I communicate regularly with news organizations, bloggers and print publications. To be able to apply the lessons I learned as a PR student back in college is awesome. You never know what line of work you’ll end up in and I’m glad I ended up where I’m at.
I’ve always been interested in PR and have found some meaningful ways to integrate it with SEO. When PR and SEO come together, great things can happen – brand exposure, quality links and qualified leads.
Many law firms have an SEO strategy, but not all of them have a PR strategy. What’s the hold up? Let’s talk about what a relationship with the press looks like, how to build one and what you might expect to get out of it.
Building Relationships with the Press
Reaching out and building relationships with news organizations is one of the most powerful ways to build your brand and attract great clients. Think of them like Superman, and you’re in need of help. What would be their prerogative for including you? They’re in constant search of experts like you who can provide quotes and substantiate different aspects of their stories. They’re asking for your involvement whether you realize it or not. Your local press reaches the far corners of your market, and they’re a trusted authority, so you want your brand on their turf. Bottom line is, it’s a center of influence that’s just waiting for your introduction.
Does one simply start a relationship with the press? Well yes, one does. Here are three ways you can start.
The traditional way is through writing and submitting press releases, but you probably already knew that. Press releases are, and have always been, a PR staple. The media are always looking for new and exciting events, big changes or unique circumstances involving local businesses and organizations, or super in-depth or ultra specific content from authorities and experts. Become a solution for them by sharing details about your community involvement (charity events, awareness drives) and always write in the third person.
Another way is Help A Reporter Out. HARO is a free online service that connects journalists and reporters with the public. It’s a way for journalists to quickly gather information from expert sources about any given topic. To get started, sign up by subscribing to their daily feed and start combing through opportunities that come thrice daily. It isn’t every day that reporters have a legal case on their docket, but if you keep on it, it can be a sure foot in the door.
Another great way to begin a relationship with the media is leveraging your legal cases. Take advantage of opportunities to get in front of reporters and journalists and to discuss the legal issues surrounding your case. Never pass up a chance to be interviewed by a reporter, unless for a very good reason. They’re always on the lookout for an expert they can quote. It’s part of their job responsibilities, so help them do their job while serving yourself up big. Just give yourself adequate time to prepare for those interviews.
As you foster relationships with these centers of influence, you may begin to notice some loyalty. Before long, you may become their go-to legal expert for cases that you may not even be involved in! In fact, all of this has become a reality for an attorney client of ours, who has made personal appearances on ABC Good Morning America and been quoted many times by major news sources. Just remember: Little by little, the bird builds its nest.
Building Relationships with Journalists
The key to securing a bid with a journalist is good timing, paying close attention to deadlines and writing solid pitches. Reporters, especially HARO reporters, and online news editors get pitched to all the time, and you likely won’t land a deal on your first attempt so persevere.
To increase your chances, you need to figure out what it is the media rep wants. Do your due diligence. Is the article educational, informative, entertaining or controversial? Knowing this will help you draft a pitch or present your case much more effectively. I’ve found that presenting an angle, or hook, will help you stand out and get noticed.
What You Get in Return
This is where the rubber hits the road – exposure, brand mentions.
It could be your own personal name, the name of your firm or your domain name, but having a branded term dropped in a news article is exciting stuff. Do you realize the significance? You’re tapping into an independent channel with less red tape, competition and hypocrisy (news stations do a better job of enforcing their own guidelines) than Google’s front page. You’re finally getting some public recognition for all of your hard work. You’re getting your name and message out in front of a massive audience. Everybody loves that pat on the back and that little bump in the budget, which brings me to a really big point.
Your SEO strategy is contingent on many things. One of them is building links. Any lawyer who has dabbled in SEO knows that earning high quality links is one of the most challenging aspects of SEO. Many an agency has risen and fallen because they could not provide value in this department. No question about it. However, when your branded terms are already being mentioned by news organizations, it puts you in a very powerful position to land links from those news sites – which are extremely valuable both from a ranking and referral traffic perspective.
News sites have high authority, they occupy a lot of top rankings, they’re local and they don’t allow just anyone to barge in and build spam links unlike directories, forums and social sites. And, since their authority isn’t as widely distributed, there’s often some good (what I refer to as) back pressure. So, what do you get when you tap into a huge, pressurized reserve? Link juice – lots of it!
Years ago, I did some work for a cremation company in a metropolitan area. Interesting industry. You’d think the competition would be relatively low, but it was the exact opposite! Everybody had a strong hand in the game, but there was one competitor that I just could not outrank for the life of me. I struggled for months and then, finally, I found it. This business had built an underground crematory off the coast of Florida where customers could bury the remains of their loved ones in the sea. The notion was incredibly appealing, and just about every news station in the country (not to mention all of the industry related blogs) picked up the story and backlinked the competitor. It was a big game changer. It’s hard to compete against someone who holds the holy grail.
Now, you do NOT have to go to such great lengths to get links from news sites. Let’s discuss how it’s done.
Turning Brand Mentions Into High Value Links
To turn your brand mentions into links, you first need to identify them. Start by going to news.google.com and search for your name “in quotes”. If there’s a chance that your brand is being touted, then this is usually one way to find those cases.
Another way is through Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer. This is the tool I use personally to find mentions, and it can be from independent bloggers or just random local organizations. If you are leveraging your relationships with news sites like you should, you’ll have a continuous supply of fresh mentions each month.
Note that if your branded term is an every-day common word (e.g. Nationwide) then you’ll need to be more creative (e.g. Nationwide Insurance) in order to stay on track.
Editors of news sites come in all shapes and sizes. Some are bound by strict corporate linking policies and would sooner take down the article than link to your site. Unfortunately, some have a personal vendetta against marketers and are not above making a public example out of you, calling your message “Spam” and so on and so forth. Honestly, can you really blame them? I’m not so sure I would be any different if I was being bombarded every minute of every day with it. Then there are the good ones who are extremely cooperative and even go so far as to thank you for reaching out as they add an awesome link to your webpage of choice. I love those editors. Those are the editors I’d give a piece of elk jerky to.
Getting the Help You Need
Outreach isn’t rocket science, but having a seasoned PR specialist or outreach specialist can really come in handy. They’ve been moonlighting this process long enough to understand the right approach, just like you understand the inner workings of the courtroom and how to work with a judge. They study exclusively about link building and outreach. They have KPIs that they’ve monitored and reported on for so long now that they can predict with a fair amount of accuracy what response rates will be for most outreach initiatives. Some, like my esteemed associate Race Ashby have a natural gift for writing pitches and can tame any wild editor.
I’ve sent emails in the thousands and have made more editors madder than a cowboy at a fashion show than I care to admit, and been raked over the coals enough times to know exactly what not to do. That only comes through trial and error. Get the help you need from a well-established agency that incorporates PR into your marketing strategy. That’s where the future of SEO is headed Remember that there are a lot of ways to get your foot in the door when it comes to working with the press. You just need to make it a goal.
Pst…New Year’s is just around the corner.