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Mar 27, 2001
How To

Top 4 Tips for More Effective Online PR

SUMMARY: Fact is most American business reporters rely on email and Web surfing for news, information and sources these days far more than printed press releases and meetings at trade shows. So, the art of online PR has become critical, especially when so many companies are cutting other budgets. Here's what we learned at the B-to-B BQ show last week on this topic.
1. Crisis Management PR

These days of falling profits and layoffs can be a minefield of PR trouble for companies that don't have good crisis management systems. Dara Tyson, VP Communications ShareSpan says, "Get the news out fast and be done with it. Don't try to hide anything. It's going to be hard today, but everybody will forget tomorrow when other news comes along."

The key behind handling your bad news is making sure everybody in your company knows exactly how to handle enquiries. Most companies make sure their PR people and top execs can handle questions -- but they often forget to include the staff handing Web site enquiries. That's where you can get into real trouble.

What if a reporter, partner, client or investor contacts online customer service, emails your tech support, or any other email address or form on your site? Is the recipient equipped to answer crisis questions properly? Remember, every single person in your company is a messenger for you. So, train them well.

2. Remove Overused Buzzwords From Your Release

While your CEO and Board may be impressed with the latest buzzwords, reporters have read them far, far too often already. So, instead of looking with-it and exciting, you look me-too and ultra-dull.

Peter Shankman, CEO GeekFactory, notes that the average business reporter gets literally hundreds of emailed press releases every single day. Your release must really stand out to get attention. Using buzzwords, especially in your headline or first paragraph, is a guaranteed way to make sure your release is ignored instead. His suggestion: check your language against the latest list of buzzwords journalists loathe at before you send your release out.

Another useful site along the same lines suggested by MarketingSherpa reader, John Walston of Progressive Business Publications isBuzzWack at

3. Check Early AM Online Press for Trends

If your company isn't famous enough already to get attention from the major press such as (and let's face it, most privately-held companies aren't), one way to attract media attention is to propose a story about a bigger trend in the industry that your company could be included in. FAST COMPANY's Ron Lieber suggests you keep an eye on the early morning online press for trends you could tie your company's story into. His favorite source: Investors Business Daily who he says, "cover Cisco 15 times before the WSJ even comes out."

4. Add All Releases to Your Web Site Promptly

Many companies are guilty of this -- they add a bunch of press releases to their Web site when it's first launched, and then they rarely (or never) update the press center again. However, when a journalist is considering doing a story on your company, one of the first things they'll do is check over the site for historic releases. That's why Colleen Hahn, SVP at Ruder-Finn says, "It's important to build a paper trail that journalists can pick up on."

So, even if your release didn't get much attention when it first went out on the wires, it still serves a useful function as part of your company's story on your Web site. That's why you should routinely add releases to the site the very same day they go out, and then leave them there. Many successful public companies impress journalists by having several years of back releases on their sites, showing a sustained story of growth and news.
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