One of the first things you’ll notice about Social PR Secrets: How to Optimize, Socialize, and Publicize Your Brand’s News by Lisa Buyer is how compact it is. Coming in at under 100 pages, this slim volume stands apart from most other business books simply by virtue of its slender profile.
It’s lack of bulk, however, is by no means due to lightweight content or skimping on ideas. It is, rather, a reflection of Lisa’s exceptional ability (invaluable to a top-notch public relations professional) to convey maximum information with minimal words. This is no wasted verbiage in this book, no fluff, no superfluous content. This is the bleach, the moonshine, the uranium of business books—powerful but highly concentrated.
In just eight dozen or so pages, Lisa demonstrates the impact that social media has had on the practice of public relations, and how professionals in the field need to adapt to these changes in order to thrive, changing the way they approach media relations; news release writing; content planning, creation and distribution; use of images and visuals; and the measurement and analysis of results.
A must-read for anyone in PR, the book is also of value to marketers, SEO professionals, social media managers, and executives who want to better understand the role PR plays in maximizing a brand’s total online visibility, credibility, and impact.
Indeed, while most PR professionals aren’t going to become webmasters (or vice versa), it’s vital for practitioners, and especially for marketing and PR executives, to understand how these roles as well as those of digital marketers, writers, graphic designers, social media, and advertising specialists need to be coordinated in order to optimize online presence.
As Google’s search algorithms have become more sophisticated, being highly “findable” and visible to relevant audiences online is no longer about tricks or gaming the system. Optimizing online results today requires creativity, great content, effective social interaction, and link-earning through relationships with key influencers, whoever those may be in your industry: journalists, analysts, bloggers, consultants, thought leaders and others.
Lisa doesn’t merely theorize about these developments; she has lived them, and her experiences both enliven the book and provide valuable examples that illustrate the concepts she details.
On the importance of content in both PR and SEO, for example, Lisa writes: “Everything in search” is about content, and “when you think about it, everything in public relations is about content—via a press release, media story, blog post, image, or executive bio.”
Each chapter helpfully contains “Social PR Secrets,” short paragraphs set off from the surrounding content in a different typeface. A few examples include:
- • “Leverage the power of Facebook Ads to promote posts to the newsfeed and generate publicity using a blend of organic and paid social PR.”
- • “Write three versions of a company press release: one for paid distribution version that includes a photo, logo, and video; another version for the company blog which might be shorter, a little more casual and have a different visual; and a website version…This will help index more content with search and avoid possible duplicate content issues.”
- • “Always, always, always post a press release on your website first, before submitting to the ‘wires’ to maximize authorship benefits and authority in the discussion—which also enhances visibility in search.”
- • “The simple application Buffer can be a secret weapon in bringing old blog content and news releases back to life and send new visits to otherwise dead pages.”
- • “PDF press releases and all text press releases are OUT, so make sure your press releases are accompanied with a strong visual such as an image, video, infographic or chart. This goes for your press releases hosted on your own website’s online newsroom.”
In today’s era of content marketing and social PR, Lisa advises PR professionals to “write (more) like a reporter and less like a marketer” and to support these content strategies by developing editorial calendars. “Social media has dramatically increased a brand’s number of owned media outlets, so smart businesses need to make the mental shift to think more like publishers. Managing content with an editorial calendar is a necessity.”
Another core element of social PR is having an online newsroom on your corporate website. While these have become fairly common, not all are well-designed or maintained, and “today the online newsroom can be an organization’s social PR secret weapon.”
Journalists today expect companies to have online newsrooms, and these should include, among other elements, news releases; prominent PR or media contact information; executive and product photos; biographies of company leaders; and “vital statistics: It’s really surprising how many organizations fail at incorporating the basic facts, background information, history, and milestones into the press center. More advanced content could include industry hot buttons, facts, and figures.”
Most powerfully, the online newsroom serves as an equalizer between large and small companies: “Expertise in a subject comes in all sizes, with 87% of journalists (say) they visit both large and small-to-medium sized organizations’ online newsrooms…today’s online newsroom is the command central for all company news activity and helps level the playing field for small companies to compete with Fortune 100 companies.”
As helpful as all of the information in this book is, two chapters in particular stand out. Chapter 8: The Art and Science of Social Publishing is a concise but brilliant guide to both the hard and soft factors that determine the effectiveness of social outreach, with three pages devoted to helpful tips like:
“Write for the Retweet, +1, Share, Like, Klout, and Comment: Facts, stats, tips, reports, studies, and breaking and trending news are good triggers for prompting a share. Ending a post with a question increases a post’s impression and reach.”
“The rise of visual social media marketing makes each image selection for a blog post critical and dictates that you must match each press release or media coverage recap…with an outstanding visual. Your article, blog post, and news release must be accompanied by a pinnable image to get your social PR news shared.”
Chapter 13: The Rise of Visual Reporting delves even deeper into the topic of matching relevant but compelling images to news content and announcements. Here, Lisa reports that “a recent PR Newswire analysis of its press release data revealed that press releases using multimedia assets garner significantly more visibility than text-only releases, up to 9.7 times more visibility.” She also provides a list of tools and apps that help with visual storytelling, as well as visual PR tips such as, “When launching a new product do not just have the ‘hero’ shot, take photos of the product in use or in application.”
And despite the book’s compact size, it covers an impressively wide range of topics. For example, Chapter 16: Avoiding a PR Disaster offers useful guidance on developing a social media policy that effectively supports PR: “To mitigate (risk of employees damaging an organization’s image on social networks), develop a company-wide policy that clearly defines both acceptable and unacceptable behavior on social media, and dictates how employees can effectively communicate your brand culture, voice, and message. Include guidelines about confidential and proprietary information and how each should be treated and balanced against the transparency that consumers increasingly expect from social media.”
Just a few pages later, she outlines her strategy for getting the most out of sessions at industry conferences: “I map out my session plan ahead of time and I always sit in the front row with my laptop or iPad, feverishly taking notes. Sitting in the front row gives you an advantage of having less distractions, more focus, and a better networking opportunity because most of the other front-runners are live bloggers or members of the media who are there to cover the session. Some of my best contacts and relationships have…been made sitting in the front row.”
Social PR Secrets packs an amazing quantity and range of practical, actionable knowledge into a thin, quickly digestible package. But it’s not a read-and-set-aside type book; you’ll want to keep this handy to refer back to key sections as your PR / content marketing / digital strategy develops. Anyone involved in PR, social media, digital marketing, content creation, or the management of a brand’s overall online presence will find this book an indispensable guide to working smarter and getting better results.