Public relations is the art of managing your business’ public reputation through media engagement, and it is an important and often overlooked part of successful ecommerce marketing communications.
In public relations (PR) the aim is to build relationships with media outlets and bloggers so that they are likely to report positive and interesting information about your store, which, in turn, can generate significant web traffic. Furthermore, in the event that something negative should happen to your business, having strong PR relationships can mitigate any damage to your company’s reputation.
Good PR will also have a direct effect on shoppers.
Video: Public Relations for Online Retailers
Creating Press Releases
A press release is a simple document that tells a story about your online store. Among other stories, a press release might (1) describe new product offerings, (2) discuss new technology, (3) explain your customer service practices, (4) describe a specific example of how your company fulfills your brand promise, (5) introduce a new employee, or (6) discuss a trend related to your store.
You want your press release to be an interesting and compelling tale that will make it easy for bloggers or reporters to use. It should be properly written (style and grammar), include clear concise language, and be accompanied by good multi-media.
Sending Out Your Press Release
If your press release just ends up sitting on your virtual desktop, it won’t do your store much good. You have to get it into a reporter’s or a blogger’s hands. Generally, there are two ways to go about getting your press release out.
First, you can publicize your press release via distribution services, sometimes called newswires. Distribution services already have relationships with hundreds–or even thousands–of journalists, both from traditional media outlets and new media, like blogs. For a fee, newswires will send your press release to all of those journalists. Such distribution services, include PR Newswire, PR Web, Business Wire, Marketwire, and PR.com, to name a few.
Next, you can target specific publications or blogs that have influence in your industry. For example, if you sell golf equipment, you might target a golf magazine or a particular golf blogger, contacting that specific journalist or blogger directly via phone or email. Your goal is to discuss the press release topic with the writer you’re targeting, and give them an opportunity to have some exclusive or semi-exclusive information, like an interview that generates quotes other than the ones available in the press release.
Following Up After A Press Release
Once your press release has gone out, be sure to follow up. Follow-up can take a few different forms, but the basic goal is to encourage the journalist or blogger, thanking him for the coverage and building a relationship if possible.
As an example, if a blogger writes about your new product line, consider leaving a professional and positive comment on the blog. “Thanks for writing about this. We are really excited about these new products, and it is an honor to be mentioned on your site.”
Or you might actually send a handwritten thank-you card to the journalists that covered your press release. “Thanks for writing about our store. We really appreciate it.”
Finally, you should be willing to follow key journalists, commenting on articles that you like, even those that are not necessarily about your store.
An often-overlooked benefit of building relationships with journalists is damage control. In case something negative should happen with your store, having a personal relationship with at least some of the individuals that will be writing about it can help to lessen the impact to your reputation and give you an outlet to tell your side of the story.
For example, almost the worst thing that could happen to a store is the breach of customer credit card information. If that happened to your store and the breach became public knowledge, it would be very helpful to have a journalist who might write about how you have fixed the problem and added new security, rather than focusing on what went wrong.
PR is a good way to both promote and protect your online store. Relative to other forms of marketing it can be very inexpensive and offers good return on investment.