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8 Essential Steps for SEOs in Planning Online PR

Just sending out a single press release now and again is not going to get you very far in gaining publicity and editorial links. If you really want to tap into the benefits of online PR, you’ve got to take a long-term view and build your credibility with the media, and your clients.

That single press release might get you coverage, but such success is the exception rather than the rule. Your target journalist may just miss your message, may not have a slot to fit you in, or maybe they meant to write about you but just plain forgot.

But send newsworthy press releases out regularly and journalists will start to remember you and recognize your work – and your probability of getting coverage will increase. However, finding newsworthy stories is also hard – you’ve got to have a plan and this article will explore the essential steps.

1. Build Trust With Your Client

Public relations is one of those industries where clients have got their fingers burnt on occasions. So they can be skeptical and you need to build trust.

Using is a good place for SEOs to start with online PR, and can be a great way to build confidence and trust in your ability. The service gives you:

  • experience of what journalists are looking for
  • an opportunity to pitch and interact with journalists
  • editorial coverage and links when your pitches are successful

While it’s an extremely useful adjunct to link-building, you can’t build a PR campaign on HARO alone.

2. Read All You Can Get Your Hands On

If you really want to know what makes news in your market, you’ve got to read as much as you can from magazines, news sites, bloggers, and even the general press. Such research will give you the raw material that you need to fuel your creativity.

In the era of digital screens, that phrase “all you can get your hands on” might seem a little incongruous. But the phrase was carefully chosen. The front cover of the New Scientist last week (yes, the paper edition), led with the story “Lost for Words – What We Miss When We Read on Screens.”

So try to grab physical copies of trade press or print out relevant articles and PDFs. Make an effort to read the material carefully, not just quickly scan the articles you find. Taking time to read means you get so much more useful stuff out of the exercise.

3. Research Media Outlets, Journalists, and Bloggers

A good contact list of target journalists and bloggers is required. You can do this by hand at a small scale, but if you want to get serious, you have to invest in a media database – it will save you money in the long run.

Media databases such as or are superb for quickly building lists of media outlets and journalists – plus all the contact details you need. They’ll also include press release distribution as part of their package – if you already use press release distribution, you may find this attractive. Packages start at around the $3,000-per-year mark.

Another service to consider is, which is a database of journalists from leading media outlets and allows you to see what they’re writing and tweeting about. Prices start at $197 per month with no long-term contract required.

4. Find Out What’s Newsworthy About Your Client

Clients often underestimate the newsworthiness of their own companies so you’ve got to help them see the potential. Of course the launch of a new product is likely to be newsworthy, but that’s not all. You can give a “twist” that creates something newsworthy.

Take a story about a cookery bookshop – nothing particularly newsworthy about that as a business concept. But when the owner came up with the idea of cooking lunch for his customers based on the recipes in his books, then that was newsworthy enough to get covered in the Guardian newspaper at “Books for Cooks: The Bookshop That Tests Recipes for You.”

All the reading suggested in step two will give you a good idea of the stories published in your client’s industry. Then outline the year ahead with your client – aim to create at least one newsworthy story per month.

5. Look at What Has Already Been Done for PR Potential

There’s a lot of great creative content that goes into link-building – whether it’s an infographic, a video, a contest, or a publication. Often, promoting that content focuses on traditional link-building and hasn’t been exploited of PR purposes.

So it’s good to look back at what content your client has created in the past year. Are there any ideas or pieces of content that can be freshened up and given a PR spin? It may be possible to reuse them and if not the exercise of evaluating them for PR will help you plan in the future.

6. Develop Core Statements for Your Client

Your PR will work best when your messages are consistent and complementary – each element reinforcing or complementing others. This doesn’t happen easily, so you’ve got to help your client craft their messages. Here’s how:

  • Interview and brainstorm with your client to develop a core set of business statements which describes how they do business, what they see as important, and what makes them unique
  • For each statement, craft a memorable sound bite – a phrase that is memorable, quotable, and sharable
  • Again for each statement, create a Web page or pieces of content that backs up and explains the statement

These can then be organized in a spreadsheet with three columns:

The core business statements give you a solid foundation for the PR work you do.

The sound bites give you ready quotes to include in your press releases or interviews with journalists.

The Web pages that back up the statement give you a URL that you can give to an interested journalist who wants to find out more.

This simple spreadsheet is a wonderful reference for writing press releases, guest posts, and more.

7. Suggest Doing a Customer Survey

Sometimes clients will have extensive research on their markets and customers that they can share with you – this is very useful in planning your PR campaigns. But most times they won’t, so it might be a good idea to discuss conducting a customer survey.

Not only will customer surveys produce valuable marketing insights, but they can also create unique and original content to attract publicity. See “6 Reasons You Should Use Market Surveys in Link-Building Campaigns.

8. Be Prepared for Follow-Up

The ideal situation is that you send out a press release and links to supporting material, to a targeted number of journalists – and the journalists have everything they need to write your story without further reference to you.

But sometimes journalists will follow up to find out more or check facts, so you’ve got to be available and ready for them. Your job is to answer their questions and provide more material they ask for as soon as you can.

Responding well to a follow-up query can make the difference between getting published and not getting published.

So it’s important that you think about what questions journalists might ask when they follow up – and that you have some additional nugget or angle on the story to reward them for getting in touch.


Media coverage doesn’t always generate links, but media outlets are increasingly becoming aware of the usefulness to their readers of providing a link to the source. Furthermore, getting coverage encourages other writers and bloggers to write about you – and those further articles can also bring links.

Image via Dollar Photo Club. 

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