Blocking and Tackling, PR 2.0 Style

By: Bob Geller, SVP, Fusion PR

Blocking and tackling in PR refers to all those tactics that serve to make sure your client or employer is covered in the media. These are the day in and day out things you do over the course of a program. Just like in football, PR blocking and tackling generally relates to defense and execution, and is less about shrewd gamesmanship and call playing.

Although the phrase is sometimes used derisively, to describe unimaginative PR, there is much to be said for taking a consistent and methodical approach, and making the numbers work in your favor. At a really basic level, this means knowing who writes about your space, making sure they know about you, and then working hard over the course of a program through routine and repeatable activities to help your stories see the light of day.

Now, however, many in PR are finding that the comfortable world we once knew is rapidly changing. E.g. literally anyone can now write and talk about your company or client publicly, via blogs and other types of social media and networks. This might sound scary and even a little overwhelming. The good news, of course, is that communications professionals also have access to the democratized media megaphone. We are well advised as a profession to master (and help our clients to master) these still relatively new ways of communicating.

So what would a PR blocking and tackling playbook, updated to meet the realities of an increasingly online and social media world consist of (shall we call it blogging and tackling)?I’ll cite a couple of activities below, and also refer readers to related links and an earlier post on the topic. I welcome comments, additions and suggestions.

Make sure your blogging platform supports pinging, and has an updated and comprehensive ping list.
Why blog if your posts fly under the radar of search engines? Your blog platform should support pinging (various types of automated notifications that tell the search engines that you have a new post, and let other blogs know you are linking to them, for example). Some platforms do this well, and others barely or not at all. It is also important to make sure the ping list is updated. This is a list of websites that broadcast the ping alert from your blog post to various places.

Typepad, the blogging platform I use for my blog Flack’s Revenge, has a fairly limited built-in ping list, but the list can be added to for each post. I make it a force of habit – a blocking and tackling exercise – to add to the standard Typepad ping list each time I post.

Other routine habits that can help elevate blog posts include checking off the “Allow Trackback” and “Allow Comments” boxes, and making sure the post is categorized and tagged properly.

Get out the Vote
Meta sites and social news sites like Techmeme, Digg, and Reddit showcase the news that is the focus of online buzz, and (for the latter two) let you submit your blog post, client story or other online content for consideration.

It should be a force of habit, a blocking and tackling exercise, to get out the vote for you and your clients’ PR content (I am not advocating “stuffing the ballot box,” but when done within the guidelines for each site does not pose any problems). Also, the systems tied in with many of these sites tend to be self-correcting – you get higher status as a news submitter based on your quantity of submissions, diversity of topics, and track record in submitting stories that rise in popularity – they are designed to sniff out people who are flogging one blog or client.

Given the challenges of getting on the front page of Digg, some advocate targeting niche social news sites. In this post ‘Avoiding “Post and Pray” Syndrome, part 2,’ I discuss further, and provide links to alternatives, as well as social news sites focused on marketing and PR.

Become a Student of how online news works
This post ‘Why Google News has no noise,’ from famous Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble talks about what is takes for sites like Google News and Techmeme to post your news. We are well advised to become students of the ways information flows on the Web, and is indexed and categorized (or not) by the major news sites and search engines.

It might sound techie, it might not sound like fun (and maybe a little bit, like, guess what, blocking and tackling). I promise you, master these techniques and they will serve you and your clients well.

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