Public Relations Basics: Optimizing Your Online Presence

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By now most organizations — non-profit or for-profit, large or small — have added a web presence to their public relations efforts. It’s not enough, however, just to have a web site. Leaving it dangling out there in cyberspace like a forlorn little planet in a faraway galaxy is a mistake that’s far too common, even among those in the public relations game. Your web site can’t work for you unless you first work for it. The following tips will help you promote your web site easily and effectively.

Don’t Be Invisible

Keep in mind that your web site’s address should be visible on every ad, piece of direct mail, brochure, sign, and any other form of printed communication you use. A common mistake is to bury it in the small print near the end of a printed communication. Instead, display it prominently, with a bold invitation to your clients to visit the site.

If your web site generates income either directly or indirectly, you probably have a higher budget to help promote it. Consider planning a direct mail campaign designed to drive traffic to your site, perhaps with a contest or drawing as an incentive. Such mailings should contain statements that firmly position your web site as a 24-hour-per-day extension of your company. Tell your clients what they can expect to find there, whether it’s on-line quotes, lists of helpful tips, current industry news, troubleshooting information, or an online portfolio that showcases samples of your work.

When it’s time to reprint business cards and letterhead, add your web site’s address to these items as well. Prospective clients will often visit a web site even if they’re reluctant to make a call to the sales department. Make it easy for those prospective clients by putting your web address right in front of them.

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Leave a Trail of Links

One of the best no-cost ways to promote your web site to web-friendly customers and prospective clients is to link your site to other sites that provide complementary products and services. For example, if you’re a furniture manufacturer, you may want to link up with architects and interior designers, or with trade organizations in your industry. Obtaining permission to link to another site is usually as easy as talking to another public relations professional, as long as the relationship will be mutually beneficial. Direct links are probably more effective than banner ads, which tend to elicit response rates of less than one percent. The more direct links to your site you can place, the more traffic you can direct to your site.

Opt-In Email is a Low-Cost Option

Also know as permission-based email, opt-in email campaigns differ from “spamming” in many ways. While spam is unsolicited bulk email, opt-in email is sent only to recipients that have given their permission to receive offers from companies that match the areas of interest they have specified. It is targeted, not random. And because opt-in email arrives from a recognized source–usually the opt-in marketing house–it is less likely to be deleted without so much as a glance. Some studies suggest opt-in email campaigns are more effective than targeted campaigns conducted via “snail mail.”

If your product or service is of a type that is difficult to sell via email–complicated information systems, for example–a stepping-stone approach may work for you: An opt-in email message invites customers to browse your site, offering an incentive to do so. The visit to the web site provides the information needed to generate interest. And the resulting interest may lead to a sale.

Plan According to Your Goals

How much time and money you put into promoting your web site depends not only on your available budget, but on the ultimate purpose of the site. Web sites that support the sales and marketing departments by giving quotes or taking secure orders online are obviously worth spending a few promotional dollars on. If your web site is geared more toward offering information and enhancing your image in the community, however, some of the low- or no-cost solutions listed above may be more appropriate. What’s important is that you make your web presence known.

This article, written by Hilda Brucker, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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