How do you build up your online presence? How do you enhance your brand equity? So many businesses have long discovered that having sponsored tweets and posts, conducting weekly giveaways and all doesn’t always translate to bigger sales. Online PR has become a very important part of this digital age for businesses. Building a brand presence online organically has become the bane of most brands. And online PR focuses on influencing digital venues and publications.

According to Smart Insights

[hcode_blockquote]Online PR activity is closely associated with improving results from many of the other digital marketing communications techniques in particular social media, SEO (link-building), partnership marketing and viral marketing / word-of-mouth marketing.[/hcode_blockquote]

Outside of the obvious benefits, there are few other things to keep in mind. Online PR also helps with SEO, the back links you get to your website from authoritative websites talking about you is good for Google. It can also help shape public perception about your brand. When people search for you, you need to try as much as possible to dictate the results they see. Online PR can help you do just that. So lets deep dive into how to go about this.

The Perfect Mix

To understand the concept of Online PR better, you only need to look at the traditional Public Relations Officer. Online PR is letting customers know what your brand is about. In managing your online PR, you need really great content, an audience and a strategy to reach them.

This is probably why most companies get their Online PR wrong, they go ahead and manage their brand excellently with no story to tell and no audience to reach. It doesn’t work that way. For your Online PR to be effective, you need a perfect mix of content and marketing.

Online PR goes beyond digital marketing, it’s not about generating traffic. It’s about your brand reputation and engaging customers. Keep in mind that you can get as much traffic as you want, and if you have great content, you can generate enough buzz instantly, but that’s the end of it. Online PR seeks to manage the effect of that buzz and turn it into a lasting impression for customers.

Defined Objectives

To have a spot on Online PR campaign, you have to clearly define you objectives. Your objectives must take into consideration your service or product offering, your customer segmentation and target market too. Some businesses prefer the basic online PR for their press releases and spreading their news to online newspapers. Others combine social media and content creation to that package. Your routine will change depending on your main objectives. Online PR campaigns need to be creative, social, and confident. Your Online PR manager must possess the technical skills needed to quickly adopt different tactics and recognize new opportunities. It’s a fast age!

Here’s a few steps on how to go about your Online PR

Reputation Management

What are people saying about you? Your brand reputation precedes every other thing about you. This is why two of the biggest online malls in Nigeria keep laying claim to being the biggest in Nigeria; Konga and Jumia. This is because you’re more likely to shop at the biggest mall in Nigeria, psychologically, it lends credence to their brand. Take an audit of all mentions of your brand on social media and classify each as positive, negative or neutral. Do damage control if possible on negative mentions and then build on the positives.

Social Media

If you don’t have a social media presence yet, start building up a few social brand pages on sites that your target audience mostly likely will use. You only need look at GT Bank to see what an active social media profile can do for you. GTBank created Ndani TV on Youtube, and they regularly come up with different ideas across their social media channels. They understand the peculiarities of different social media channels and generate content accordingly.

Press Release Optimization

Create the perfect headline. Include a keyword  that optimizes your press release for the page and topic it is linked to. Visualize your content when applicable with graphics, professional pictures and videos.

Build Relationships and Pitch to Online Gatekeepers (aka. Media Relations, Blogs, Paper)

Find out those who hold sway in your industry when it comes to online forums, build a media list for online venues in the same niche as your company. Add the journalist you will be building a relationship with to a Twitter list to keep track of them. Create and optimize a company blog and begin writing content that would attract potential consumers. Reach out to customers and encourage them to write a review of your product on their social media channels. A positive review about you on Nairaland or a popular blog will do you so much good than millions spent on Ads.

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Make sure all forms of customer service online (contact forms, live chats, social media) is being monitored and inquiries answered in a timely and professional manner.

Find and Work with Brand Ambassadors

Find your company’s brand ambassadors, online celebrities who will actually create buzz about your brand. Always go for ambassadors with an engaging online presence. It’s not just about the number of followers, it’s about the number of impressions made. But not every brand needs an ambassador, so do this wisely.

Online PR Tools

There are dozens of tools on the web to help you with your online PR strategy. Some of the major ones are listed below.

Google Docs

Use this free program to record outreach contacts and other data, such as tracking published articles. Multiple team members can work all at once on a Google Doc, unlike an Excel spreadsheet. Google Docs is a great place to share a media kit or the research for a content piece. This way you won’t crowd your email with attachments when you need to send the information to a journalist. You can just send the link to the shareable Google doc.

Google Analytics

Another free, must have tool from Google. Check out this article about what to track in PR analytics to refine your PR campaign and track results. Online PR professionals should constantly be monitoring the trackbacks, assisted conversions and referrals in Google Analytics to better understand which tactics work best.

google analyticsSidekick

While sending out all your emails to the gatekeepers, it is important to know how they interacted with it. Knowing if your recipient opened and click on a link in your email can help shape the nature of your followup mail compared to someone who didn’t open the mail at all. And that’s where sidekick helps. You get notifications every time a recipient opens and clicks on your email links, providing valuable insights into the interest of the other party.

sidekick by hubspotGoogle Alerts

Keep track of what others on the web are saying about you. With Google alerts, you get an email anytime new results about keywords that you’re tracking popup on the web. This can help you proactively respond to both good and bad PR as against waiting for your colleague to mention that they say a terrible article on your brand.

Hootsuite

If you are managing a client’s social media, Hootsuite will help you gather everything in one place to post and engage with users. Auto schedule your posts to go live during the prime times on each social network. Here’s a graphic showing each site’s best times to post.

Image result for hootsuite

In conclusion, these basic tactics and tools will help you get started in putting together your online PR strategy. Remember, the media space in Nigeria is relatively young, hence it can be swayed easily which is why you should always remain flexible and attentive for new opportunities to earn media and engage with consumers as every client will be different.