Technology: friend … or foe? That seems to be a common question among my agency colleagues. While technology has certainly boosted efficiency and message reach, it has also created a number of challenges for strategic communication practitioners.
Of primary concern is the pressure to maximize the use of keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Optimizing for search engines is a particular point of frustration for many communicators who prefer to write with creativity in mind rather than search engine metrics.
Because search engine optimization is considered by most clients to be a top priority, this can cause communicators to skew their content with keywords, thereby diluting otherwise informative and entertaining content.
And, before proliferating news releases and other content with keywords, we need to keep in mind journalist and reader response. Nothing smacks of shameless self-promotion (and lack of communication experience) than content rife with keywords that obscure the main message.
Ask yourself: what are you trying to do? Snag the #1 spot on Google or establish meaningful audience relationships? Are you using keywords to inform rather than to sell? (Note that PR never sells.) Can you maintain message integrity if you’re forced to focus on keywords and backlinks?
Use social media to inform your audience. Provide useful information and don’t become obsessed about keyword optimization. Google looks for fresh content and that is the key. The good news is that social media content can be repurposed, but it’s always best to add a current, fresh perspective.
The online space is very much a community, with hundreds of thousands of sub-communities all looking for content specific to their needs and interests; if you can create content that speaks to these niche audiences, you will gain followers and, potentially, sponsors.
The other thing to remember is that, when considering the technological aspect of PR, you should choose your platforms wisely. You do not have to have a presence on every single social media platform, channel, or medium. In fact, this can actually become problematic when considering time constraints, immediacy, cost, and audience preferences.
Find out where your target audience goes and create a visible, engaging presence on those sites. Connect with your audience via organic, authentic, and friendly communications that stimulate conversation and brand loyalty.
A couple of caveats:
Technology requires PR practitioners to perform at warp speed, but that is no excuse for typos, misspells, and bad writing. Keep perceptual management in mind when crafting messages for the internet; audiences do pay attention to content quality and presentation (just visit a few online message boards and you’ll be convinced that professionalism is noticed and appreciated). There is no better way to differentiate yourself from the competition than by posting credible, high-caliber, and well-written content. Quality far surpasses keywords and other gimmicks aimed at boosting search engine metrics.
Debra Davenport Ph.D. is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.