I had the honor of leading a breakout session on public relations at BlogathonATX this past weekend, alongside the venerable Dara Quackenbush, public relations professor at Texas State University. The room was almost exclusively filled with self-employed entrepreneurs at various stages in their blogging journeys: those just getting their feet wet, alongside seasoned bloggers like Tom Myer of the newly popular guilty pleasure GetOffMyLawn.org. Our friend and Social Location Marketing author Simon Salt even tuned in from his very own peanut gallery via Livestream.
Based on the group’s feedback and questions, I compiled a list of advice that resonated the most. These tips aren’t just for bloggers either. All business owners wanting to use their websites and other online content for public relations purposes can benefit.
- You don’t need a press release to pitch ideas to the media. Usually a “3 S” email (simple, short and specific) with a link to a more in-depth blog post or webpage can do the job. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re pitching and play devil’s advocate by answering these questions: “Why should I care? And why should I use you as a source?” (Hint: The answers to those questions will not be the same for every person you’re pitching.) For practice, sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) emails and answer relevant queries (and let us know how it goes!).
- Before approaching a journalist, reporter or another blogger with a story idea, research that individual and their media outlet. You can use a free tool like Gist to get a snapshot of the individual’s most recent articles, tweets and blog posts; and you should search for any available editorial/submission guidelines on the media outlet’s website, too.
- Don’t ignore SEO (search engine optimization), but don’t allow it overtake the integrity of your content. Yahoo! and Google searches are extremely important sources for unique (completely new) visitors. But if you place SEO copywriting above common sense, the copy will be too disjointed to keep new visitors engaged. For a great basic overview on this subject, download this free report by Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger (one of my favorite blogs about blogging): How to Create Compelling Content That Ranks Well in Search Engines.
- Use common sense as your PR barometer. I must have told the group to “use your common sense” as my answer to most questions. And, yes, I know that not all PR people have their own common sense, but that’s another post. Whether you’re pitching media, infusing web copy with SEO, engaging in email marketing or handling customer complaints: common sense rules.
- PR is about providing value, not about feeding your own narcissism. We were asked during the breakout session how to pitch or market oneself without sounding like a self-absorbed SOB (not the exact wording, but you get the idea). My answer was simple: make it more about content and value and less about YOU. Take a look at my PR colleague Shonali Burke’s recent experience on the other side of the reporter’s desk in 15 Reasons Your PR Pitch Sucks for some additional insights (reason #1 gets right to the meat).
If you participated, let me know if I’m missing any other follow-up tips you were hoping to see.
Image courtesy of clix.