What PR Pros Need to Know About Online PR

Jasmine Sandler

It used to be that a Web design agency would handle design and development, a search marketing agency would handle SEO work and an online media agency would manage a client’s online campaigns. To contrast, a PR agency  would handle media relations, introduce new brands and handle reputation management. PR was considered a separate entity from online marketing and vice versa.

How the game has changed. Welcome to the brave new world of online PR.  

Online PR is the culmination of traditional PR and viral online marketing. To do online PR right, meaning to do so to drive online brand lift, client/customer engagement and positive social sentiment, it must be managed by a team that is experienced in both PR and online marketing.

Thus the equation: Online Branding = PR Strategy/Tactics + Effective SEO + Optimized Social Media Marketing.

In the world of online PR the strategy is similar to that of traditional PR—deciding on a brand direction with clear goals and a way to achieve them in a reasonable timeframe. Similarly, online PR takes into account competition (online), market share opportunities, where the target lives and how they consume brand materials. Online, the target listening includes the media, influencers (bloggers) and the primary consumer audience.

Online PR tactics rely on the engagement levels of the content. The content requires a solid plan to account for frequency, resources, engagement and metrics or measurement. It is useful for a PR Pro to create a weekly content plan, complete with types, frequency and destinations. Online PR content includes all of the following:

  • Online, multimedia press releases

  • Blog posts

  • Recorded webcasts

  • Recorded webinars

  • Podcasts/audio files

  • Original photography

  • Original illustrations

  • Articles

  • Interviews

  • Online videos

  • Presentations

  • Whitepapers

When developed to meet the engagement needs of the target audience, this content enables success metrics such as qualified lead generation, e-newsletter registrations, content shares, increase number of fans/followers/connects, downloads of content, demo requests and e-commerce sales.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key component of the online PR process. The first thing a PR pro will need to do is to identify a targeted keyword list. This will require a review of the client’s value proposition, products/services and promise to its customers. This list will need to be analyzed for target interest (search popularity) and competitiveness.

A simple tool PR pros can use is the Google Adwords Keywords Suggestion Tool. When using this tool, remember to select all columns provided to gain all of this data. I have provided an entire list of SEO tools and resources for your use on my Online PR Blog.

Optimizing a client’s site for SEO is the first step post keyword analysis. An SEO audit should be done to assess how well a website is using appropriate keyword phrases (top 10 favorable) in its service descriptions, titles, tags, alt-tags, H1/H2 tags and meta descriptions. A site that is looking for rank and engagement will need ongoing, fresh content. This equals ample content per page and an on-site blog that has frequent, relevant, engaging posts. The content themes, of course, must support the online PR strategy.

In the world of SEO, content placed on qualified and relevant sites (backlinks) that drives up online brand impressions and engagement is crucial to sustained top rank visibility. Your backlink program needs to include directories, sites, forums and networks that are on par with your topics and themes in your online PR strategy.

Examples include: distributing press releases on online newswires, placing articles on directories and indexing sites such as Wikipedia, writing or creating specific content for specific online publications (articles, info graphics, presentations, webinars, and online videos), guest blogging and creating manual link relationships with complementary businesses online.

The big fish in the world of SEO and online PR is social media. Social signals have been accounted by Google to be a part of their algorithm mix. Social media can negatively or positively affect a brand and its perception with the intended audience.

Activities such as social shares, likes and commenting are signals to the search engines. The right mix and use of social channels can make or break a brand online. Social media marketing optimization, which means making content shareable in the hopes of creating a community around content and then an online brand should be your first step. Your client’s website should be set up so that critical content areas are shareable and easily set up for commenting with approvals.

Social is a double-edged sword; and can drive negative mentions or bad press, so to speak. Any PR pro using the web to market will need to become aware of any and all mentions of their clients brand so as to provide online reputation management. Social tools that any PR pro needs to have engaged at all times include www.socialmention.com and www.google.com/alerts.

The more you know, as a PR pro, about the tools to use and changes happening in both social media marketing and SEO, the better you will be able to understand the changes presented to PR practices by the Internet.

In thinking online PR, think content strategy, analytics measurement and continually monitoring online brand sentiment and engagement. The web has given PR a way to deliver press immediately, but at the same time, a way for consumers and B2B clientele to immediately share comments and opinions on those brands.

In this world of online PR it is essential for  PR pros to have a content plan and response tactics that can serve to develop, deliver and protect their client's online brand.

Jasmine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Agent-cy, an SEO, social media & online marketing agency. She can be reached via email at JSandler@agent-cy.com


  • Kristin Jones

    It is true that as PR professionals, the scope of our job has grown. The benefit of this is that we now have so many more resources and outlets available to distribute our message. However, determining the best practices to measure this information and what the value of a like or follow is crucial to understanding the progress we are making. Setting up a plan is an important first step in managing the demands of measurement, both in the traditional sense and in a growing online world.