Whether you are CEE (Chief Executive of Everything) at a start-up company or part of a communications team at a multinational corporation, your operations—at least in terms of paring down and focusing on necessities—are probably less unique you think. The recession has forced every organization to operate like a small business in some sense, be it spreading responsibilities across a thinned-out staff, working on a shoestring budget or simply doing more of the same, but with fewer resources.
In terms of PR and marketing, executives can learn a lot from small business’ communications models, which were built to thrive—or at least survive—in this type of climate. It’s all about giving consumers what they want in the most efficient and effective way possible—or, as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden puts it, “fishing where the fish are.”
Not surprisingly, the “fish” are swimming in the big pond that is cyberspace. Finding them without breaking the bank and, in turn, promoting your business’ products/services successfully does require one investment: time.
“Building communities online takes time and requires long-term commitment,” says Idil Cakim, VP at GolinHarris. “You have to establish one-on-one connections, offer value and share your knowledge.”
As for the one thing you should spend cold hard cash on, Cakim says, it’s a content management system (CMS) that allows you to update your Web site or blog easily. Once you have a CMS in place, your marketing/PR energies can be focused on populating online platforms with content that draws in users. With that, consider the following tools and tactics to add to your proverbial tackle box:
â–¶ An SEO strategy: Search engines are the go-to place for people to find information about your company, so they should be your go-to place for finding said people in the first place. Any online content can be optimized, from the “about us” section of your Web site to your tweets and blog posts. SEO is especially relevant to one communications mainstay: news releases.
“You no longer send news releases only when big news is happening,” says Sophie Shiatis, VP of e-commerce at PRWeb. “Instead, try to find good reasons to send them all the time. Create releases that appeal directly to your buyers, not just a handful of journalists.” (For a list of news release must-haves, see sidebar.)
Regardless of the content you’re looking to optimize for search, SEO-PR president Greg Jarboe outlines the following strategic road map:
• Conduct keyword research to find two or three relevant terms that your target audiences are likely to use.
• Edit your content—particularly the headline and first few sentences—and make sure that it actually includes your target terms.
• Add links intended to help people find related content, when applicable.
• Optimize delivery for searching and browsing.
• Measure your results.
â–¶ A keyword optimization strategy: Following along with the SEO theme, keywords are a critical part of how search engines find your content.
“News search engines scan the headline and at least the first 100 words of articles,” Jarboe says. “So, make sure your actually includes your target terms, particularly in the headline and first few sentences.”
To identify the best keywords for your given topic, Jarboe points to the following free keyword research tools:
• Google AdWords Keyword Tool
• Google Trends
• Microsoft’s adCenter Labs keyword forecast
• Trellian’s free search term suggestion tool
• Wordtracker’s free keyword suggestion tool
Then, it’s a matter of placing the chosen keywords in your content. Odden identifies these locations as the most strategic:
• Title tags
• Paragraph subheads
• Anchor text in links
• Image text
• Meta-description tags
â–¶ A link-building checklist: Inbound links are another crucial piece of the traffic pie; the more external sites that link to your content, the higher up you will appear in search results. Odden recommends the following checklist to help you increase your number of in-bound links:
• Use keywords in hyperlinked text (don’t hyperlink “click here”).
• Earn links with great content. “It’s a waste of time to go after irrelevant inbound links,” Odden says.
• Promote content on social networks.
• Link up with marketing partners.
• Cross-link internally.
• Embed links in news releases.
• Social bookmark pickups.
• Syndicate content via RSS.
â–¶ Mechanisms that allow for sharing and feedback: Sharing tools like AddThis and ShareThis can be embedded in sites to allow visitors to literally share an article or post via other online channels. An added bonus: They are free and easy to “grab.”
In addition to sharing tools, give users a means of offering feedback, as this helps fuel authentic word-of-mouth.
“Most online reviews are positive,” Cakim says, pointing to a Yelp report that there is a 6-1 ratio of positive to negative comments on its site. “Ask for testimonials from valuable, outspoken customers and plug in rating features like Outbrain and Bazaar Voice.”
When it comes down to marketing yourself/your organization, these are just a few of the many tools at your disposal. To make them work for you, though, you must accept the paradigm shift that has taken place across all business practices, reshaping communications challenges and opportunities in the context of a new reality.
“As Columbus discovered, training the crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria how to sail west was relatively straightforward,” Jarboe says. “The real challenge was convincing Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand that he and his crew wouldn’t fall off the edge of the world.” PRN
Idil Cakim, firstname.lastname@example.org; Greg Jarboe, email@example.com; Lee Odden, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sophie Shiatis, email@example.com