The Role of Gatekeepers in Public Relations

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Public relations is up to 10 times more effective than advertising due to the role of gatekeepers. Gatekeepers provide an independent voice about the merit of your company and whether or not your press release/ bylined article is newsworthy.

. . . the neutral opinion of editors serves as a screening mechanism to determine whether your press release gets covered, on what page, and in what manner.

Advertising access is based almost solely on the role of money. Meet a few rules about common decency, and you can achieve almost any size ad you want, in any publication, and in any format. People are jaded with promotional schemes and almost entirely turn off from your message unless you find some innovative way to approach them. And just about every approach has already been tried.

On the other hand, the neutral opinion of editors serves as a screening mechanism to determine whether your press release gets covered, on what page, and in what manner. Publication of bylined articles are also monitored by similar gatekeepers who must determine whether your article provides useful information to the general public, or in the case of trade magazines, the general readership.

The concept of gatekeepers has proven so beneficial to public relations, it is being applied by Google as well for search engine optimization. SEO uses inbound links to determine the merit of your website, but SEO professionals have tried to foster these links in a manipulative manner. Now, however, the Google ranking algorithm is being adjusted to only count those links granted by someone else. In this manner, they can determine whether people are linking to valuable, original content in an unforced manner.

Traditional Public Relations as a Foundation for Online PR

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Online public relations has become like a shiny object attracting PR practitioners and companies alike, yet it must be built on a solid foundation. That’s why it’s preferable to seek out public relations professionals with a background in traditional PR before the online revolution began.

You can tell a prospect to visit your website until you’re blue in the face, but you’re never sure if they really will.

A background in traditional PR provides the skills required to fully take advantage of online opportunities. Some formats such as online press releases and content provision articles rely on knowledge and background in their traditional cousins. Moreover,  a company needs a solid base in traditional marketing before expanding into online opportunities.

For example, a focus on website development without background written marketing materials is a poor strategy for promotional efforts. You can tell a prospect to visit your website until you’re blue in the face, but you’re never sure if they really will. However, if you hand them a leave-behind such as a tri-fold brochure at a sit-down meeting, well, they’ll probably at least glance at it on its way to the trash.

Other major components of foundational public relations rely on items such as media list. Media research provides a long-term deliverable for your client, including contact information and the best beat reporters to contact for your target market.

Only after creating a tri-fold brochure and a media list should you proceed to the next step, creating an optimized website to create an entirely independent flow of revenue.

SEO for Pull Public Relations

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Search engine optimization (SEO) has become a new umbrella for the field of online public relations and serves as a method to pull in prospects. Google’s search engine algorithm emphasizes the creation of valuable new content in its ranking algorithm, and the parallels with the field of public relations in general are striking.

These inbound links are best generated by a dynamic, growing website.

The creation of free publicity distinguishes public relations from advertising, and the formats for online PR include blogs, e-newsletters and websites. SEO ranks websites based on inbound links, that is, the creation of clickable text on other sites pointing to your own or your client’s.

These inbound links are best generated by a dynamic, growing website. Hosting a blog on your website represents one of the best ways to attract visitors and links from other online sites. Of course, blog submissions are free, so the creation of this content falls squarely in the wheelhouse of public relations.

The strategy for online public relations relies on pull PR, also known as inbound marketing. And letting interested parties find your website on their own is best accomplished by ranking high on the SERPs (search engine results pages). And this demands the creation of valuable new content.

The traditional public relations approach doesn’t work online. Sending out press releases and other content can be viewed as spam if it is undertaken too frequently. This “push” PR strategy should be used in a much more limited manner.

Public Relations: Marketing Mix

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Most experts suggest you use both public relations and advertising in your marketing mix, but far too many executives neglect the former or lack even a basic awareness about the difference between the two.

Moreover, the explosion of online promotion, social media and relatively new formats such as blogs have boosted public relations far above advertising.

Advertising refers to paid promotion while public relations refers to unpaid promotion. Public relations is estimated to be up to ten times more effective per column inch — think about the following contrast: what does your eye turn to when reading a newspaper, a large display ad or a small interesting article on the same page.

Public relations is effective because there is a neutral “gatekeeper,” the editors and reporters who decide whether your article is newsworthy.

Moreover, the explosion of online promotion, social media and relatively new formats such as blogs have boosted public relations far above advertising. Advertising online is generally regarded as spam and quickly deleted. However, unpaid promotion online includes many different vehicles such as e-newsletters, blogs, online publications, etc. These formats are free — unlike banner ads, Adwords, etc. — and so they properly fit into the category of online PR.

The public relations industry is still adjusting to this rapid broadening of its horizons. The field of “push” PR, sending out press releases, brochures, etc., is slowly giving way to “pull” PR or inbound marketing. Strategies such as search engine optimization let interested parties find you instead of the other way around.