Using search in PR

As publicists, we spend a lot of time working to make sure our clients' messages are heard and shared by the right media to the right audiences. In today's world, that means having a story that can be easily found when your audience searches online.

As publicists, we spend a lot of time working to make sure our clients' messages are heard and shared by the right media to the right audiences. In today's world, that means having a story that can be easily found when your audience searches online.

Consumers and media are constantly searching for news, answers, products, and advice. More importantly, they are looking for information, content, and news about your brand, your product category, and your competitors. The results generated from their searches are not random. Search engines like Google work because they have complicated algorithms that tell them how to perform.

Having general knowledge about search marketing adds to your communications skill set and serves to strengthen your PR campaigns. Search isn't just for search experts working on the back end of campaigns: search is a tool for all of us. While it's not your job as a publicist to be a search expert, it is important to know the basics so that you can enhance messaging for your clients.

To take a more holistic approach to communications, here are a few tips on strengthening your public relations campaigns using search marketing:

  • Get to know your search marketing team. Don't work in a silo! The convergence of media means that communications teams have to work together. Set up a regular monthly meeting. It's a great way to find out about your digital team's goals while aligning them with yours.
  • Develop a keyword strategy. Based on the combined goals of your new search marketing friends and your messaging goals for your clients or brand, work to define a keyword strategy. Be thoughtful about wording and phrases and think about what your target audience may be searching for online.
  • Think about search intent. Google's most recent major update, Hummingbird, is a change focused on making search more conversational. Basically, this means it's important to think about phrases and context along with the keywords you've defined for your brands. Always think about how your audience might search for your brand online including the questions they are asking and why they are asking them.
  • Use compelling headlines and titles. Obviously, there are standards in release headlines that you want to adhere to, but creative titles that communicate the message of your pieces are the hook, and often the determining factor, for whether it's published, viewed, or shared.
  • Take every opportunity to optimize content. From blog posts to case studies, consistently use the keywords and important phrases while avoiding being “spammy.” Write the content first, then add in keywords and phrases. Composing the other way around often sounds inauthentic.

Make sure your content can be easily shared via social media. The more that content is shared and liked on social media, the more credibility Google assigns the piece (this is known as “social signaling.”) This results in a dramatic boost in search rankings. As you jump in to the world of search marketing, it's important to remain true to your original goals as a publicist. While search and public relations absolutely complement one another, there is no replacing the instincts of an experienced publicist when decisions are being made about your brand's story.

AJ Gerritson is founding partner of 451 Marketing.

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