this.
3. Meaningful and consistent messaging is vital. So if the search engines produce your customers’ due diligence, imagine the power of having your value proposition effectively and consistently described from a variety of sources. But conversely, imagine the lost opportunity or damage it causes if your messages are random or even conflicting. So before you pride yourself in your ability to get into the press, do your business a favor by doing your messaging first.
4. Authenticity is more important than ever before. The rules of honesty have nearly always been important to successful public relations, but authenticity is more important than ever in a world where incongruent behavior is easier than ever to find and to share. A firestorm can emerge on a minute’s notice, and it is vital that your company and executives behave as if they are being viewed at all times.
5. Earned media is important. It is easy enough to publish your own material these days that some businesses have ignored or forgotten the need to participate in earned media as well. One business owner I spoke to recently bemoaned the fact that some of his millennial employees disregard any press result except the material that seems to have sprung up organically, as anything else, to them, represents public relations’ “black arts.” This is extreme thinking, clearly. But it is important to remember that what others say about you is at least as valuable to your company’s reputation as the things you are publishing and saying yourself.
My thanks today to Politis and his book, which inspired my thinking today. He enumerates a full 66 ideas for DIY PR. It is worth your while to study the PR landscape on a regular basis, as there are new rules emerging daily to join the traditional strategies that are forever the same.