Pssst: Your PR is showing

Public relations guru Jeremy Pepper worries in a recent post that PR is losing out to advertising over who really influences social media. As advertising gurus, we think the reverse is true. Public relations rules online, because only PR is truly relevant. We love online advertising when it works … but we see rising cries of desperation from many web campaigns. As evidence, check out the godawful home page to to see how their marketing folks have turned it into a screaming billboard.

You can’t “game” relevance. This is why SEO is so hard — web site owners try to link farm and content stuff to rise in Google’s organic rankings, but without true relevance, they’ll never make it big.

We’ve seen four basic public relations approaches required for online marketing:

– create news (Nick Haley’s Apple ad)
– break news (Huffington Post, a blog-turned-real media outlet)
– share news (’s user rankings)
– comment brilliantly on news (Seth Godin’s blog)

In simple terms, to pull users to your content, make it relevant. Give away something of value to get the attention you want. Google pay-per-click campaigns really are a perfect form of sharing news that is relevant to users (who are typing in search terms for the product). To pull people to your other web content, you need to create the same near-perfect connection.

Public relations is sometimes seen as a dark, Machiavellian attempt to spin fiction to the masses. In reality, PR works best when it combines relevant truths with a story about a product or service that recipients may find useful. The internet is a perfect sorting mechanism to make relevance and truth rise to the top (which is why Wikipedia works so well). Media planning makes advertising work in the same way — a good media plan puts the right ad in front of the right consumers, where the consumer will find it relevant.

A question for marketers: Have your media planners, ad creatives, web designers and public relations advisors sat down at the same table recently? If they aren’t all talking, you may miss the social media boat.

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