[Video] Public Relations & Search Engine Optimization

Background on Public Relations

Along with branding, public relations is one of the few things that save you and I from commoditization. Every business (and business model) has flaws, hidden costs, value propositions, and has stories to express the delivery of value. PR aims to minimize the downsides of the flaws while making the upside look much larger than it is. Alternatively, public relations can also be used to diminish the upside of competitors while making their flaws look much larger than they are.

The Idea of a Fair Market

Is buying links fair? Is buying and holding domains fair? Is linking to a friend's site or your own new site fair? Is buying out competing sites fair? Is syndicating your spin through your own media outlets fair? Business does not care about the concept fair. It only cares about results.

The word fair is typically used to manipulate people. Markets are not fair. Humas have a bias toward that which they have an affinity to, and business is self-serving and inherently dirty.

PR aims to exploit the media and our inherent biases to create an affinity for a brand or product while viewing other brands or products lowly. Low kicks are allowed, though not recommended unless you thought through the potential consequences ahead of time.

Who Uses PR?

Why PR is so good for business

  • People and search engines have to trust something. Good public relations campaigns target the trusted parts of the web, by targeting either general authorities or related topical experts.

  • PR is hard to duplicate. Each story has a main storyteller. Another people retelling your story wont make the right people want to talk about them. Other SEO techniques, such as link buying, are much easier to duplicate and much easier to penalize.
  • Some of the best PR stories get to be told over and again by the main storyteller, surfacing that person as a topical expert whenever their field comes in focus of the media. Awareness builds relationships, which allows you to spread other stories.
  • Being trusted by one expert makes it easier to be trusted by others. The exposure builds an affinity to your brand and builds credibility.
  • Some things are popular only because they are popular. Good public relations stories can go viral and produce Justin TImberlake-like results. Using large seed sets makes it easier to ensure success, even if the story is not as viral as you would like.
  • Media exposure gives a sense of credibility. My landlord called me to tell me he read about me in the Wall Street Journal. It is much easier for him to view me as a topical expert after reading that article.

We Love You

Good public relations campaigns spread so well because they make the target want to share the story, by making them feel important, sharing their bias, and/or giving them some incentive to spread the story.

  • Salary.com created a story about how much work at home mothers should be paid, high-balling the numbers. Every year they re-release the same story and the media eats it up as though it is new.

  • All of the blog value calculators high-ball the value of the blogs to get people to want to talk about how great their blog is.
  • Even if you hate the concept of SEO it is hard to hate a version of it that is useful, free, and co-branded with Firefox.

Even if you fail to spread to spread these types of stories right away, you can still passively target the right audience using AdWords for less than 10 cents a click.

We Hate You

Many smaller companies make a name for themselves by stating how impure competing businesses are. Creating a common enemy makes it easy for people to identify with you.

The key is not to rant, rave or bash the enemy, but to provide an underlying theme that shows you’re all in it together against the enemy. When framed that way, you’re not a salesperson; rather, you’re a comrade who can lend a hand. Establishing a thematic enemy allows you to focus on providing solutions without coming across like you’re hard selling, and is a perfect technique for white papers, tutorials and blogging in general.

  • In some cases small market players can garner support when businesses attacks them. Once lawsuits are filed you never know how much support the competitor will get. When I was sued by Traffic Power my fight was for freedom of speech online and saving blog comments. It was an easy story to want to share, so people did. Within days of my blog post about it, the story was featured in the Wall Street Journal.

  • When we submitted a story about the fall in the value of the US Dollar to Netscape the story was titled How Bush Devalued the Dollar. They like political stuff on Netscape, so the story quickly shot to #1 on their homepage, stuck there all day, and sent over 15,000 visitors to our site.

Please Hate Us

Some public relations ideas play both sides of the coin - creating controversies then fixing problems they created. For example, PayPerPost went lowbrow with their marketing, offering unmarked editorial blog posts as a service, then came up with their Disclosure Policy site to correct the problem they created. They got press on the way down and the way up. They probably would have never received VC funding if they were not so lowbrow with their marketing.

Jason Calacanis

Love him or hate him, he is great at public relations. Most Weblogs Inc. content is at best average, yet he got a nice payout for it, and he used the PR machine again to launch Mahalo.

  • Weblogs Inc. worked because it got so much link equity from the media, which wanted to tell a story on blogging.

  • Jason maintained that all you needed to be successful was great content, but they had first mover advantage, paid low rates, and scraped by on profitability by selling spammy links.
  • Jason got a lot of press for Mahalo by claiming the death of SEO. Mahalo is a human compiled scraper & the URLs are seo friendly.
  • A week into creating Mahalo they already scraped trendy keywords off the Google hot terms list and now anyone can get paid a near livable wage building the manual scraper

Reputation Management

SEO can also be used to aid your public relations for your core branded terms. Reputation management works by helping favorable documents rank better, which suppresses the rankings of negative documents.

Can PR be Dirty?

Just like SEO, public relations can be used to push things that are good or things that are bad. Seth recently published my favorite marketing rant post ever. Here is a quote:

I believe that every criminal, no matter how heinous the crime, deserves an attorney. I don't believe that every product and every organization and every politician deserves world-class marketing or PR.

If you get asked to market something, you’re responsible. You’re responsible for the impacts, the costs, the side effects and the damage. You killed that kid. You poisoned that river. You led to that fight. If you can’t put your name on it, I hope you’ll walk away. If only 10% of us did that, imagine the changes. Imagine how proud you’d be of your work.

PR Watch highlights some of the misuse of and abuses by the public relations industry. They also publish videos to YouTube. I marketed some really dirty stuff when I was new to the web. As I learn more about the power of marketing, I am less willing to market things that only sound good when ignoring the hidden costs.

Published: June 21, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing videos


June 24, 2007 - 1:27am

dwrunyon, like your attitude. Pissing in other people's wells to make money sucks. Try some of the recent videos at income.com - there's a guy with the right attitude to life AND has made lots of money.

Dead easy to exploit kids (for example) being uneducated and clicking on camouflaged adsense for ringtones. Wouldn't make me sleep well though.

June 24, 2007 - 1:37am

Oh, forgot to add - try stevepavlina.com - inspirational, plus practical advice on entreprenreurism (?)

Inspiration is often a first step to change. Good luck!

brett borders
June 25, 2007 - 1:47am

Great ideas, Aaron! A valuable and inspiring post.

Khalid Hajsaleh
June 21, 2007 - 6:51am

Hi Aaron,

Great blog. You mention that PR is an option that some organizations choose because it does not require a large advertising budget. Although a PR campaign does not cost as much as a full blown advertising campaign, many small businesses can not afford pr campaign. Do you think cost is the main barrier that stops small business from utilizing PR in their marketing mix or is it ignorance?


June 21, 2007 - 7:21am

Do you think cost is the main barrier that stops small business from utilizing PR in their marketing mix or is it ignorance?

I honestly think it is more ignorance than ad budget. A few years back I didn't know how cut up the media was, or how to target people on both an emotional an demographic basis.

Although a PR campaign does not cost as much as a full blown advertising campaign, many small businesses can not afford pr campaign.

If you develop a strong enough brand and/or are known as an expert you may not have to spend much on public relations. Plus, in this post, I also linked to this article about targeting the media with AdWords. On under $2,000 I got over a dozen organic blog links, and articles in a couple major newspapers.

Justin Clark
June 21, 2007 - 7:52am

Great blog I agree. I just finished reading your book which is also excellent. On my computer screen (in both IE and Firefox), this blog entry seems to be cut off - It ends with "Here is a less" below the second video, and then that sentence is not completed. Is there more that I am not seeing?


June 21, 2007 - 8:24am

Thanks Justin
Not sure how I did that. Fixed though :)

Richard Michie
June 21, 2007 - 1:56pm

PR really, really does work. I employed a PR company for 3 months and they were useless. Not becasue they didn't have the skills but because we are a small business moving really quickly, they couldn't keep up.

We now employ a full time PR exec and we are in the news constantly not just local papers and news release sites either. We get coverage on the BBC, Sky and national press. I was always sceptical about PR before but now its essential to our day to day Marketing effort.

June 21, 2007 - 4:18pm

Yes Richard but were you Really Really Skeptical?

June 21, 2007 - 7:50pm

Thanks a TON for sharing that video of the girl speaking to the UN at the bottom... that's what turned this simple little everyday blog post on business and marketing into a very powerful commentary on the differences between represented identity and real deal whois, and how the separation of those two qualities have more or less ruined our entire world. To bad that after that girl left the room everyone there just went back to business as usual and forgot everything she said within a day or two, if that, much like nobody is commenting on it at all here.

Earlier today I found the Blue Hat SEO blog from your BHSEO site and read the post about making $100 per day. I am in some pretty deep financial shit and my family is suffering a lot from it, and when I first read it I was thinking how much I'd like to do that, even if it made $20 a day... but I decided I would rather buy a book on edible local plants and feed us than take advantage of those who simply aren't educated about their computers... it was a STRONG tug, but it's just a micro of the macro and I do not want to exploit the disadvantaged on any level... the old cliche of being part of the problem or part of the solution holds true on even the smallest of actions.

Anyway, thanks for that video clip... I think it was well worth my while and I embedded it into my personal homepage to spread it a little more if I can.

Matt L
June 21, 2007 - 11:26pm

Hey Aaron,

Nice job on the video - microphone quality was super. :) Look forward to seeing more of those when you have time.

June 22, 2007 - 2:26am

Hi Aaron,

I really enjoy your blog and all the Information you provide.

But by the way http://www.business-opportunities.biz/projects/how-much-is-your-blog-wor... say your blog is $1,962,905.58 worth. That is really somethink you can write about :-)

Cheers Falko

Matt L
June 22, 2007 - 3:28am

Hi again Aaron,

forgot to ask - I noticed you used Youtube for the video hosting. Undoubtedly the viral component and large audience on there make that a no-brainer. I've noticed some folks even with a good feel for branding choose to host on their own server. Would there be any situation where you would keep publicly viewable video served up from your own box?

Hamlet Batista
June 22, 2007 - 5:33am

I have to admit that I don't know anything about Public Relations. Can you tell me of some good books and articles with in depth information about the topic?

Media Maven
December 31, 2009 - 12:42pm

Thanks for creating such an informative video. You are on the money on all of your points.

I really like your site.


February 3, 2010 - 4:17pm

Brilliant and very helpful Aaron, thanks! I am just at the point of attempting to create some news worthy content. It's not easy though...

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