In my recent promotion of the HitTail service, a controversy ALMOST broke out regarding comment spam. I keep a close watch on everyone writing about the overlap of the long tail concept, public relations, search and marketing in general. When appropriate, I will join the discussion and occasionally mention HitTail. I usually do it very well, but on one occasion, my post was too brief, my mention of HitTail too blunt, and the company associated with the blog too easy to interpret as a competitor. They are a marketing firm that wrote a paper on chasing the long tail of search–I might add, a full two months after HitTail was identified by MarketShift as a tool that chases the long tail.
But posting comments where appropriate is only one tiny aspect of online PR, and should be approached with extreme caution. A much better approach is search, because it perfectly positions the PR firm as the invisible hands that you never knew were involved. Traditionally, this has meant that PR firms were often responsible for articles mentioning particular products, or TV shows that have guests from particular companies. Paul Graham, the programmer and investor of Yahoo! Store fame likens this to a submarine. And in fact, when you search on the term PR firm, there you will find Paul’s article… and us, Connors Communications.
Commenting in other peoples’ blogs and producing advantageous search results are two techniques of online PR. But there are more. Of course you have to monitor the online content closely. Many call this the blogosphere, but it includes all Web content, such as forums, news sites, and just plan old websites (no RSS feed). You also should proactively control the discussion by hosting your own blog and establishing your own unique voice and authority. The HitTail blog has only been out since January this year (technically, only since June if you factor in the domain change), and already we’re being referred to as one of the go-to sites for SEO. And you should take advantage of social networking media, as we are with the YouTube viral video and most recently, Squidoo, which may be one o the best unsung PR 2.0 devices out there in how it lets you organize your view f the world and by virtue of simply doing that, attract and influence viewers who have similar interests through search.
And finally, if you do use an outside firm or agency such as Connors, it’s important to look for a few key factors. There is SO MUCH online PR you can do for free if you have enough time and are willing to learn the tools, such as Technorati, HitTail, Squidoo, MySpace and the like that the agency should bring more value than merely using those tools on your behalf. Sure, there’s strategic communication and helping you formulate your message. But there’s so much more that’s possible when you go to the pros.
Look for an agency that is so savvy that it is capable of revolutionizing the industry itself. Public relations by its very nature is unorthodox forms of marketing, and the state of technology and the media, there is unlimited opportunity for unorthodoxy. This prompted Connors first to delve into online outreach and search, but then to break out the sexiest piece and turn it into HitTail in an overture to the world, and a wonderful example of our capabilities.
Right along with having enough tech savvy to develop HitTail, we have the savvy to tie into any content management system instantly spin out hyper-search-friendly versions of your site, pretty much eliminating the need for paid inclusion services. These are very artistic (and scheduled) data-to-XML-to-HTML transformations that are about as cutting edge as it gets in the field of search engine optimization. And the best part here is that since its just advanced queries, when the search engines change, all you need to do is tweak the transformation instead of undertaking yet another scrap-and-rebuild. Even if you’re undergoing a CMS deployment, this technique can be quickly activated on your old system today, so you get all that traffic in the meantime that you would otherwise be leaving on the table.
We’re a PR firm that can discuss your Web strategies down to that level of detail. We have employees on staff who have programmed entire enterprise systems.
So, to wrap it up, sure there are the flesh-driven components of online outreach, such as blogging, commenting, and generally joining the online discussion. There are also the strategic communication bits, such as having a clear value proposition and getting your arguments down tight. But there are also the tech savvy components, such as app development and the ability to massively manipulate and transform data onto the information landscape. And if your PR firm isn’t able to hold discussions at that level, they may not be competitive enough for the current business landscape.