Online PR (online public relations) is about using the Internet to connect with a website’s or business’ key publics or audiences, to build awareness and increase exposure, to build and maintain an image and brand trust, and to communicate to solve crises. Online PR works much in the same way as traditional public relations, only with a different set of PR tools. Here are some of the benefits of adding online PR efforts to a company’s public relations strategy:
1. Messages can be disseminated (or sent out) very quickly, whether it’s breaking news or a response to a crisis situation.
2. Online PR tools can connect companies and websites directly with their target audiences, rather than having to communicate to massive groups through the media.
3. Direct target audience reach can make the evaluation of an online PR campaign easier, as data can be gathered immediately from viewers, listeners, or readers (online PR allows for direct interaction).
4. Online PR tools and methods can be more accessible to small and online businesses than offline public relations tools.
There are a variety of online PR tools available for a website’s or company’s public relations efforts, including:
Press Releases – Press releases can be used in online PR, much as they’re used in offline PR. While there’s no substitute for manually targeting quality, relevant media outlets and pursuing media relationships, online press release distribution allows a website or company to distribute their news to news engines (such as Google News and Yahoo! News), where it may be seen directly by members of their target audience.
Blogs and Forums – Blogs and forums or online communities are wonderful online PR tools for building and maintaining a reputation as an expert or authority source. Rather than using these community atmospheres as a place to make a blatant sales pitch, the idea is to use a “soft sell” technique of providing quality content or answers to others’ questions in a niche, to build trust and respect, which often later converts to business or site visitors naturally.
Article Distribution – Writing and distributing expert articles on a niche subject to online article directories is another method of demonstrating expertise and building trust.
Search Engine Optimization – SEO is often mistakenly classified as a “marketing” tool, but is in fact a narrow niche in online PR. The whole purpose of SEO is again that soft sell approach of building exposure and raising awareness, specifically through placements in search engine rankings, which eventually will lead to natural website traffic and / or sales.
Email Newsletters – Email newsletters can be targeted to any of a website’s key publics or audiences, as a direct means of communication to maintain an image and keep awareness of a brand strong.
Podcasts and Webinars – While seminars are an effective offline PR tool, podcasts and webinars can reach the same end, and serve as yet another tool for building a reputation based on demonstrating expertise in a niche.