business executives walking on a bridge with a woman leading the wayThe past couple of weeks have brought in quite a few articles and blog posts about driving traffic as the new leverage of PR professionals. Pitch the story and have the traffic to back your pitch. But is this practice really new? Haven’t PR professionals already been driving traffic to online stories? I know I have and I doubt I’m the only one.

What stories do we drive traffic to? Well, almost anything showing up online.

Product/service reviews – all independent reviews, neutral and positive, are a gold mine for PR and Marketing pros. They are seen as objective points of view by customers and the bigger the publication, the more valuable the endorsement. Reviews are usually posted in a special website section, added to newsletters, used as literature to close new deals, twittered and blogged.

Interviews, press release coverage, other articles – these are also sent out to partners and customers. They are a great way to support the company’s image and the team’s values, and their being made public through media coverage gives them more credibility. If CEOs are interviewed and also have twitter streams or blogs, they will be advised to mention them and link to them. If not, the corporate blog will do. There are also media sections on most business sites linking to all these stories.

Blog reviews – these are sometimes promoted as much or even more than the magazine/newspaper reviews for a simple reason: they are personal. They are sometimes more vivid and describe a real life experience, sometimes with much detail, less focused on steps and stages than those written by journalists who have done dozens of reviews in the past month alone.

The reasons to drive traffic to all stories published online is simple: it helps build trust, it helps position products and services in a certain way, it boosts your partners’ efforts to promote your offers as they are definitely reliable and well received by the media (and they surely see a possibility for local media to cover their company’s stories if their valued partner is such a hyped up topic). Other than that, all interviews make the company representatives identifiable and thus make the business look human. It’s no longer a faceless entity; there are people all customers can approach, even if only in theory.

As I said before, this is definitely nothing new. Some of us have been doing this for a while. But I doubt we have properly used it when reaching out to journalists. Saying something like “publish my story and I’ll get hundreds of readers who are genuinely interested in the topic for it” sounds a bit like forcing their hand. Yet is it so? If the product is no good, if the story isn’t interesting, they won’t bother. But if they incline to publish it, the idea of incoming traffic might just suddenly make the story more important. The more words they publish, the more chances it would be an important enough coverage for the PR professional to promote it.

It sounds devious. But is it? Journalists and bloggers alike already publish stories based on what they can bring to their websites. Would the story interest readers, would it bring new ones? They have a clear picture of what there is for them to gain from each story they run. They are not in the business of making anyone favors. The bigger your brand, the bigger the coverage, even for lousy stories (and I can give you a few examples if you’d like), just because readers are interested in such brands, not to make said big corporations happy. So why not finally admit what a company can do for a certain medium, old or new, is important? Why not be open about it and state you, as a PR professional, can and will drive traffic to a published story?

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