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Friday, October 06, 2006

Public Relations Online

The most recent findings from the Pew Internet & American Life tracking surveys and comScore Media Metrix estimates 60 million American adults are using search engines on a typical day. Factor this statistic into the global evolution of broadband adoption and the sheer volume of daily global internet users is staggering, nearing half a billion. In addition, the overall global audience for any given product or solution is so vast and geographically diverse, that it is difficult to ensure that the right messaging is always getting delivered; add to that the fact that the internet is a two-way communication device, and the control of perceived reputation and brand identity seems daunting to say the least.

Search has grown beyond the industrial commercial web and is now well integrated with personal publishing, blogs, wikis, user reviews, comments and all kinds of publishing options which makes keeping track of what is being said about a company, product or service more and more of a challenge. Just do a search for Starbucks on Google and look at the 2nd result. For all of the blogs and social networks out there praising different companies and product lines, there are just as many doing the opposite. One’s reputation on the Internet is becoming just as important as, or perhaps even more than, one’s real world reputation. “A great brand can take months, if not years, and millions of dollars to build. It should be the thing you hold most precious. It can be destroyed in hours by a Blogger upset with your company.”

More than ever, reputation management through all online resources is an absolute must for any business – if WOM (word of mouth) can create a business, WOM can infect and spread across the internet like a public relations nightmare, forever impacting sales, leads, and brand perceptions.

There is, however, a difference between online and offline public relations. Basically, online PR involves activities geared towards influencing media, communities and audiences that exist solely on the Internet using online channels. That includes search engines, blogs, news search, forums, discussion threads, social networks and other online communication tools. Brand reputation monitoring and management is also a focus area for online PR.

As with all marketing tactics, a company should really consider the overall marketing strategy and choose the appropriate mix of tactics that will support the execution for a strong and integrated public relations strategy. The mix of SEO, blog marketing, and press release optimization along with the integration with offline marketing/PR tactics can be very powerful.

If a business has news, they should make it easy for the media to find out about that news. Tools include press releases, wire services such as PR Newswire and PRWeb, an online media kit, an optimized blog and a good SEO effort. Whenever a company gets online media coverage, they should be sure to use social bookmark services such as and to archive them. It’s also a good idea to use a company blog as a way to reach out to other blogs in the same space to encourage coverage of company news.

The most important online PR resource a business can have is a talented PR pro that can research story opportunities and persuasively pitch both online journalists and Bloggers accordingly. Sending out press releases alone is like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. Software tools can help make things easier, such as or Google Alerts for brand monitoring, but it is human interpretation that provides the most value. Monitoring how consumers talk about your brand can provide early warning signs for product or service issues as well as promotion opportunities that can be leveraged. However, by and large, developing relationships with online publication editors and Bloggers is also particularly useful, and for that, a dedicated resource is absolutely necessary.

Basically, reputation management (online) is the business of monitoring what the marketplace is saying about your brand. It also means responding to situations before they run out of control. Venues include blogs, discussion threads, forums and social networking sites. A simplistic formula is to allocate a proportion of resources to reputation management in relation to how important your brand is to your overall business. With the explosion of Internet which is now reaching an increasingly immense audience and the flood of information currently available online, a good corporate reputation can also be built and maintained online. More and more people are using internet, search engines in particular, to hunt for "unofficial" opinions and reviews of products and services.

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