PR: Not Just for Journalists Anymore

For years, the goal of public relations professionals was to get their clients’ messages heard by journalists, who would then disperse that message to the public. In today’s world of search engines and online distribution for press releases, more and more consumers are getting their news directly from companies.

To help PR pros craft their releases in a way that gets results, two companies, PR Web and Business Wire, have separately come out with tools to make them more likely to be found by search engines, and to make them more persuasive once they are.

PRWeb, a wire service founded in 1997 primarily as a direct-to-consumer delivery vehicle, has partnered with marketing consulting firm FutureNow to bring its “persuasion architecture” tools and methodologies to PRWeb’s clients.

“We’re building a system of communication that acknowledges that people don’t read the same way they used to, and that information lives in context on the Web,” Jeffrey Eisenberg, CEO of FutureNow, told ClickZ. “A press release is a marketing tool. It’s always been seen as a part of marketing, but set apart on the side. Now it’s starting to live more in both worlds.”

According to Eisenberg, persuasion architecture is at its simplest a method for marketers to reach their objectives by first focusing on the objectives of their customers. The process involves determining exactly what you want someone to do, identifying who that person is, and then identifying what it would take to get that person to take that action, Eisenberg said.

To apply the concept to public relations, FutureNow is working with PRWeb to integrate its planning tools into PRWeb’s distribution system to use press releases as more effective marketing tools. The Persuasion Architecture PR (PAPR) tools will help companies clarify the planning process, think about what their goals are for the press release, and how it fits into their larger communication goals, Eisenberg said.

“We’re embedding persuasion architecture consulting into a Web application,” he said. In addition, PRWeb will offer companies’ one-on-one consulting services to help plan their PR strategy. As the product evolves, more of the concepts from the professional services implementation will be built into the online application, Eisenberg said.

A main element of persuasion architecture is looking at user behavior online as a series of actions that lead users from one hyperlink to the next, rather than isolated visits to certain pre-defined pages of content. The methodology also uses the concept of personas, idealized characters embodying traits of your real-life audience, to put in place the right answers and arguments needed to convince different kinds of prospects.

“Most businesses have an interest in generating something from their press release, whether it’s a purchase, engagement, or something else. Rarely do they just want someone to read it,” Eisenberg said. “A press release in this new environment is not dissimilar from an AdWords ad or other parts of a campaign. You’re providing a chunk of information with the intent of getting people to do something.”

Another wire service today unveiled its plans to add search engine optimization tools to its press release distribution offering. Business Wire has teamed up with Newsforce, a joint venture of PR firm SEO-PR, SEO firm SiteLab, and developers Primero Systems, to bring a suite of tools to Business Wire clients.

Newsforce’s SEO software suite combines a keyword research tool, press release SEO tool, link building tool, and news search engine ranking report with Business Wire’s news release distribution and NewsTrak internet traffic report.

“There are a lot of SEO tools out there, but in a lot of markets, like PR, they’re not put into applications yet,” Jamie O’Donnell, CEO of Newsforce, told ClickZ. “With SEO, there are very particular things you need to know, and things change with the algorithms month to month. Professionals in most verticals are not aware of the level of complexity involved.”

Newsforce’s tools gather data from existing SEO tools and apply Newsforce’s own proprietary optimization wizard for PR pros. The tools help clients optimize their release for things like keyword placement and keyword density, and provide tools for keyword research and link building.

A beta test will get underway next week, with widespread availability expected later this year. This is expected to be the first of several phases of Business Wire tools to maximize visibility, according to Cathy Baron Tamraz, president and CEO of Business Wire.

“We studied the issue for months and chose to get this first phase right, rather than right away,” Tamraz said in a statement. “A lot of smoke and mirrors have surfaced in recent months. Our approach is to introduce a suite of SEO solutions that our members will find effective and that have a measurable ROI.”

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