5 Things SEO Writers Could Learn From PR

So you’ve mastered best practices for keyword research, anchor text placement, and managed to perfect a few link building tactics. This is all well and good however, “quality content” has been a hot phrase the past couple years in the SEO content space. With authorship slowly gaining weight it’s going to take more than a technical understanding to be successful.

Big authorities such as Forbes and Search Engine Land affirm that we can learn a lot from public relations practitioners. In fact, many members from both SEO and PR communities believe the two areas will blend into a new field, similar to the inbound marketing movement. Conversely, others believe their respective fields are too complex to be so easily mastered. Nevertheless, we can certainly share some of our practices and integrate them into our evolving strategies.

The following are five actionable touch-points SEO writers could learn from PR:

1. Public Speaking

An important general skill to have is public speaking. This enables us to perform better interviews, create personable video content, pitch reporters more effectively, and attend conferences or events as a guest speaker. I was a terrible public speaker until I took a class, and believe me when I say if I can do it, anyone can do it.

From my class, here is the basic path to improving public speaking skills:

  • Pick your favorite topic to talk about and put together a mini-lecture (3-5 min)
  • Practice the speech verbatim, without references, alone, and record it.
  • Watch your recording and try to identify when you lose eye contact, stutter words, put your hands in your pocket, or decrease volume
  • Double the length of your lecture and try to present again in front of a camera alone, watching the recording again for any hiccups
  • Finally, present this speech to your friends/family, asking them for feedback

If we’ve been in the SEO space, we can easily put a face to the name Rand Fishkin. In addition to writing, one of the things he’s done so well over the years is public speaking. His speaking content is informative, engaging, and easy to digest. From a PR perspective, he’s doing more than participating in the community and providing useful content. He’s developing a brand identity by speaking on a regular basis.

If we think of public speaking from this perspective; the utility of creating a brand identity, we can fuel both SEO and PR efforts. With a brand identity, we can do some powerful things:

  • Establish trust and reliance
  • Shape public opinion with targeted messages
  • Spark word of mouth marketing with call to action

Just a few of the possibilities. Public speaking, from an over-arching PR view, allows us  to make the flow of information reciprocal between brands and people. This is a natural process that mutually benefits PR and SEO efforts.

2. Media Relations

While some SEO writers have great blogger relations, many do not, as they are strictly writing content and sending it over to outreach. A vital part of being a quality writer is being an outstanding contact. PR practitioners pride themselves on keeping reporters happy and staying on their good side. Here are a few ways to accomplish this with any publisher:

  • Be respectful and timely
  • Completely understand their “beat” (bloggers may be lenient, but reporters will delete you from memory if your submission is irrelevant)
  • In the same vein, be consistent in providing quality content. After a few articles, reporters will trust you and position you more valuable when they have to publish. They may even contact you for work.
  • Treat them as you would a friend. Is a holiday coming up? Send a card or a nice email. Is their birthday today? Maybe hold off on that pitch until next week and wish them happy birthday instead.

For those who believe PR and SEO will merge into one big strategic communication campaign, SEOs may need to get there hands dirty in the sunlight. This may entail some of the following media relations:

  • Picking the most optimal vantage point for reporters at an event
  • Creating media-specific briefs so reporters know the best time to come (usually just for the keynote speaker) and the most important information
  • Setting up one-on-one interviews, escorting reporters, and following up with photographers to get some quality shots for your site

Think like a reporter. Figure out everything they’ll need to walk away with the best material and make sure they get it.

3. Focus Group Research

PR agencies and large communication departments base the majority of their actions on research. This research is made up of interviews, surveys, secondary, and focus groups – just as an SEO writer digs deep into keyword and competitive research analysis.

The importance of a focus group for SEO writers is the huge amount of information provided. Not only do we get a solid 30+ minutes of dialogue, but we get to personalize our content with those involved. If we are exceptional focus group coordinators, we’ll have our participants sharing our write up on all of their social media accounts.

This post on KISSmetrics is a great example of the quality-content potential gained from interviewing 50 prominent growth hackers. Imagine if the author had gotten around ten of the 50 to participate in a focus group (a Google Hangout could work). The takeaways may have been even better by having everyone together.

Sure, it might be hard to find the time and space to hold a focus group. But if we can pitch the value to our boss, we’d only need a small budget (~$50) to administer one. Some of the advantages are:

  • Cost effective – offer a small stipend/token, provide snacks and water
  • Quick – one to two hours
  • In-depth dialogue – dig deeper with follow up questions and various perspectives
  • Openness – focus group participants are known to unveil more information when in a group as opposed to one-on-one interviews
  • Creativity – the cooperative environment is a breeding ground for creative ideas, providing us with unique takeaways

4. Crisis Management

I know crisis management takes years of practice and experience, and I’m not suggesting we all try to become the next Glen Gilmore, but some SEOs should consider adopting a few of the elements. If your brand has taken a public beating, it could be extremely useful to have a few crisis communication skills.

  • Ask your company to consider crisis communication training if it is nonexistent
  • Review some of the best crisis communication case studies for ideas.

A few tips that can help avoid a communication crisis:

  • Be transparent and honest whenever possible, especially with coworkers
  • Always consider the risk of actions by thinking of ways to lessen the risk
  • According to Todd William, policies, people, plan and platform are all crucial considerations when developing a crisis management strategy. I think if we have these in mind during all of our communication efforts, we’ll lessen the chance of disturbing the peace.

If we have a solid brand identity, practice healthy media relations, and routinely demonstrate company values/philosophies, we’re already setting ourselves up to be in the best possible position should a communication crisis arise.

5. What a Press Release Is Really Used For

A funny thing I heard the other day, was an SEO who thought PR stood for press release (Page Rank was a given, but this was his attempt at public relations). It’s an understandable hiccup, but it made me think about how often press releases are misused. As SEO writers perfect their press release writing, there are a few basic understandings to note.

Press releases are used solely for breaking or vital news. Wikipedia notes this as “ostensibly newsworthy” but reporters few this as “substantially newsworthy”. Examples include:

  • A public figure found doing something illegal
  • A new startup or product/service launch
  • Announcing the lineup for some of the largest concerts in the country

Things press releases are not to be used for:

  • Version 2.0 of whatever Version 1.0 is
  • A new website layout
  • Offering a PDF for free

You get the idea. There are, in fact, other forms of communicating less newsworthy information. These include media alerts, feature requests, and customized pitches. Online press release distribution sites have been a way to garner some extra links and there’s nothing wrong with that if it is legitimately substantial news. There are far too many SEOs plaguing press release distribution services with crap like this. This is not worthy of the label: “for immediate release.”

But there is hope. The movement to quality content seems to open up tunnel-visioned SEOs, acknowledge those with proper press release writing, and make the SERPs a rewarding place for authors.

Do you have any other tips for SEO writers or SEOs in general? Have a question or comment? Post them below!

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