July 2006 - Online Strategies

Online PR: How New Tools Can Increase Your Marketing Footprint

By Tony Sziklai

Most business owners understand the value of PR. A timely plug in a newspaper or magazine article can increase brand awareness and generate spikes in sales. This can be especially useful to DRTV marketers seeking a lift in their direct sales or acceptance from a big box retail chain.

While many product plugs are free, just as many are paid placements-especially in popular consumer magazines. Some of these publications have online versions, enabling advertisers to propagate brand mentions and advertising tie-ins across multiple media. If you are interested in this kind of cross-media promotion, it is a good idea to contact a sales rep working on the online advertising side.

In addition to traditional publications, editorial product plugs can also be placed on popular blog web sites. However, placing product plugs on blogs is best handled by an interactive agency with blog advertising experience. The agency will know which blogs are endemic to your product and which ones are open to editorial brand mentions.

While sponsored plugs in cross-media publications and blogs are an excellent way to promote your product, my favorite tool is the do-it-yourself online press release. Online newswire services, including PRNewswire, BusinessWire and Market Wire, will for a fee electronically distribute a company’s press releases to journalists, editors and trade publications in a variety of markets.

A relatively new phenomenon, these services require you to register and pay an initial membership fee before you can submit a press release. The price per release varies depending on the markets, distribution methods and other options that you choose. Because I do a lot of search engine optimization, I am a big fan of PRNewswire’s search engine visibility (SEV) option. For an additional fee, your press release will be rendered “search engine friendly.” You can get a lot of mileage out of an SEV press release, especially if you write it correctly. Make sure you include a title in your release that contains the keywords you are targeting. It is also a good idea to repeat the keywords in the body of the release, preferably in the first sentence.

No matter which PR tool you choose to use, make sure that your plug or press release comes across as if it were written by an unbiased third party. First, it will be more believable, and second, it will have longer legs. Blatantly self-serving releases with “salesy” language tend be ignored by writers looking for newsworthy content. I have had my most success with press releases that read like news articles and contained only one or two short mentions of the product. These tend to be quoted more and spread virally via online forums, blogs and e-mails.

Online PR is something that all DRTV marketers should take a closer look at. If your company is using pay-per-click search engine advertising, you may be surprised at how effective a single online press release can be.

Tony Sziklai is director of information technology at Moulton Logistics Management in Van Nuys, Calif. He can be reached at (818) 997-1800, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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