17/02/2011

By Leigh Richards, Founder The RIGHT Image PR & Digital Marketing

Be advised. If you haven’t realised it already, online PR can transform your bottom line and boost your company’s image way beyond where you would be without it. And as it’s relatively low-cost, it allows even the smallest organisations to reap the benefits too.

By conducting a concerted and planned online PR campaign you’ll reach prospects that you would never reach with push marketing alone. A strong story will be picked up by dozens of online news sites, some the online reincarnation of popular print magazines; whilst others are a newer generation of specific online vehicles.

Potentially, your story will go far; often well beyond international boundaries.

If those who read your news are interested, they’ll be driven to your website and a percentage of them will convert into leads and sales. Better still, those who you don’t reach might find you more easily when searching. However, like anything, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. There are pitfalls to avoid too. So rather than re-inventing the wheel, it is worth taking the advice of an experienced PR consultant. You can find one through the Chartered Institute of PR.

Naturally, the first step is preparation. You need to ensure that your website and phone systems are capable of handling responses and making the customer interface welcoming and efficient. Also your site must encourage visitors to follow your company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or even YouTube?

The next step is to have something worth saying. Weak stories are a waste of time. Be open minded, as your views on what you feel is interesting might not be what attracts journalists. So ask yourself if it passes the “so what test”. Additionally, on-line news sites will favour stories which bring something of interest to their subscribers. So put yourself in their shoes. Again an experienced PR consultant can immediately sense the right angle; so enlist their advice. They are best placed to generate the right stories and to tailor them to specific groups such as trade or consumer.

Then find the right online distribution services. There are a myriad of them to choose from, some free, some not, some specific to particular groups, some are very effective whilst others make little impact.

There are those that are straightforward and highly productive like RealWire; whilst others can seem complex to the uninitiated in terms of targeting and usage. You should also supplement their work by tweeting the news and placing it on your website and Facebook accounts.

Once a strong story is out there, coverage will come in almost immediately and at this stage you should review both successes and failures. Suddenly though, your on line visibility will be transformed and your messages will be on a worldwide stage.

However, be careful what you distribute. Even when you have selected the right distribution service there are a variety of pitfalls in sending the wrong text! Small mistakes in the release will stay online for years! Some have major legal consequences. Again, this is where PR consultants can bring experience to each opportunity, optimising the impact of news and doing so safely. They also have their own contact base of journalists to mail to in addition to what you can achieve with wire services. So be advised of the benefits of online PR but also be prepared to take some advice too!

Leigh Richards FCIPR, Founder The RIGHT Image PR & Digital Marketing - www.therightimage.co.uk