It sounds incredibly silly for me to say this in 2̶0̶1̶8̶ 2019, given how much of our lives have been shaped by the internet in the past two decades, but trying to manage your reputation online, both personal AND professional, is pretty much a near-impossible task. An innocent mistake or a gaffe could quickly land you a place in the headlines (and not in a good way) and would be screengrabbed and showed to you as a reminder just for the sake of it.
Navigating the digital landscape was never easy but I don’t think it has even been as hard as it is now, with the internet and social media platform acting as a forum for discussion, a bragging contest and a battlefield, sometimes all at the same time. Professionally speaking, companies have to be adept at using the internet for both marketing and PR purposes, and sometimes with the addition of customer service and sales as well. While increasing your online presence is something that’s been generally left to SEO services, SEO and PR actually has a number of shared goals that you can actually take advantage of.
Spreading the good word for your business
I used the word SEO here to make my point but technically, I’m referring to the practice of online marketing in general, which is getting increasingly intertwined with the practice of SEO. PPC ads, social media and e-mail marketing and other forms of online marketing are all important of course but PR, a way of boosting your presence without you being directly involved can be a more effective and organic tool in raising your profile.
It used to be that SEO was fairly technical but as Google and other search engine algorithms grow more sophisticated, more human so to speak, SEO practitioners had to figure out a way into making their efforts more organic. Instead of trying to appeal to lines of code, SEO is now more about appealing directly to people, which puts them more in line with PR, which mainly deals with the issue of public image.
Think of it as the Hillary Clinton dilemma. On paper, she’s a far more qualified candidate than Trump and had the presidential election been a completely objective contest, she should’ve won but it’s actual people who voted and human emotions are always unpredictable. It’s no longer enough to be objectively superior (SEO), you also have to try to alter how your business is perceived publicly (PR) and in the following, I’ll outline several different ways in which SEO and PR complement each other.
Links and quality mentions
It used to be that any kind of publicity would be good publicity and that might be okay if you’re some minor Instagram celebrity looking to put your name in the headlines in anyway possible but if you’re a legitimate business asking for potential customers to part with their money on your behalf, the only kind of good publicity you’d want is actual good publicity. SEO used to be solely concentrated on getting your business mentioned as often as possible, no matter where and how you’re mentioned but the landscape has changed so much since search engines were first launched and that simply won’t be enough anymore.
It’s at this point that SEO and PR could work with each other by identifying places that could give your company a much needed boost. Even a single mention in an influential blog or a local publication could bring you more traffic than hundreds of random spam links you posted across the internet. Focus instead of getting one quality shout-out instead of trying to spread your coverage as wide as possible; it’s about quality, not quantity.
Show off your credentials
Now, once you’ve garnered coverage or two from some of those influential publications mentioned above, it’s time to use them as a badge of honor. You know those film posters or book covers that have blurbs from notable publications written all over them? Follow their lead and include links to those mentions and/or coverage to increase your credibility. If you already have several customers, you can also use testimonials and/or shots of your products being used in public for the same purpose.
Managing your online reputation
Say your SEO efforts have proven to be successful and for a particular set of keywords, your website is now sitting near the top. The thing is, your brand recognition is still relatively low and that before a potential customer could commit to your products and/or services, they decide to look up your company only to find less-than-flattering reviews posted across crowd-sourced platforms such as Yelp, Zomato or even Facebook. What would you do then?
Poor customer experiences and reviews have a potential to go viral and this is also another area where PR could help with your SEO efforts. You can never fully control how your business is portrayed online but you still have an influence to a certain degree and when you’re hit with a particularly nasty review, try to reach out the offended party and work out a solution that could benefit the both of you. Big brands can handle several bad reviews but small businesses don’t have that kind of luxury.
Start a marketing and/or PR campaign
Did something good for your community in the past month? Have an ongoing promotional campaign that you feel can put you ahead of your competitors like this one hotel chain in Sweden that offered refunds for couples that divorced within a year of staying in one of their hotels? Show them off! Put them out on social media or wherever, see the news spread like wildfire and watch as your website’s server went down thanks to the heavy traffic.
PR campaigns like these take a little bit of work and it’s not something that you could very often but play your cards right and they can bring you a rise in traffic your typical SEO efforts won’t be able to produce in the same amount of time. With seasonal promotions such as Black Friday or similar deals, you’re sharing the spotlight with hundreds other businesses but with a PR campaign that’s unique to your business, you could at least have a head start before your competitors could figure out a way to take a page out of your playbook.