How to Prevent Client Failures in SEO Public Relations

One of the most difficult things in SEO PR is when your client fails to deliver. You’ve done all the hard work of arranging an interview with an important media outlet and then you have to take the step of putting your client in an interview situation. You have to trust them to deliver – and they don’t – so all your efforts have been wasted.

Public relations for SEO has moved on tremendously – the key is now building long-term relationships with journalists so that you can pitch them, interact, and get your stories published.

But unlike personas in link-building, you can’t be faceless in public relations. There must be real, named people behind every story. And inevitably this will lead to some of your clients being interviewed – be it a telephone, video, or studio interview.

And then you’re into dangerous territory – you have to give up control and let your client speak directly to the media. Anything can happen in an interview – and every PR can tell you of disastrous interviews. Probably not disastrous in the sense of being totally incompetent, but disastrous in failing to get the message across clearly and powerfully.

It’s fine if your client has got a well-oiled PR machine to handle the media. But if you’re juggling both SEO and PR, that’s unlikely so you have to you to make sure everything goes well.

This is in the lap of the gods, isn’t it? No – you can prepare them.

This is done in two ways:

1. Mock Interviews With a Freelance Journalist/Broadcaster

Basic media training helps people get comfortable with the interview situation – talking to journalists, carefully listening to questions, and getting important messages across in a limited period of time. To do this properly you need to work with a freelance journalist or trainer.

Making your client feel comfortable is only part of the story; you need to make sure they know the key messages they must get across.

The mock interview is the ideal place to test how well they do this. If your relationship with the client is strong enough, get your journalist to deliberately divert them down irrelevant paths. For example, your client talks about doing business in New York, and the interviewer asks questions about the city, rather than the business your client did there.

It’s amazing how easy it is to divert the interview down irrelevant paths. And then the time is up and the interview is over – and none of the key messages have been mentioned.

Playing back a mock interview to a client who has messed up in this way is a powerful learning experience.

2. Core Statements

The mock interview can be done quickly before a real encounter with a journalist or broadcaster, and can really help to keep your client on topic and focused.

But to give you a solid foundation, you need to spend some time creating some core statements about your client’s business. We explored this last month in “8 Essential Steps for SEOs in Planning Online PR.”

The essence is to:

  • write a set of between six and 10 core statements about the way your client does business
  • craft a “sound bite” that neatly sums up each statement in a quote that trips easily off the tongue and can be repeated anywhere
  • publish a piece of content that backs up the statement and will give more detail to a journalist who’s interested

One example of this type of content can be found at Warby Parker – here’s a screen shot.

warbyparker-ground-rules is a great example of how core statements populate content on the site and throughout the extensive media coverage the company has been successful in winning.

Having a set of core statements is really useful:

  • Every news piece you create can relate to solid company values
  • Reactive PR such as responding to reporters’ questions is easy to create and consistent with company values – and so much more powerful and more likely to win coverage
  • The solid plan gives everyone confidence – they know what they’re doing and what they should be saying

Taking the time to do this preparation gives the client confidence in your ability and helps you move out of any SEO silo.

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