Monday, January 18, 2010

Maximizing SEO on Press Releases

I had a great conversation about SEO and news releases the other day with Michael Toner from Business Wire. Here are some tips.

Company name usage - Always use your company name in the headline but never the web address even if it's a web based company. It will search better that way.

When to put in web site address - The web site address should always follow the first reference to the company name in a news release.

Pointing out what matters - After the first paragraph add in 3-4 bullets of what’s important with your key words. It helps break up the text and with well chosen wording will help it search better.

Getting better tracking for your CEO - Your CEO or whoever is quoted should have their name hyperlinked to their bio on the company or organization web site. Reporters will click on it to learn more about you.

Code words and hyperlinks - Make sure you also create hyperlinks that match up with keywords that are important in your industry and heavily searched. Use them in your headlines as well.

Linking to your web site - Your section headings and text on opening pages of your web site should use the same phrasing as in your release. Also the coding should match up.

SEO word choice - Check the most commonly searched phrasing in your industry and pepper them through your release. Two ways to do this - you can just Google words you think will work and look at how often they are used. Or go to Google Trends and cross reference your words.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Tightrope of What You Can and Can't Say

Oh Harry Reid - now you've gone and done it. Someone dug up a comment that you made about Obama being white enough to win the presidency and it's come back to bite you in the butt. When will people realize that in this hypercritical, scream-a-thon of a world we live in you just don't say stuff like that?

Full disclosure: I'm just as guilty as the rest folks - except I'm smart enough to know I shouldn't say it even after I did.

What prompted this blog post? Well it's not yet another politician putting his foot in his mouth. I pissed off someone and he wrote me a note at 5:30 in the morning and called me Uppity. That's right Uppity. The word the south used to describe slaves who wanted to better themselves and stuck up for themselves. Does Uppity mean anything else to anyone except what I just said? Not in my universe.

Why on earth would anyone use that word? Because he just wasn't thinking.

So that's my point basically. We walk this tightrope - us writers and business people. PR people, and lawyers and all of those who are scared to death of saying the wrong thing, end up not saying anything at all.

We have to find some sort of happy medium. Inform but don't offend. What are the hard and fast rules of actually saying what you mean and not screwing it up? Some thoughts:

If it's something you wouldn't say to your boss in front of his boss you probably shouldn't say it. Same goes for your mother.

If you wish you hadn't said it after you did you shouldn't have said it - We all know that moment of panic when you think you're going to get yelled at by a client, a friend, your parent or whomever - that's a bad sign.

Think about how what you say can be twisted before you say it. Watch Glen Beck, Fox News and Sean Hannity a few times. They are geniuses at twisting what people they want to bring down say and turning it into something offensive. Remember when Obama said the police acted stupidly for arresting a man outside of his own house and it was transformed into he doesn't support our police force? That was Fox News.

Take America's pulse before you create your messages. Now this isn't possible all the time, but we are marketers and PR people. We should be paying attention to what the national conversation, mood and world is saying. A few months after 9-11 a woman named Amber wrote a press release about how pita pockets were a comfort food that could keep us feeling warm and safe. She didn't exactly say that but it's pretty close to what she did say. She worked for a large PR agency. A writer for the Washington Post published the release and ripped her to shreds.

If Amber (it doesn't help to have the name of a stripper) had been paying attention, she would have thought about what an incredibly sensitive subject 9-11 was then. Her bosses and client should have known better too. You don't take advantage of a national tragedy. Unless you want to go to war in Iraq.

Never write or send anything you write when you are angry. An old boss of mine said this a couple of months before he fired me for doing just that. It was a nice firing - there was mutual respect - I had made them a lot of money - and they were good about it. He said, put it away and read it again when you're not angry. Then throw it out.

Listen to the language of the young. One of the only words that still means the same thing it meant when we were kids is cool. Everything else has a different meaning. A lot of it comes from rap music. And I have my own household test market - which certainly helps. A few of them - Tight - it used to mean close - "We are tight." Now it means virginity. Ego - it used to mean someone who was full of themselves. Now it's slang for a male sex organ.

So if you have any other advice for this tightrope walker of language let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marketers: Failure is Merely a Dress Rehearsal for Success

I have worked for a lot of entrepreneurs and am working for two right now that I have enormous respect for. Often they see something in me – perhaps how badly I want it and how hard I will work to make it happen. I’d like to think they see smart and creative.

Many PR people and consultants can’t work for entrepreneurs because they don’t like having to quantify what they do. They follow formulas not ideas. And they don’t do the work themselves but hand it off to junior people who bill less. Bad idea. Most junior people are lousy strategists - they don't have the background for it. They need you more than you wish they did.

I worked for a company once that ate its young. Senior people always knew better than everyone else. They let you do all the work while they made nice with clients, went out to lunch a lot and expected you to wait around until office hours were over for them to review your work and pass it on to the client as theirs.

Whatever you told them, whatever you suggested, whatever you wrote, it was never as good as what they could do. The good news was if you made them money they left you alone. For awhile.

So what happened? They stopped leaving us alone. All of the people who were really talented left because they put in reporting systems and structures that took the entrepreneurial spirit right out of the company. Oh they went out and found new people and they are still doing fine. But they never got past their comfort zone. That’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a middle manager who got lucky. Don’t ever forget that.

I was just watching Larry Bock, a bio-tech entrepreneur and inspiration behind the USA Science & Engineering Festival give a commencement address to Berkeley. The address is from 2007. But what he says is so smart and so inspiring all of you should watch it. He talks about five things that Berkeley students should remember as they go out into the world. One of them is the headline of this post.

So after I watched the video, I thought about what he said and what I’ve learned working with entrepreneurs. For what it's worth here are my five characteristics of what makes a great entrepreneur. All five are also what makes a great marketer. Not just someone who makes a lot of money but someone who also makes a great boss and a great leader. Take from it what you need.

1. They look for people not projects. People are what make a venture work – smart, driven, creative people who want it to succeed. Without that, you have a shell.

2. They don’t tell you what to do but listen to what you say and let you do it. True entrepreneurs know they can’t do it all by themselves. They acknowledge that people they hire know what they’re doing – and they hire them to do it. So they give them lots of rope and let them figure it out. They are the encouraging voice behind you.

3. They combine chutzpah with humility. Bock said this and I agree. There are plenty of people who start believing in their own mystique. Look at celebrities. They start to make it – then surround themselves with yes people who say it’s OK to fly sushi into the desert because they have a craving for it. Who treat them like they are better than everyone else.

We’ve created a culture of celebrity love in this country – especially through reality TV – that is truly scary. The basic message is simple. We are all people – we break, we fix things, we love, we get mad and we live and die. In the grand scheme of things – we are all pretty similar. So keep that humility - it will make you a better person and a much better entrepreneur and marketer.

4. They understand the value of PR but measure it in dollars not hits or clips. Entrepreneurs want value from the people who work for them. They don’t measure it in amorphous buzz words.

Sorry folks but today there are tools that let your clients figure out exactly what they are getting from you. The smart ones are using analytics – most likely Google because it’s free. How many people are going to their website because of the coverage they’re getting? What’s driving their sales figures? Is it your work? They will measure and they will make you measure too.

5. They work their asses off and expect everyone else will too. The difference is that they do it right alongside the people they’ve hired.

I am clueless to why the YouTube direct link doesn't work. But if you go to the site and search Larry Bock - his Berkeley address is the first listing you get.