By Melissa A Vitale
Ten years ago, if you asked a journalist or publicist about SEO, we probably would’ve asked if you meant SEC or CEO; fast forward and search engine optimization plays a major role in shaping the media landscape today.
For today’s publicists and journalists alike, SEO is now a staple phrase in our strategy, planning and everyday vocabulary.
Search engine optimization can often be the difference between an epic sales month and staying in the red for a brand. I’ve even heard a horror story that when google changed their algorithms, the resulting loss of business from trailing their first-page placement was so daunting, the owner ended up losing his business. For those who aren’t fully aware of the impact, when you google say, “CBD Eye Cream” the brands who pop up the first in the search page will often have the highest sales. Brands compete for that coveted spot at number one through back-linking, press hits and driving traffic to their website.
It was a monumental day for me when my website was the first result on google when you search “Melissa Vitale.” It took two years and over twenty press placements, but now, wherever you are in the world, if you google Melissa Vitale, you’ll see my website first. Seeing that there are 10+ Melissa Vitale’s in New York alone, that’s a huge achievement for brand positioning.
The goal of being listed first drives much of brand strategy and messaging in PR. SEO increases when the name of product containing the link coincides with the URL name. Going back to the CBD Eye Cream – a mention in Forbes of a “CBD Eye Cream” will preform better than “CBD-Infused Eye Cream” in getting that product to the top search of google because the listing doesn’t have Infused in it. All this is to say, Publicists need to be sharper with positioning product titles to match that of the listing on the website as it drives SEO.
Something that’s also become more relevant is the connection between SEO and Affiliate Marketing. Many media outlets are encouraged to use affiliate links (typically to retailers like Saks.com & Amazon) where they receive a portion of every purchase from the recommendation. Some media editors can only feature products that are associated with an affiliate platform. Many times, while coverage will feature a brand, it will drive the sales to Amazon, losing the SEO traction for the brand. SEO traction is how brands stay relevant to curious consumers. Many brands often put more thought into their sourcing than retailers like Amazon, so first-time purchasers through google are being pushed to Amazon, not a brand that can help them make an informed buying decision.
It’s not surprising that brands and publicists are interested in SEO: all brands are always searching for ways to boost traffic and sales.
What is surprising about SEO is the way it has dictated the media landscape in a bursting media bubble.
It’s no secret media is a tough industry right now. Every quarter we expect waves of layoffs, subscriber rates have plummeted, and people expect their news free and accessible through social media. Media houses have had to get creative to drive traffic to their websites to appease advertisers, keeping the lights on another day.
Publishers have gotten smart. They’re taking advantage of all of those late-night google searches that usually lead readers down a rabbit hole. “Why does my breath smell bad,” “How to regrow my hair,” “What do I do if I’m attracted to someone other than my wife”. Many media outlets have SEO teams that run reports on the most searched questions. They hand those reports over to editors who assign writers to answer those questions with an article. Instead of those millions of searches going to forums and blogs, reputable news outlets are sweeping up that traffic. Once users end up on a website, they can stay for hours on the suggested articles of the site.
While this may seem sinister – using consumer curiosity for website traffic – it’s actually created a consumer-first environment in media. First, media outlets have to uphold un-biased ethics and credential-based reporting. Journalists can’t just make up facts and figures like anyone with a blog. For every fact, there needs to be a source, one with expertise or recognition in the field. What we call “Airtight.” Now when consumers turn to google for the answer to their personal questions, there will be articles with sources and resources for further investigation.
By placing SEO searches at the front of their editorial strategy, media houses are catering to what interests consumers, not advertisers. Advertisers want to see website traffic in the volumes to drive sales. When there are more readers, there are more potential customers. Consumers have become ad-adverse – we can spot an ad a mile away and we want no part of it. Advertisers understand the benefit and opportunity cost to having more content that drives consumers and higher traffic than brand-centric pieces.
While SEO has added another level to media relations, the natural evolution of the digital media landscape allows for more organic media coverage of brands and topics that excited audiences, not just brands who can afford advertising packages.
For brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR at: melissaavitale.com/services.html
By Melissa A Vitale & Jen Fraenkel
It really amazes me sometimes when my clients get to the bottom of their expectations with public relations – often times it’s beyond flattering: my clients really think I can do anything! While I pride myself as being one of the best Vice Publicists in NYC when it comes to getting on-target, top tier media relations, there’s not much I can do beyond that. I cannot double a social media following over night; I cannot get your brands in the hands of the hottest celebs; I cannot get your brand into a paid showcase, sans-fees.
I can however sell an editor on a brand in a couple sentences; I can garner homepage placements within weeks; I can build press relations on behalf of brands that will lead to top tier coverage even years after our agreement ends, I can place articles that catapult the journey of a brand indefinitely. I can increase the effectiveness of a brands’ PR & Advertising budget by 600%.
But there are limits even to my capabilities. Publicists are trained to return the value of media relations investment in Ad Value – for every dollar a client spends on media relations, we like to return double the ad value. For instance, if you spend $3,000 a month on PR, MAVPR targets returning $6,000 a month in ad value.
While typically estimated, we measure our work in ad value because without a publicist, a brand would have to spend the equivalent to be included in the tier of coverage earned.
But publicists are not miracle workers: we cannot perform tasks outside of the typical model of the media relations we are trained in.
Public Relations typically isn’t measured in sales.
Think about the last time you read an article featuring products or a new brand: did you immediately drop everything to spend $200 on a product? Probably not at first. The truth is that trying to draw a straight line between press coverage and sales is futile and distracts from the true ad value garnered by a successful publicity campaign.
Making a sale is part of massive funnel of consumer purchasing behavior. It’s unreasonable for publicists to be able to navigate the murky waters of media relations successfully and know how to condense an entire marketing funnel into a single press mention without the journalist changing any of the words. Publicists would need to speak fluent subliminal messaging.
PR does lead to sales in the longer lead: the more time an article spends on the search pages, the more it becomes part of the marketing funnel for customers looking for similarly grouped products. A press placement increases exposure, keeping the brand at the forefront customers wish-lists, for overall increased brand recognition.
For instance, upon reading a brand profile of a boss babe brand, you may not want to buy the product immediately but when you google “Best Vape Pens” and see that same boss babe brand, you will be excited by the double confirmation.
While PR efforts coupled with an effective email marketing, social media and paid ad campaign can increase sales ten-fold, Public Relations alone maximizes marketing budget, not sales efforts.
For those looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR’s services via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
By Melissa A Vitale
With MAVPR, public relations efforts lead to a variety of on-target placements in top tier outlets. Secured coverage can manifest in the form of featured quotes, inclusion in a roundup of relevant products and brands and, the Mac daddy of all media relations, full feature coverage with standalone articles in a number of top tier outlets.
To give you an idea of caliber that receive full features contingent on their timeline: Time Magazine published a cover story on Barbie on Feb. 8, 2016 about how the brand launched their entirely new creation. The brand was doing a multi-million dollar brand overhaul, an year-plus marketing and PR campaign and was transforming an iconic figure in culture, and for more on this, I cannot recommend enough taking an evening to dive into Hulu doc, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie.
Any brand doing a similar brand overhaul with a comparable high caliber of name recognition can say “when” and they’ll get that full feature whenever you want.
Anything else requires a combination of carefully laid pr messaging, strong relationships and journalist interest at the time of being pitched. Which can change heavily depending on the journalist and news cycle.
Anyone with less brand-name recognition than Elon Musk or Kim Kardashian, asking for a full profile is often a ball game of media interest. There may be the perfect journalist that would make the most beautiful feature coverage. There may also be someone who can tell the best story of an individual brand of executive but that person may be swamped with storylines in the coming weeks or even months. It’s not unusual for someone to come back to a pitch six months later. Actually it’s very common which is why carefully laid media plans have better long term success than not.
Typically, with MAVPR, full features come in within the 2-3 month mark. For a publicist, these are the best moments in our career: a full feature. Our clients are happiest then so for us, it’s the main goal too.
But let’s manage some expectations.
Writers have to serve national and global audiences with diverse interest base. Not everything an individual does has the ability to capture an audiences attention in a full feature and press are constantly worried about their engagement numbers.
Along with that when there’s a busy newscycle in the industry, evergreen (a PR term for non-time sensitive) get pushed aside to save man hours - those full features are written by humans who have their own schedule I cannot control. A national event can bring every editor and writer on deck to get the news out.
Now, just because someone is interesting or is doing something innovative, doesn’t mean it will automatically get a full feature. Press often require full and exclusive access to their subjects. If there’s something that can’t be shared, one can argue that’s the most interesting aspect to readers. Not including the juicy details means their readers aren’t getting an incredible story: they’re reading PR wishwash which you can read in any press release if that’s what you want as a reader.
Events that don’t always achieve a full top-tier feature (but can get a niche industry publication if indicative of a bigger trend):
- Hiring announcements
- Profiles of Individuals
- Re-branding (unless you’re Barbie or another household name brand)
- Standalone brand event post-coverage
The topics of the above often don’t garner enough attention at a top tier.
Another great example is that Elon Musk was recently on the cover of Wired Magazine; the reporting for the 6+ page feature was done over 18 months in advance.
When you hire a bigger PR firm, they compensate by having junior staff focus on blog, regional and niche placements that fill end-of-month-reports but often have no tangible ROI in the long-run of the campaign, while senior staff go after the top tier, longer leads that clients actually want. The result: using a big PR firm, you will not only get large placements, but you get many placements frequently.
But every big PR firm I’ve seen has about the same rate with top tier features. I typically don’t focus on niche outlets for profiles because my clients have come back to me disappointed: “we want you focusing on top tier.” Clients of global firms may have their names mentioned immediately in press, but rarely a full feature until a few months in.
A standalone story often takes planning, multiple interviews and lots of image assets. For this reason some of the longest full-features I’ve worked on have taken 6 months.
Full features do not happen over night. I truly wish they did. I would have so, so much less stress day-to-day if that were the case.
Unfortunately that is not how the media environment works, especially with freelance publicists. Larger $15K a mo PR firms are quicker with repeat full features because they have multiple people with multiple contact threads. Those interested in regular full-features at that caliber should select a PR firm that advertises to meet those expectations.
At MAVPR, Placements per month per client varies heavily based on newscycle, account strategy, deliverables and editorial timeline. Typically, clients start with a full feature in a top tier outlet within the first two months of engagement as well as other press opportunities including inclusions in roundups and commentary in feature articles within the first month months of press strategy. As the brand is introduced to more media, and their editorial calendars align with the brand’s expertise, it usually ramps up to between 2-8 inclusions or features a month, over 6 months, either full features, commentary or inclusion in roundups.
Managing expectations of media industry is a regular part of my job. I hope I didn’t sell myself short by saying a full-feature doesn’t come everyday at MAVPR; because top tier coverage is still a regular occurrence for clients, sometimes its brand-inclusion or trend commentary or industry predictions, other times its turnaround feature stories, but part of my brand has always been transparency to clients and this goes to that regard.
Current clients of MAVPR are encouraged to seek updates to see the standing of potential full-features with the brand.
To learn more about what we specialize in, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/about.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in crytocurrency, artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.