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The Advent of User-generated PR

The Advent of User-generated PR

By: Bob Geller, Sr. Vice President, Fusion PR

If you are in tech PR, it might seem that there are fewer places to go to pitch your story these days. The trades have been consolidating and shrinking for some time. True, the shrinkage of traditional media has been offset by the growth of blogs and other forms of online and social media that buzz about tech. However, these options require an approach that might be unfamiliar and perhaps even seem a bit risky to some.

This blog and my own blog, Flack’s Revenge, have covered effective approaches for pitching social media quite a bit. Rather than focus on these tactics in this post, I’d like to discuss other opportunities that are sitting under our noses, yet many might not realize this or fully take advantage.

User-generated PR is PR that cuts out the journalist, blogger or editor middleman. There are many opportunities to post your (or your clients’) news, opinions, and stories. While there may be some vetting and approval of this content for it to meet the standards of the targeted sites, in many cases, if you do your homework and make sure the content fits within the style, rules and format of the forum in question, then there’s a pretty good chance that your content will be approved and appear online.

I list a few ideas below. Once you start thinking about this, I am sure you will think of other options, it would be great if you can share these.

Online PR makes it easier to tap into the storytelling and emotional power of rich media, and what better way to use video in your PR efforts than through YouTube? Everyone in PR should become familiar with how to produce a video and post it to YouTube. Although it is important to understand that the vast majority of videos posted do not become hits, there are some methods for boosting the odds.

Please see these links. NYT: Video Seeks its 90 Seconds of Fame

Evan Carmichael’s Blog: How to Put Your Videos on YouTube

The beauty of this approach is that YouTube videos tend to me much cheaper affairs than the lavishly produced VNRs and B-rolls of yesterday.

Blogging, and commenting on blogs and other online media

PR folks and their clients or employers have always dreaded coverage that is negative and/or inaccurate. While we have previously been somewhat powerless in correcting the record, these days there are many options for doing so. We can post our comments in a variety of online forums. Most articles these days appear online and many allow for comments.

Of course, Letters to the Editor are still an option but seem “oh so yesterday.” Why take the time to craft a letter, submit it to the publication and hope they will print it when in many if not most cases you can immediately post a comment to the article online, right under it?

Blogging is the shining example of user-generated PR. You can help clients’ find their online voices and establish digital identities by helping them master blogging. This can involve putting in place individual blogs, corporate blogs or finding guest-blogging opportunities. However setting up a blog generally requires some thought, planning and commitment from the client. It is a separate topic that we will develop further in a future post (also, see Launching a Company)

You can get a journalists’ attention by commenting on their article or on their blog, if they have one. Of course, this is another way to reach the same audience that follows the reporter or blogger. See my article on multi-channel engagement.

For the above tactics, it is important to realize that these opportunities come with an awesome responsibility. The ability to quickly react online does not mean that one should casually do so. Gain your clients’ approval if it involves your client. But try not to have client and team collaboration devolve into paralysis or result in “PR speak.” It will boost your online credibility and increase your odds that your comments survive the moderators’ cut if you speak simply and genuinely, in the tone and tenor of the forum at hand, and ideally within the flow of the ongoing online dialog. The last thing you want to do is try to pitch or spin in these forums.

Online Directories and References
Although print directories and buyers’ guides have been around forever, these days many are online, and allow you to submit your clients’ information there. You should get to know which sites accept content and listings. Start with the recognized media brands that have high traffic and work your way to the niche sites. Also, some do require fees.

Of course, you need to do your homework to find out about which directories are relevant for your offerings and markets.

Two to look at in the enterprise IT tech world include: Web Buyers’ Guide (a Ziff Davis) service allows you to post product information, white papers, case studies, podcasts, etc.

Network World’s buyer’s guides

And of course let’s not forget the gold standard of online references, Wikipedia. Although it is not a product directory, Wikipedia does list information that is related to technology and often mentions vendor names. Please see my post Have a New Type of Product? Stake your Wikipedia Claim. The editing system takes a little getting used to, and anything entered runs the risk of getting edited out. Still, given its stature and rising reputation as a go-to source for all kinds of information, it is important to leverage Wikipedia in user-generated PR efforts.

Submitting News
Of course, no post about User-Generated PR would be complete without mentioning social news sites that you let you submit and vote on your favorite news items – sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit. Please see my post: Blocking and Tackling PR 2.0 style for more info about this.

If you’ve found additional resources that we’ve left off of this list, feel free to comment and add them.

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