It is vital that your customers, clients, colleagues, and even competitors perceive your business in a positive way that reflects your brand ethos. PR stands for Public Relations, and it is a broad subject that goes hand-in-hand with advertising and marketing. Hiring a PR professional can be an expensive outgoing, which at a small level may not be financially justifiable – but there is plenty you can do yourself, especially online (and for those needing or wanting consultancy – I have effective, affordable options on my services page). In the modern world that we live in, technology has a massive part to play in the major areas of any business; continue reading for some Dos and Don’ts of online PR practice.

Do use relevant social-networking sites like Facebook, Four Square and Twitter. This will strengthen your online presence in a positive and productive way, and help you connect with previous, current and future clients, as well as other professionals in your field of work. Such sites also offer extra benefits like an increase to your Search Engine Optimisation. PR is all about reputation, so portray your business online in the same way you would offline. Don’t write any negative messages or content about anybody else. You may think something is witty, or harmless, but sometimes the impact of written words can cause communication problems, or be offensive, and subsequently create negative PR for you and your business.

Do include PR features to your current website, by adding your social-networking buttons. Add hints and informative videos to your website too, so that you are providing a personal touch for visitors. Testimonials are a great way to show potential clients that you already have  satisfied customers. So get some glowing reviews; include names and a smiling image for maximum PR effectiveness. Don’t get a friend to write a list of bogus testimonials, as you are only cheating yourself. Remember quality over quantity, so avoid including lots of average, too long, or similar content.

Do contact online magazines and industry blogs with news, stories or case studies. Suggest becoming a guest blogger. Being a blogger on an established industry site marks you as an expert in your field and will undoubtedly lead to more clients, as you will be seen as trustworthy, professional and knowledgeable. If writing is not your thing, then you could offer your product or services as a competition or giveaway prize for visitors of their sites. Websites are usually crying out for good free content, so do your research and see which ones suit your style and area of expertise… there are lots of them! Don’t hound online editors for inclusion, they are busy and it is likely they will get back to you when your blog is suited to their feature list. A polite chase via email will be sufficient after about a week of sending something through. Also, avoid sending non-relevant material… Ensure you adhere to their submission guidelines.

Do surf the web, and do your research. Knowing your competitors is vital. You can assess what other brands or businesses are doing promotion wise. Subscribe to relevant newsletters and be abreast of industry news. Don’t blatantly copy competitors’ ideas, be inspired and adapt them. Also, avoid getting sucked into the wonderful Internet world of wasting time.

Do write your own press releases and email them to relevant online magazines. Address the recipient by name, and take the time to slightly cater your message by using their name throughout, and by mentioning their publication, or cross-referencing a time you may have spoken with them, or even met them; and you are likely to get a response nearly 100% of the time. Post your news on free press release distribution sites, where you can also easily embed your pressroom into your own website, just like on the releases page of this site, I use PRLOG. Don’t email spam messages to everybody – that may work for a regular newsletter as a marketing strategy, but PR is all about relationship building and being personable. Do it right, and the results are fantastic for your business.

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