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7 ways to use your website as a PR tool

06 Aug, 2021 PR and the internet

Your website is an essential business tool. In fact, it may be your greatest asset – your most important marketing and communication tool – because more people view your web pages than any other tool. Your website can convey a tremendous amount of information and create active engagement opportunities for users, incorporating and connecting with many tools such as SEO, social media, information and marketing content, which will drive traffic, leads and sales. It can be your ultimate PR tool – and yet communicators often overlook the value of a website. Read in this article about 7 ways to use your website for PR advantages.

Your website is often the first source of information people find when they search online for your organization, or your products and services. In many cases, it could be your only chance to create a good impression. That’s why it needs to be thoughtfully designed, with a clear structure and helpful signposts to content areas, with reader-friendly, quality content.

Use your website as a PR tool

Often overlooked is the opportunity to use a website as a vital and versatile public relations (PR) tool. We need to keep in front of mind that “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the world’s largest PR professional body. Public relations is about influencing, engaging and building relationships with key stakeholders across numerous platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.

Communication is a central element in all our lives, and is essential for organizations to function. Communication is the core purpose of PR and is also exactly what a website is about.

When you’re intentional and strategic about your website’s purpose, you can use it to reach so many audiences. Your website can be used as a central PR tool applicable to nearly all of the disciplines and functions within PR for organizations of widely different type and size, such as:

Source: PRSA

Here are 7 ways you can effectively use your website as a PR tool:

1. Your website strategy: Carefully plan and regularly review

Innumerable changes are continually transforming the internet. Therefore, you need to plan and review the design, structure and content of your website to keep up with these changes, which include changes in the business environment, and changes within your organization.

Research may be a valuable investment to find out more about how these changes are impacting on your customers and all other types of stakeholders – and therefore will influence the content you need in your website. Don’t forget to involve your employees in your quest to stay up to date with these changes. For example, you can arrange employee focus groups to discuss internal and external issues.

Here are core considerations you need to address for each section of your site representing your significant discipline areas and functions:

  1. The key business objectives you intend to accomplish with this site.
  2. Your primary audience/s for each PR discipline/function area represented in the site. This will determine your tone of voice, what you provide – your content, and platforms used to follow up. With marketing communication, your website needs to be attractive to your target demographics.
  3. Prior understanding and knowledge your primary audiences have about the topics covered in the PR discipline and function areas.
  4. The main education and reading levels of your key audiences.
  5. Your key messages, supporting messages and proof point/validation for each of the PR discipline/function areas in the website.
  6. What you want your key audiences to do in relation to each discipline/function area in the site.
  7. What they are seeking from their discipline/function area of interest represented in the website.
  8. Information and involvement site visitors will be seeking.
  9. How you can fulfil their needs that align with your objectives.

Tools you can use to help attract and support the awareness, interest, engagement and active responses of site visitors.

2. Design all pages to be attractive – both to visitors and search engines

Your website shows who your organization is, and what you offer – whether it is information, products, services or more. People arriving at the site need to feel welcome, and to perceive the site as credible, trustworthy, and reliable. They need to feel confident the site provides what they are seeking.

Your website design and content will directly shape the public’s perceptions of your brand. Organize your website so that your content (including white papers and reports), images (including infographics), videos, audio, games, quizzes, contests, giveaways, etc., cater well to the interests of your visitors

The homepage isn’t the only entry to your website. Your visitors can enter directly or through a link to any page – from blogs, your online newsroom links, and other pages. If the entry points don’t give a strong, positive impression, those visitors may never return. You can learn more here on how to use WordPress in web design and proficient optimization.

3. Capitalize on SEO opportunities

Your web pages need to appeal to search engines as well as your human readers, thus increasing your site’s visibility, which is essential in PR. Search engines reward a steady flow of new content, including specific sections on PR topics, press releases, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, video and updated conversations from social media sites. From this array of content, PR generates links – and search engines respond really well to high-quality links.

Accordingly, keyword research and writing optimized for search engines are essential to an effective website, even though a good balance can be challenging. Organizations increase their traffic, conversion rates and revenue significantly from simple SEO strategies.

We think of the external connections created by a website, and we also need to use internal links to content areas within the site. These are valuable for SEO and they raise the visibility of sections of your website. Your blogs or articles are especially valuable for creating internal linking opportunities.

It’s therefore important that you understand the significance of SEO and keyword requirements. Learn how to use SEO and keywords, so visitors can find you easily.

Monitoring the coverage of your organization is essential because you need to keep track of your reputation and news across the internet so you can respond, if necessary. For instance, monitor the web to find every website, blog and news source where your brand is mentioned in a given period. Monitor any backlinks sending traffic to your domain from mentions of your brand name. Find where your brand name and those of competitors are mentioned on social media.

4. Embark on social media marketing

The size of the social media world is staggering. As at July 2021, 54% of the world’s population is estimated to use social media, with daily usage averaging 2.5 hours per person according to data analyzed by Smart Insights, who also observe that the COVID pandemic has pushed a “monumental increase in online and digital activities.”

The Pew Research Center estimated as at February 2021 that 72% of the US population used some type of social media, summarizing as follows:

YouTube and Facebook are the most-widely used online platforms, and its user base is most broadly representative of the population as a whole. Smaller shares of Americans use sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Reddit and TikTok.

You can take advantage of this to share influential content to audiences on immense social media platforms. Social media enable you to connect with target audiences directly and instantly – segmenting to the audiences you most wish to deal with. Then you can direct them to your website to reach the page/s that contain content in which they will be interested.

The key to social media success is to join a conversation, not try to dominate it. Social media platforms are a great fit for online public relations because they support the role of PR professionals in building internal and external relationships. Key points:

  • You must have a strategy and key messages to get the most from social media platforms.
  • Social media platforms work well across many traditional PR functional areas such as news media, marketing communication, issue management and crisis communication, community relations.
  • Social channels provide instant feedback about issues, products, events, consumer complaints and preferences.
  • Popular social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr make excellent platforms for small business marketing as well as for larger accounts, and all levels of government and government agencies. Apparently “about 70% of US adults rely on social media for government information at least once a week.” This is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Many companies now use social media for primary customer relationship management.

5. Establish a helpful online newsroom 

An online newsroom based in your website is hugely versatile and essential, serving many important functions. Obviously, information for media is its prime function, but it can also be used to communicate information for the following functions: external organizational communication, stakeholder relations management, reputation development, issue management, crisis communication, investor and shareholder relations, marketing communication and sponsorship, media relations (including publicizing speeches and presentations), community relations, event management, and social media engagement. Some employee-related content, which is also relevant externally, is usually included on a corporate website as well.

Positive publicity builds credibility – it can effectively create valuable “third party endorsement,” in which external commentators make positive observations about your organization and its products or services.

Include strong keywords in your press release content if you can, based on keyword research. Also include internal links relating to relevant pages in your website.

An online newsroom is vital for including much-needed information, and especially details for 24/7 contact for reporters, who may use your site after hours or are based in far-off time zones. Every journalist uses the web for researching and backgrounding for a story. Therefore, it is essential to post a helpful media kit in the newsroom, including, for example:

  • Press releases containing organizational news and commentary, latest and archived – and organized by category for easy reference
  • Fact sheets, including “boilerplate” information on your organization, as background for press releases
  • Downloadable press kit, including logo in several formats
  • Copies of recent media coverage
  • Copies of executive and industry speeches
  • Corporate reports and presentations
  • Insights on economic, sector and global trends affecting the company
  • Corporate background information suitable for media and relevant others
  • Image gallery containing high resolution images and bios of the leadership team and production/manufacturing areas and products, if applicable
    Contact details for your media spokesperson/s – one who actually answers the phone!
  • Copy of latest annual report should be made available, if applicable, eg by public companies and government departments, etc.
  • Newsletter subscription form

Image, right: Newsroom page of Deputy, a firm specializing in software to manage employee shift work.

6. Publish articles and blogs in your website

The difference between blog posts and articles: A blog post is usually written from a personal perspective based on opinion, and can include facts or information, but it is based on experience and includes more personality. An article is typically written to convey facts, information, news and unbiased perspective. My website, cuttingedgepr.com contains articles – like this one!

Content can be conveyed in several ways, not just in words. You can use visual and video images, podcasts, and other tools to carry the points of interest you wish to make.

Publishing a regular article or blog in your website is an effective tool to establish your presence in the competitive marketplace. Use it to gracefully highlight your expertise and build trust and a dependable reputation.

However, you must consistently write high-quality content in your blogs or articles to build a positive PR effect. Great content is a powerful way to attract visitors. The content will rate well on search engine results pages (SERP) if you have done your keyword research.

7. Your website is a great vehicle for newsletters

Email newsletters contain important news and updates to keep your readers up to date about your brand or products and other significant information. Even though they have been around for 30 years, newsletters are still an outstanding tool to attract subscribers from within your target audience to your website. For instance, in marketing communication you can write a concise promo for a product or service in your newsletter, and then use your “Call To Action” button to take readers to your website where they can read more about the offer and make payment if they wish.

Incidentally, experts recommend not using the word “SUBMIT” on CTA buttons. “Submit” is a terrible word, with negative connotations, so write alternative terms like “Download Whitepaper,” “Get Your Free eBook,” or “Join Our Newsletter” or “Subscribe to Our Newsletter.”

Opt-in and opt-out requirements also help businesses ensure that their subscribers are likely to be more interested in what they offer, as opposed to merely casual readers.

Final thoughts

The role of a functional, accessible, responsive, and usable business website can’t be overemphasized. After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, websites were, for a while, the main link between an organization and its audience. But websites needed to be user-friendly. Therefore, having a website that performs well is a valuable marketing and PR tool. Adding digital tools to your traditional PR strategies may not be an easy feat. However, when you can take advantage of the benefits your website can provide, you will appreciate the improvements.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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