Writing to help your business to be found

Many items we write for public relations or marketing purposes are likely to be published on-line.  Whether you’re writing a press release, an article sharing your expertise or posting on your blog it’s useful to know how all of these can help your organisation to be found on the web.

The value of being found

Although you may be hugely proud of the information you provide on your website unless the right people can find it you’re not maximizing its potential.  Many of your customers will be searching on-line to find products/services and making judgements about the type of organisation you are.  If you don’t appear in their search results you are very likely to be overlooked.

Simple steps to improve your profile on-line

Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves tailoring parts of a website and other web activities to ensure the site comes high up the list of search results when people are using a tool like google, bing or yahoo.  Many of the more sophisticated SEO techniques may require more technical skill than you have but you can ensure any content you write includes important signposts for these search engines. Here’s how:

Know the keywords your audience use – It’s important to use the words your target audience will be typing in the search box.  For example if you write about children’s apparel but the parents you are hoping to attract are seeking baby clothes you won’t be an obvious match for their search request. Look back at your target audience list and try to see your business from their perspective.  Make a list of keywords or phrases you think may be relevant then try them out – type them in and see what search results you get.

Use keywords in your headings and text – Once you understand the keywords people are seeking you can incorporate them into whatever copy you write.  It is important not to let SEO dominate your writing – you still need to deliver quality information for your audience – just make sure the signposts are included.

Headings and summaries near the top of the page have a lot of influence with search engines so you’ll want to use keywords rather than your own internal jargon for these. For example your group may be called Mums with Bubs but your search results will be better if you head the page Walking Groups for New Mums.

Include links to your website – You can also help your website be found by including links to it in your Facebook page, blog posts or by encouraging other businesses to provide a link to you on their sites. Not only do these links help the people who click on them but search engines also factor in this type of popularity when ranking search results.

Update your content regularly – Keeping your website content fresh is important for many reasons and here’s another one. Search engines know when your site hasn’t been updated and are likely to assume the content has become stale.  Once that happens you’ll appear further and further down the search results until you might as well not be there at all.

By incoporating these ideas into whatever PR writing you do, you can achieve your short term purpose while helping your business achieve its long term goals.

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Sharing your expertise to generate positive PR

Using what you know to help or inform others is a great way to generate interest in your organisation and raise your profile in the community.

Although there are many ways you can publish your message you’ll need to make sure what you say is;

  • Brief – don’t take up too much time. You can always offer a link to more detail if you think some will want this
  • Useful to the reader – focus on what they may be doing, not just what is happening in your organisation
  • Regular – it’s great to send your message monthly or weekly so people know what to expect
  • Connected to your products/services – don’t forget to include a call to action and links to your webpage

Getting your message out

Here are a just a few ways you can publish a message and get it out to existing or prospective customers;

Printed newsletters – If you have a regular mail out e.g. with invoices or people call in to your premises a printed newsletter may be a great way to go.

E-newsletters – Great tools like Mail Chimp make it really easy for anyone with everyday computer skills to create and send professional looking updates via email to their own lists of key contacts. Check out this example from a small Tauranga based company: Engage Communications e-news

Blogs – Blogging sites like Blogspot or WordPress provide you with another set of user-friendly tools to publish to a wide audience. Here’s a company offering tips about writing a press release:   PR in your pajamas blog

YouTube – Making a video allows you to show how to do something practical e.g. how to care for a worm farm or simply to provide your message in this hugely popular medium.

So why not give it a go?  Just think about what your target audience are interested in, pick a medium and get started today.

Coming up next…

Next time we’ll look at ways to ensure articles published on-line deliver maximum value for your business.

Getting started with low-cost public relations activities

So you’re managing a small business or not-for-profit (NFP) organisation and really want it to be successful? You’re pretty busy right? And there isn’t a lot of money to throw around…  If so then this blog is for you.  In this series we’ll look at the basic principles of successful PR and offer some simple, low-cost ideas you can quickly put to work for you.

PR doesn’t need to be tricky but it does need to be planned for a specific audience, have a long-term focus and give people the opportunity to interact with your organisation.

Not surprisingly then one of your first steps needs to be to considering who you want your messages to go to. Once you know that you can start actively doing things to positively influence them.

Who are your messages intended for?

Are you wanting to communicate with your;

  • Current customers/members?
  • Potential customers/members?
  • Neighbours?
  • Suppliers?
  • Key contacts – people who might refer others to you?

Looking down the list it’s likely you’ll be keen to influence a number of these groups. To help you target your activities it’s important to think about the type of people in each of them.

Make yourself a list of the audiences you want to target and see if you can answer these questions about them;

  • Are the members of the group male, female or a mixture?
  • What ages are they?
  • Where are they located geographically?
  • What level of computer skills do you think they have?
  • What level of education might they have?
  • What ethnicities are they?
  • What values or interests do they have in common?
  • Why might they be interested in what you do?

You might want to re-visit this list a few times in the next few days to make it as complete as you can.

In the meantime here’s something concrete you can tackle straight away – a quick health check for some key customer touch points.

Are you damaging your reputation today?

Your reputation is affected by all the experiences your customers have with your people, premises, brand and products/services.  It’s easy for simple things to create barriers or unpleasant experiences so it’s well worth taking a few minutes to regularly check you’re not shooting yourself in the foot.

→ Making the most of incoming calls

What happens when someone rings your business? Do they get to talk to you or another well-informed person? Do they often need to leave a message? Is your recorded message up to date?  How long does it take to get back to them?

If someone has taken the trouble to contact you it’s crucial they get a good response to their call.  You might like to ask a friend to ring the business as a ‘mystery shopper’ to see what response they get or simply make a point of listening to the way incoming calls are handled.  If you can’t always have a person answering the phone most phone providers can now send voice messages to you as an email – making it easier to respond quickly.

→ Making the most of incoming emails

What happens when someone emails your business? How long does it take to get a response? What gets done when an email can’t be resolved straight away? 

This is a great time to try out the ‘contact us’ links on any websites you have or directories you are listed in to make sure they work.  Have a look at the inbox and make sure responses are being sent within a reasonable timeframe.  Beware the auto response function as you can easily end up sending messages which are out of date or simply inappropriate to the enquiry the person made. Ensure people who have taken the time to contact you are getting a quality response or you risk losing them for good.

→Making the most of your business premises

Is it easy to find your business from the road? Is the signage in good repair? Is the approach to your main door tidy? Do you have appropriate posters or notices on the walls? Is it a safe and pleasant place to visit?

Having trouble finding your business will annoy people and that’s not a great way to start. Tatty flags or grubby signage suggests a lack of caring that may also be off-putting.  Take a wander and have a good look at your premises from the outside then enter through the main door.  You may find a few simple tidy ups that could help improve the visitor experience straight away.

Coming up next…

Next time we’ll look at some specific PR activities you might like to try. You’ll be well placed to get going if you’ve given some thought to your target audiences and have made sure you’re ready for when they contact you.

The author – Belinda Barnett – is studying communication, media and public relations at Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.