‘Take It Personally,’ is Our Online PR Advice for 2008
By Douglass T. Davidoff, APR
“The medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhan wrote 40 years ago in Understanding Media. Network television’s influence was peaking, bringing the age of mass media with it. It would be two decades before business noticed that the Internet was wiring the world together into what McLuhan predicted would be the “global village.”
McLuhan identified the power of media to color our understanding of human experiences.
Now consider the phrase: “The Internet is the great leveler.” We hunted without success to determine who originated the oft repeated remark.
It occurred to us that if the Internet is leveling the communication of messages, then simply communicating in a standard fashion on the Internet is not a way to distinguish your business or organization. It’s merely the price of admission to the party.
All of this was brought to mind by a conversation we had at a Caribou Coffee in the Loop a few days ago with one of Chicago’s recognized experts in online public relations, Barbara Rozgonyi founder of CoryWest Media in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and blogger behind the Wired PR Works blog. Ms. Rozgonyi is a national leader in using blogs and their power to drive search engine rankings to increase the presence of businesses and organizations on the Internet.
Her perspective reframes public relations, and it is post-McLuhan. The medium isn’t the message. It’s just the platform for communication. The message is almost old-fashioned. It’s people building reputations and brands by helping people.
In online public relations, journalists are no longer the gatekeepers.
“It doesn't matter with online,” Ms. Rozgonyi said. “The beauty of it is that it's direct-to-consumer. If you want to go to journalists, they pick it up, too.
“To me, how it gets online is a distribution service, which is different from you having a relationship with a reporter. At that point, your relationship is with search engines and spiders, getting top page ranks, having bloggers pick up your stories, being referenced on alternative sites.”
Taking journalists out of the gatekeeper function is a blessing, in her view. The game is no longer about appealing to the known and unknown idiosyncrasies of reporters. Now the game is about crafting a solution that achieves a high page rank on search engines, which means the client’s announcement is being spread far and wide on the global Internet.
“It’s much easier,” she said. “You can tell me you want a press release and 48 hours later you can be top ranked on Google News and Yahoo! News.”
What hasn’t changed: The power of an important message.
What you say has to be important. Moreover, your message needs to use keywords that can be used to attract attention from search engines.
“There's something intuitive and sometimes surprising about zeroing in on keywords," she said. "I have one client who popped out at Number 5 out of 92,000 results -- overnight for a major keyword, not the smaller one we were aiming for."
But this has changed: Your message is your brand.
The competent, fun, interesting person devoted to his or her brand and devoted to building networks and helping other people is the person who will win in online public relations.
“Who is my ideal client?” Ms. Rozgonyi said, repeating a question we posed. “My ideal client is somebody who wants attention and has a lot to say. Not just one idea. Would you call a landscaper and say I want a pack of petunias by my front door? No, you have to have a long vision for a lush garden. That's the difference between sending out one local press release a few times a year versus implementing an always-on online vibrant PR strategy."
"Interested in more online PR ideas? We've put more from Barbara Rozgonyi on a supplemental web page."