Sexy – Creating a Stand-Out Online Public Relations Plan (Part 1 of 2)

Some people mistakenly assume that “Public Relations” has only to do with mitigating bad press. However, when we consider the concept of public relations in a broader context, we see the value in developing and implementing an ongoing strategy for handling our company’s public image. All businesses, whether they are sole proprietorships or publicly-held corporations, need to ensure that their public image is consistent, positive and appropriate for their industry. Public relations involve many levels, including the image we present not only to customers, but also to vendors and even employees.

One of the greatest advantages of online PR is that we have a unique opportunity to bypass the traditional media filters used to determine the few stories that make it to the public. Now, with web portals like Yahoo and Google, along with “vertical sites,” which actually pull several websites of common interest together, you can go directly to the media source. The biggest challenge becomes, however, how you ensure that your message rises to the top. After all, people can only identify you as an expert in your field if they know you exist!

The quality of your public relations plan can be the difference between success and failure, but how do we begin, and how do we know how well it’s working? Following are a few simple steps to follow when creating your professional public relations plan:

Step 1 – Hit Your Target: Your business needs to have a public relations plan, just as it has a business plan and a marketing plan. In today’s information-saturated market, sending out a few press releases a year to the local paper doesn’t qualify as a viable PR plan. With the benefit of the Internet, news about your services and achievements can be distributed nationally, and even globally, as well as to local media outlets. Newspapers, ezines, blogs, business and social networking sites all can help you get your message to the public for little or no cost. However, be careful to not waste your time with a shotgun-blast approach to publicity. Taking the time to identify your target markets, and recognizing which media outlets are most likely to connect with that target, can save you time and headaches in the long-term.

Step 2 – Become a Virtual Networking Guru: Online Public Relations involves connecting with people in a personal way that is more effective than advertising alone ever could be.

  • Social Networking sites: Free sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others allow you to set up a profile, keep it current and get to know other like-minded people.
  • Newsgroups and message boards: Do an Internet search for your type of business. Find out where people are “hanging out” online. Spend your time on the busiest boards for maximum exposure. You have to be ready to invest your time and resources in others too; don’t just advertise. Give advice, seek advice, and get to know your fellow posters, and they’ll come to see you as a valuable business partner.
  • Referral and affiliate programs: Offer tangible incentives to people who bring business your way. It’s good business etiquette to spend as much time thanking and recognizing people as you spend asking them for something. Always recognize when a lead comes from an associate, and make it worth their while to do it again.

Step 3 – Be an expert in your field: Having knowledge that others need makes people come to you, which is always better then you going to them! How do you become an expert? You’ll have to come back next month to find out. Read Part two of Online Public Relations in the April Issue.