The final Internet Master Series teleseminar of 2006, hosted by Natalie Judd, delved into the often overlooked and misunderstood field of public relations. Acclaimed public relations (PR) expert David Lakhani came by to introduce strategies that make sense, and explain why "well-done" PR is so persuasive.
The Importance of PR.
Lakhani argues that PR is more accepted than other forms of marketing (i.e advertising, promotion, etc.) because of its very nature as "placed" news. It can build product awareness through various media (e.g. print, electronic, emerging technologies). Your messages benefit from third party endorsements, making them more easily accepted by skeptical audiences. When highly trusted news sources like CNN and The CBS Evening News expose your product, they are implicitly telling their viewers that it is superior to the competition. After all, why else would they report on it?
Is Using PR Expensive?
Mr. Lakhani claims that, contrary to conventional thinking, effective public relations can be very low-cost, even free. While retaining the services of a traditional PR firm or doing your own PR without proper coaching or training is very expensive (and usually unproductive), Performance-based PR is not costly at all. Companies and entrepreneurs are advised to select public relations outfits that are willing to train you, and only accept PAY for PERFORMANCE.
The Democratization of Public Relations: Online PR.
Like other forms of marketing, public relations is benefiting from the growing accessibility of new media technology. For example, podcasts and blogs give small entrepreneurs a chance to be BIG. You can build one-to-one relationships with thousands of people simultaneously. As bloggers and podcasters enter the mainstream, they will gain acceptance and credibility as news sources. Traditional media outlets as well as YouTube will increasingly turn to them for content. So, follow David's advice and pay particular attention to your blog rankings with particular keywords. By linking them back to your press release, you will be perceived as the expert...
Even though "non-professionals" buy T.V. and radio time to promote their businesses, media releases on the Internet are fast becoming the way to influence people at an even greater level. By presenting your press releases in proper format and optimizing your online distribution strategy, you can obtain tremendous presence. Keyword-linked articles are archived forever, thus serving as permanent traffic generating tools. Lakhani suggests frequent and multiple releases to reduce Pay-per-Click (PPC) expenses for search engine-generated traffic, noting that newer material is ranked higher.
David Says: A PR Release is NOT a Traditional Sales Letter!
PR releases and sales letters share some common characteristics:
- Powerful headline
- Strong sub-headline to maintain reader interest
- Compelling copy
However, sales copywriting and releases distinguish themselves by their respective goals. A sales letter is meant to "ethically persuade" visitors to purchase something. Press releases are supposed to tell a story that gains the interest of a specific target audience - journalists. The press is always looking for, and will be attracted by, well-written and compelling stories. It is a willing audience, provided you are subtle in your approach. For example, to get attention for a financial planning-related release, relate a personal story about your father's job security. Something interesting that people want to hear.
Lakhani encourages mail, fax, and telephone follow-ups to confirm that your press release was sent/received.
"Watch the news to be the News."
David encourages people to constantly search for different "hooks" that can generate a buzz around you and your product. Keyword research with Overture is a good starting point for bid prices and searches. To "predict" what will happen in the next twelve months, Lakhani suggests:
1. http://www.oprah.com One of America's greatest trend setters. Use the search feature with "Future" and "Beyond this show".
2. The editorial calendars of popular magazines and pick out common themes.
3. Google Alerts and other news notification/clipping services to stay on top of interesting topics.
Using PR to establish yourself as an expert demands a consistent message to others with personal content and appropriate formatting. As they say, "Experts have opinions and share them.". The benefits include greater influence, brand-building, and the power of persuasion.
David concluded his presentation by mentioning some of the major public relations websites that online entrepreneurs may want to visit to get their campaigns off the ground:
David Lakhani left listeners with a better understanding about PR use. He maintains that no matter what business you are in, somebody out there wants to hear your story:
Everybody loves a Storyteller!
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