Category Archives: Online PR

Seven years of blogging about PR in Manchester and beyond – the best of 2006-2012

The Artisan blog was the first Manchester PR blog as far as I know.

Certainly I cannot think of another that is still going from 2006.

It has around 650 posts to date and covers a myriad of subjects, especially those relating to Manchester PR agencies, technology and of course PR itself.

It is better written now than it was when I started although I have picked out some of the best from 2006-2012.  (The most interesting 2112-2013 entries can be found here.

Let’s begin:

Sometimes I have found myself explaining or defending PR agencies such as with this thread.

Yes PR agencies can give poor service, but this is not indicative of the industry.  There are bad apples in every profession.

Sometimes I am doing the opposite such as this piece on a Manchester PR agency promoting payment by results.

Many posts are on the industry and the issues raised such as this post that highlights the weaknesses of citizenship journalism at a time when it was being lauded.

Tips pieces feature occasionally and these from myself How to pitch to bloggers and these from specialists are still very useful today: Judi Goodwin’s How to unleash your writing power! and Bill Doherty on negotiation tips.

Good PR case studies such as “Who parked their tank on my lawn?”  also feature occasionally. 

Some are sillier than others such as Dog advertising, which was this blog’s most popular page for ages, that was inspired by Puppy Doms (a Jamie Clouting favourite).

Some brilliant PR stories are global in reach such as this: “Keyboards dirtier than toilets.”  My Israeli cousin in Jerusalem picked up on this!

A few Artisan PR pieces were also featured in the blog such as this piece in The Guardian for a Manchester headhunter

Sometimes human interest stories including this one about Belsen featured.

I hope you have got something out the Artisan blog, feel free to leave comments and keep following.

PR wires are not an easy substitute for raising profile and improving reputation provided by PR professionals

PR wires

There seems to be a clouded understanding and assessment of the uses of PR wires and how they can benefit a business.

Professionals outside of media and digital related jobs can having a passing awareness of a PR wire and will often ask if it is worth considering using one. Indeed there is an inference: can this cover the task of public relations for my business without too much time and effort and of course, cost?

Before I answer that let’s give a brief definition of PR wires

PR wires are websites that will place a press release on their website, sometimes it will be a free service although many of the best charge a fee that can be graded according to the level of service required. This often means that the more you pay, say on a popular PR wire such as PRWeb, the better the release will be distributed and the more links that will be enabled, which pushes traffic and more importantly helps with SEO for your website.

The cost of PRWeb for a good mid-tier service with links is around $200 or £150; there are more advanced services for an additional fee.

It sounds very reasonable. When the subject is covered by PR agencies online it often seems to get a positive assessment without much critcism like this uncritical example.

Let’s be a little more analytical

PR wires are a useful support, an auxiliary, a flying buttress to support the main methods employed by public relations firms.

They will not, by and large, produce much in the way of targeted media coverage. They might be syndicated and appear on many online pages of sites of varying quality and relevance but the chances of a journalist picking up a story are not good.

PR wires are not substitutes for press releases sent to well defined personalised lists of journalists.

PR wires will not replace articles, comment pieces, profiles, case studies, personal contacts or a phone call. They will not generate speaking opportunities. And they will not add to social media relations.

A mute point is the PR wire service might use Twitter to push clients’ press releases, but this is going to be hopelessly untargeted in most cases.

A good PR company might use a PR wire if the release is a little bit of a long-shot, there is more pressure to produce results than usual, and so it is worth a punt.

What PR wires do well is generate and build links – and as links help build a website’s power it is worth using wires.

PRWeb can be good for producing links on everything from a site of dubious quality to Yahoo!

If a client realises the benefit of a link – it should be the PR telling them why it is important – then PR wires are part of the PR output of any ambitious company.

Yes there will be views on the PR wire’s own website where it displays new releases, possibly a few hundred, possibly many more, there might be the odd magazine that will use the release but it is the links that the real value lies.

So use PR wires but with an understanding of their benfits and limitations.

Creative content is part of link generation, not a chore

creative content to drive link generation
Creative content not content for the sake of trying to get links is the most important thing

Bill Shankly, a Liverpool football legend,  once said: “If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.”

The same could be applied to your Google ranking.  Come top and you will reap the benefits, come anywhere else and you might as well not have bothered.

So in the scramble to reach the top you have to spend time and money and have a little skill.  And to do that you need to generate content and links.

But will any content or links do?

Well, I was looking at what Manchester PR professionals were doing to reach the top in search rankings and I came across a free article site that provided links.

And there it was the most dreary piece of copy about the Manchester PR scene you could wish not to have read.

I don’t think it mentioned one PR agency in the city.  Alright you might not want to give your rivals a hand but the content offered nothing, and it would have been a little link bait perhaps.

The rationale for the copy was obvious:  it had two links at the end using Manchester PR and PR Manchester for anchor text.

The links were there, so who cares about the copy?

Well there has been a lot of talk about search in the Post Penguin world and this article provides a good overview as well as admitting that no-one knows how Penguin has exactly affected search rankings.

I can’t say the exact value of the above mentioned links.  But I can say that, Penguin changes or not, engaging, interesting content has a value – it is not a chore getting in the way of building profile.

There are so many quality sites to drive links from that a better focused strategy is surely the way forward, despite the effort of a little thought and originality.

US PR report shows big use of Facebook in engaging with publics

When it comes to marketing, UK professionals often look to the US to see what new trends and practices being developed that will wash up on our online and offline shores.

So it is with some interest that I came upon University of Southern California’s Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center’s bi-annual PR report.

I do have a note of caution that there are notable differences in the scale (for instance US trade magazines generally having much larger readerships), approach and delivery as well as the business culture.  Something perhaps that is overlooked, as US culture seems so familiar to many in the UK.

However the results of the report still might have resonance for UK based PR professionals.

The GAP (Generally Accepted Practices Report) VII is quite a detailed document so I will look in this entry at digital marketing section and how it relates to PR and look to cover another aspect in a following post.

Firstly the report rates social networking sites and sharing online video as the most used digital tools by (corporate) PR professionals.  Online audio comes in lowest although it is simple to utilise mobile apps such as Audio Boo as an expedient way to place content (and higher quality should be easy to implement as well).

Facebook comes out top in the increase of use, substantially above Twitter and blogs, which are still growing in numbers, some 181million (for all uses) according to Technorati’s 2011 State of the Blogosphere.

Perhaps, not unsurprisingly virtual worlds are declining in popularity, and so are wikis. (It would be good to have further explanation, a weakness of the report).

Budgetary and strategic control (over 50% in both cases) of digital marketing, including SEO, is favouring the PR department rather than the marketing or customer service teams, the latter by a considerable margin.

66% of not for profit organisations – the highest recorded, compared to 36% public and 47% private companies – are frequent users of digital and social media tools and they favour Facebook and Twitter most.

So the most intriguing issue is Facebook emerging as the preferred mode of engaging audiences.  Why do many US PR companies and practitioners favour a medium that corporate B2B and public sector would often treat with caution for their PR delivery in the UK?

But without deeper analysis, interpretation and more qualitative information we are perhaps just seeing the surface and not what lies beneath.

Does a link come with that coverage?

The power is still with the journalist and rightly so when it comes to placing content in newspapers and magazines.

As a B2B PR it is about presenting an idea or content that sells – the content needs to be relevant to the readers and more attractive than any other story that is pitched in by numerous other agencies and in-house communications execs.

But when I have comments for a feature and more especially want to place a full article, perhaps a 1,000 words or more the criteria for which publication to approach tends to look ever more closely at the online aspect of the title.

Many publications neglected their online potential, that is changing (has changed) although there are still many titles that still have not realised that their online presence is key and possibly a valuable new source of revenue.

For those that do not produce the hard copy content in their online versions, writing a 1,000 words, or even 500 words, when there are other possibilities makes them second best to receiving good content – journalists still need submissions.   The choice of where to pitch also resides with the PR.

There are exceptions, publications that hit a certain demographic or are very prestigious overcome the doubts produced by less than impressive online credentials.

So if the online side of the publication is less than expected it is discouraging to offer a feature that will take a number of hours to produce with no Google ranking to raise online profile.

Moreover, it is ever more important to any client that has the Internet at the centre of its business to receive quality links.

Links add value to the client’s website and in turn the PR can demonstrate its contribution far beyond advertising equivalent values.

When I pitch I now check out the online version of the newspaper or magazine and ask, “Does a link come with that coverage?”

Measuring PR ROI – adding the value of links to the equation

measuring PR ROI value of links
Measuring PR ROI – has the value of links been forgotten?


Clients want value, a real return, understandably, on their money before parting with it in these tougher economic days.

One of the ways PR can answer confidently the inaccurate preconception that it is hard to determine a ROI for the discipline is to show the generation of links as part of the PR return.

And as more and more clients want links the following question needs to be answered.

What Value do you put on a Link?

I was pitching recently to a business – part business to consumer, part business to business, which has at its centre its website for generating clients.

I was able to show from an on-going campaign not only coverage in nationals such as The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman, good trade coverage online and hard copy, but also links coming from blogs all the way up to the BBC.

For businesses that have the Internet at the heart of their marketing efforts and consequently their sales, links are highly valued – gold dust.

But until recently I did not have an answer, a system to value links, a price to calculate a ROI.

One response I received from a client was that it was absolutely key, more so than the coverage itself, but as to a value they professed that they did not know where to start?

The answer to the question was surprisingly simple.

When I told the prospective client the fact that it was possible to achieve links through supplying editorial content and not just by placing adverts or (plastic) advertorial, there was amazement.

The SEOs had been factoring in and paying out a none too mean sum to secure links.

I was told that they expected to pay around $50 and upwards (£30-£40) and rising for links from blogs, which seemed to be US based – in a disappointed tone it was relayed that there was some rampant inflation in prices.

For nationals such as the UK’s The Independent they expected to pay £1000 and more to secure links through advertising.

I expect really good trade magazines online might charge a few hundred pounds.

So there it is, if PR can generate links then an accurate valuation can be placed.

While gaining links in nationals is far from easy, nevertheless the accumulation of building profile, improving reputation, creating a Google presence for searches, advertising value of the space achieved, can fit easily into adding the value of links into the ROI equation.

Corporate marketing & social media – SAScon debate

The issue of who owns social media and how it is best applied is still being grappled with by larger enterprises.  So the SAScon debate on social media on this issues was particularly interesting.

The panel was:

Will McInnes of Nixon McInnes

Phil Jones of Brother UK

Neil Hardy of Co-Operative Travel

Ivan Croxford of BT

And Malcom Coles

I will start with a Phil Jones quote: “Social media is B2me.”

Will McInnes followed with “sustained conversation is expected with social media.”

Quite simple pronouncements, yet many big enterprises get it wrong, perhaps it is years of pushing through messages through mass media channels and not having to interact as much on a one to one basis in their marketing:  Sainsbury’s being one possible example of how difficult larger businesses fail to grasp this.

Maybe smaller concerns are more geared at establishing a one-to-one relationship.

On the question of who owns social media and how it should be applied, well, there was a multitude of answers.

I was surprised, not that I should have I suppose, that customer services was a strong candidate for ownership (as Ivan Croxford pointed out at BT customer services had embrassed social media).

My vested interests said PR.  It could be marketing as well.   But it really depends on the application.

Neil Hardy looks on Twitter as a helpline for instance.  The conclusion surely is that it it is a versatile instrument and will be used as best fits purpose?

Phil Jones again: “Social media should be integrated, should engage and lead to “marriage.”  I agree.

Malcolm Coles: “Social media helps engagement with customers that do not use current channels.”   In this alone is must be seen as essential.

What came out of the debate was a recognition – as you would expect – that social media has to be applied and that its exact role is still developing.

I will leave the last word to Malcolm Coles about the need to experiment to find out social media can be best applied: “Getting it wrong is not a disaster.”

#SAScon – creating a buzz about Social Media & SEO in the North

Wednesday was the inaugural get together of SAScon – a social media and SEO conference.

I should say the online search conference for highlighting the strength and ability and energy of the northern digital scene.

When conceived there must have been a few worries – even if not admitted now – about how much support it would receive. The organisers needn’t have worried.

As you can see from the above image it was a  packed house: some 160 attendees with speakers from across the UK and Europe came to the Bridgewater Hall in the centre of Manchester.

There were essentially two streams of seminars / panel talks: the more technical SEO and social media.  I stuck with my prime interest in social media.

I will discuss in future posts the points of some of the talks I attended.  But for now I want to make a couple of points about why I attended:

First, besides continuing my social media education, there was ample opportunity to network.

However, more impotantly in many respects – and I suspect for many attendees – it was a chance to make a statement about the strength and potential of the online community in the North West to deliver: you don’t have to go to London to have access to top digital suppliers.

By attending, digital and non-digital, be it PR or marketing, those that lent their support by simply taking out a day from busy schedules to come along made that exact statement.

Using video for PR, marketing and SEO – an audio interview with Little Orchard’s Lewis Webster

Using video for PR

Lewis Webster runs Little Orchard, an agency that supplies video for PR, digital and corporates.

Lewis himself has worked for MEN Media, and Jack Morton Communications on the Nokia and Vodaphone accounts. As you might have seen I have been talking at length below about the DMEX placements for digital professionals in the North West, so it might not be a shock that I would investigate the power of video as a PR and SEO tool with Lewis.

Audio Interview links First we started on the characteristics of video and moved onto content – what makes it invaluable?

You might be surprised that video is a fantastic SEO tool, not only through meta data but also through the recognition of verbal content ( a very recent development for YouTube ): Listen here