Public Relations the Internet Way
The definition used by the author suggests that he's talking more about publicity (unpaid promotion) than public relations (working with the media to promote a positive image).
The author criticizes some attempts at publicity as being "a mile wide and a half-inch deep" - in that they attempt to gather the attention of as many people as possible, but offer most of them nothing of value. Drawing attention to yourself is not a value in and of itself - you have to get noticed by the right people in order to be successful.
Protocols for Interaction with Journalists Online
The author suggests caution when dealing with journalists online, as many of them are deluged with unwanted communications by companies that want their attention. Otherwise, the author's suggests the standard protocols for dealing with the media.
News Hooks, Cyberbait, and Outrageousness
The author suggests some of the qualities that make an event newsworthy. Much of it is similar to offline events, but the key is that the Internet "plays" to the national media and is of limited interest to local media outlets.
Superlatives are effective: doing something entirely new, or doing it "bigger" than anyone else has before, make an event newsworthy.
Being able to tie a promotion to a major news event can often get you mentioned in a sidebar.
And on the internet, more so than in traditional channels doing something that is absurd or outrageous draws a lot of attention.
Finally, consider niche media: it may be difficult to get attention from the general press, but special-interest magazines, business and trade journals, and the like might take an interest.
Writing for the Net
The principles of good press release writing also apply to the Web. Use an inverted-pyramid style. Present information of interest to the reader (rather than what's in your interest to communicate).
In addition to the human readers, consider search engines and news agents. Use terms that spiders and agents are likely to pick up upon and ensure that they appear near the top of the story (preferably in the headline or lead) - but be sure that this doesn't get in the way of human readability.
PR in a Many-to-Many Medium
The internet is a medium where information is rehashed by a number of middlemen. The author mentions various Web sites and services that aggregate news from various places and filter it according to the user's stated preferences as well as "push" services that send news to the desktop.
Unfortunately, he doesn't indicate what to do - just that such things exist. And given the emergence/explosion of blogs and RSS since the book was written, it's an important consideration. Too bad he provides no guidance.
The author's description of this concept makes it seem like an e-mail list: individuals who visit the site request to be sent updates and news via e-mail directly from you (rather than going through intermediaries).
Many such sites squander this opportunity (and alienate interested parties) by "feeding" such parties a stream of self-aggrandizing press releases.
The author's advice:
- Consider the reader - There's a reason a person took interest, and that reason isn't to hear you blather about how great you are. Consider the value the user wants to gain, and provide it.
- Volume of content - Especially in e-mail, give them a few sentences and a link rather than a lengthy story
- Frequency of contact - It's a delicate balance: send too often, and you'll become a nuisance; not often enough, and you'll be forgotten.
In the end, much of this may be moot: RSS feeds have replaced e-mail newsletters, and it's often more convenient and easier for an individual to control their own intake.
Event Public Relations
An online event can create PR. The author provides three case-studies as examples:
- One company that produced online chat software made it available in the wake of a disaster, enabling families who were separated to reconnect, or distant relatives to connect with displaced persons
- Another company used online conferencing software (WebEx) to hold an online press conferences, which got journalists in their industry accustomed to using the online media (and to take an active interest in monitoring the company's newsletters for upcoming events)
- An automobile manufacturer used the Internet as a way to debut information about new models (product announcements), providing journalists and "exclusive" period before letting the masses in.
Where and How to Post Your PR
Primarily, make sure that you submit your news releases to search engines immediately. Otherwise, you will have to wait until their "spider" is scheduled to re-index your site, which may be weeks or months after the event.
He suggests making postings to USENET newsgroups 9which may be outdated, but perhaps applicable to the many Web-based bulletin boards and discussion groups). However, you need to become familiar with the various groups out there, the topics of interest to each group, and the kinds of content that generally appear on their sites. If the nature and number of your postings are intrusive or offensive, you can do more harm than good.
He also mentions mailing lists (LISTSERV) as another venue. This, too, seems outdated, and the advice he provides is identical to what he said about newsgroups above.
Using PR Circuits
Many of the newswire services from the offline world also have online services (PR Newswire, Business Wire, etc.). The advantage of using these services is that they reach a broad number of media outlets for a very reasonable fee. The drawback as that they send hundreds or thousands of releases out every week, and yours is lost in the clutter.
EN: from personal knowledge, the wires are often used as filler by the press: space not filled with advertising or original stories is stuffed with filler stories from the wires, and it's rare that a wire story is "big" enough to get serious consideration (or prominent placement).
Trolling the Net for Information about Your Own Company
In addition to being proactive about publicity, you should also be reactive: keep an eye on the internet to see what others are saying about your company. The author suggests that this can be done by yourself using search engines, but it may be more effective to hire a clipping service.
The Internet is also used by disgruntled customers to lash out against companies: there are many anti-X sites where people gather to complain and denigrate firms they feel have done them a disservice.
As for what to do about negative remarks, the author suggest that you can sometimes ignore them and they will go away, other times you may need to respond or intervene to keep them from festering, and still other times any intervention will only legitimize and call attention to the complaint. He provides no helpful information for determining a course of action.