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10 Stats That Will Make You Rethink Digital PR

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U.S. digital marketing spend is projected to reach nearly $120 billion by 2021. A large proportion of that, we believe, will end up being spent on the growing sector of digital PR.

More and more consumers are blocking out targeted advertising, and for many companies this means thinking about new ways of communication. Digital PR is a fast-growing part of online marketing, and it’s something your company needs to consider for its online success.

Here are 10 facts you need to know in order to build or reshape your public relations strategy.

1. Getting Online

Nearly half of all small businesses in the U.S. do not have a website. But over 80% of Americans are connected to the Internet. If you don’t have your own website yet, you need one ASAP. This will be a primary place for consumers to interact with your brand, and for your business to manage how it is presented online.

If you’re not online and customers can’t find you, journalists may also struggle to make contact. This could lead to confusion and possibly even harm your business. If you’re unable to respond or comment effectively in the media, you’ll miss out on opportunities to have your brand’s voice heard.

2. Managing Your Online Reputation

With so many people using the Internet, you have to be online yourself to see what the public and the media are saying about you or your business. Having a website, though, is just the first step.

Disturbingly, research shows that fake reports can spread much faster than accurate reports. True rumors are confirmed within around 2 hours, but it takes over 14 hours for the average false rumor to be debunked. Your PR team needs to be ready to respond to these, and issue statements at any time to combat the spread of misinformation. Otherwise, unverified rumors could damage your business’ reputation.

3. Journalists Have More Access to Information

In a world with data at our fingertips, journalists can dig up innumerable facts, statistics and stories. As mentioned before – not all of these will be right, and false information needs to be dealt with swiftly by your PR strategist. Your team should pro-actively seek out and correct false facts.

However, journalists are in a powerful position when they can put together a well-sourced story from the comfort of their desks. PR professionals need to stay up-to-speed and be ready to provide just as detailed press releases and responses to journalists who get in touch.

Regularly searching for your own company’s name in the ‘news’ section of Google is a good start, but you also need to see what journalists are saying on social — follow them to keep in touch and up to date with their coverage. Using custom searches on platforms like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can be helpful too.

4. Digital PR Can’t Rely Solely on Press Releases

Nearly every reputable journalist searches the web daily, and 73% of them go online to find press releases. That still leaves a large number of writers who are eschewing press releases in favor of other online sources. So your business needs to cover itself in other places than its own website.

PR professionals and marketers need to expand their reach online, and go to the places the journalists are going — which you may largely find to be social media these days. Traditional press releases are still important, of course, for both journalists and for SEO reasons — so don’t forego them completely. They’re particularly useful when optimized with keywords to help drive organic traffic to your website.

5. Users Are Blocking Adverts

Ad blocker usage is up 30% this year, as users become more and more suspicious of direct marketing. They are actively rebellingagainst ‘Read More’ buttons, sharing buttons and display advertising.

If your site has too much of this clutter, you’ll see the negative results in your bounce rate. However, having a solid pr strategy in place can be used to fill in the gaps left behind by the ad blockers. Even if your customers can’t see adverts, they can still see the hard-won news coverage which your PR team secured. Furthermore, they can still see advertorials and sponsored content.

When users ignore paid-for search results, your integrated digital PR and SEO strategy will make sure they see you in the organic results instead. Hit the right keywords on your website and in your press releases, then sit back and watch your rank move up!

6. Why You Need to Be Using Social Media

The number of active Facebook users now stands at nearly 2 billion per month. People talk on social. They exchange ideas and opinions — and thoughts about brands. If they’re talking about your brand, you need to be active in the conversation and manage how this reflects upon your organization as a whole.

Your customers expect you to be present on social media. But that’s not all – they expect you to respond to them in a timely manner, too. A whopping 42% expect a response to their questions in less than an hour, and 9% want to hear back in just 5 minutes!

Meanwhile, paying close attention to social media can be particularly rewarding if your business is targeting a millennial audience. This group is 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites. Although blogging is not directly related to social media, it does relate to the rise of influencer marketing. See point 9 for more on that.

7. How Are You Using Online Video?

Video is becoming increasingly more common with companies in search of online exposure. There may be more cost involved than more traditional forms of content, but particularly when video is shared through social media, the potential for that content to go viral is huge. The majority of marketers who have used video marketing in their strategy say it has a direct, positive impacton their business.

For public relations, videos can be used to issue statements and now it’s even possible to respond in real-time to questions from the public. If you’re looking to cultivate an image of being an open and honest brand, or want to engage directly with your audience rather than through a media lens, this type of activity is invaluable.

If you’re a B2B organization, you should also be aware that 59% of executives prefer video content over text. Pre-produced corporate videos can help answer a larger volume of questions in a shorter amount of time than traditional content, making it ideal for c-level execs in a time-crunch.

8. Thinking About Thought Leadership

PR professionals should be looking to get C-level executives interview exposure in a setting that lends itself to thought leadership. A regular blog written by (or ghostwritten for) your CEO can also increase your standing in the eyes of others.

A stockpile of content like this can be very useful to share with journalists who are looking for a quote or background information. It helps to get your brand’s name out there and helps you appear as an expert voice in your space.

That being said, you need to be careful and avoid going overboard. In a recent survey where buyers of consulting services were questioned, more than 90% of people think that having great thought leadership content improves a brand’s image — but also that poor content would put them off a firm, proving that quality is better than quantity.

9. Influencers Send a Powerful Message

Influencers are people who have an abundance of engaged followers on their Instagram, Facebook, and other social media accounts. They partner with brands to promote or review their products and services, and give that brand exposure with a captive audience. Their followers are very likely to watch videos or interact with posts they produce for you.

It might be hard to believe, but 92% of consumers trust influencers more than they would an advertisement or a celebrity endorsement. The use of influencer content is a good way around the issue of ad blocking software, too. Since customers are coming to influencers for entertainment reasons, they don’t get the same feeling of being marketed to that comes with traditional digital advertising.

10. Good Digital PR Means Authoritative and Numerous Backlinks

A good PR strategy will sit hand-in-hand with your search engine optimization (SEO) marketing. One of its many purposes is to generate backlinks to your website, from authoritative websites like major newspapers and popular blogs. For SEO, this is valuable, as these links will ‘impress’ Google, helping to push your own website up the search engine rankings.

While authoritative backlinks are extremely important, digital relations is also focused around brand awareness. You have to get your brand name seen and heard across the web. This is a type of off site, or off page, SEO. That’s just a fancy way of saying that while people aren’t being directly pushed toward your brand, they see it around — and if they recognize a name that’s been spoken of elsewhere, they’re more likely to trust it.

Let These Stats Lead Your Online Success

Digital PR is quickly gaining importance for businesses today, but it’s just one aspect of your overall web presence to keep in mind. Your entire digital strategy needs to consider SEO, PPC, content marketing, display ads and much more — the PR side of things can support and enhance most of these points.

Now that you’re up to date on why this service is so important, we’re sure you’ll be briefing the PR team very soon on making some changes. Of course, your team is likely already very busy. It might be time to consider bringing in external professionals, like iSynergy. Our big picture approach has produced successful and fully-integrated strategies for a huge range of clients. Contact us today – we’d love to discuss how we can help your business thrive online.

Hacked Website Myths, Misconceptions & Recovery

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Having your website hacked is something that the majority of small to medium-sized businesses never really think much about until it happens. Then, at that point, it is completely overwhelming, because there is no plan in place for addressing this type of situation – which is compounded by the effect that a hacked website can have on your business, reputation, and customer trust.

 No matter what amount of traffic your website gets, or who you are, when you publish anything online, you have a duty to make sure that you are being responsible.

Let that sink in…

We all share the internet, so if you are going to have a website, hacking is, unfortunately, something you need to be aware of. The more people who are informed and take the effort to protect and secure the web, the safer we all will be. Be part of the solution.

Myths & Misconceptions

I can’t afford / don’t have the budget for website security or to pay someone to monitor and update my website.

Let me give you two different scenarios that highlight reasons why you can not afford to overlook website security.

1) You have a small business and your website contains information about your business (i.e. where people can find you). Your site is hacked, and the group or individual responsible decides to put up a page directing your visitors to an “unsavory” website. Now think about brand reputation and how quickly word of mouth spreads…

2) Your website was hacked (unbeknownst to you). Your website is silently serving malware onto the computer of all your visitors so that it can steal their banking, login, or other identity information.

 Google finds upwards of 50,000 new sites a week that are infected with malware.

What would happen if your most loyal customer decided to check out your website and ended up getting their identity stolen?

These examples may seem extreme to you, but they happen everyday – If you don’t believe me, check out the Google Transparency Report.

My site isn’t E-Commerce, or doesn’t store any PII (Personally Identifiable Information) so there would be no reason for someone to hack it!

This is one of the most common misconceptions out there, and to explain why, we first need to realize a few things.

It is most likely not someone with the codename ‘Zero Cool’ or ‘The Plague’ (shameless Hackers reference) who you have wronged, causing them to enact their revenge on your website.

Most likely, your website was randomly found by one of the countless automated web crawling programs (called bots or web crawlers), specifically looking for sites that have not been updated or are hosted on vulnerable web servers.

Trust me, if you have a website, it is being crawled relentlessly all day every day by these types of programs. If your website is vulnerable, they will find it and it will be exploited at some point, either by another automated program designed to exploit the found vulnerability or by brute force password cracking (if you have an administrative login using the default value – most commonly “admin” – please stop reading now and go change it. I will be waiting here for you to get back).

I can fix this myself by restoring the backup.

I commend you, first of all, for being smart enough to regularly backup your website. Just restoring the backup, however, without addressing the reason why your website was vulnerable in the first place, will just result in you finding yourself hacked again in the near future. Afterall, the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over while expecting different results.

If you don’t complete regular website backups, you can finish reading this article, but as soon as you are finished, you need to get that taken care of. You have been warned…

Effective Recovery Resources & Tips

One of the first things you are going to want to do is have your website scanned by a 3rd party scanning utility so that you can quickly identify how badly you were infected. These tools will give you a good idea of which pages on your site are serving malware, which files have the bad code, and how many major website blacklists have discovered your infection and are currently blocking you.

Don’t worry though, even if it looks bad at first, with some work, you can completely bounce back and get removed from any blacklists that you might currently find yourself on – as long as you act quickly. Below are some of my personal favorites.

Site Check by Sucuri

One of the best, free online scanners. Simple and powerful, just enter your website URL in the box and hit “Scan Website”. It will let you know what files and pages they find on your site, and will also give you your status on the top 5-7 blacklists.

Quttera.com/website-malware-scanner

Another free web-based scanner.

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)

One of the absolute best resources out there if your site is hacked. Google will let you know if they detect anything wrong with your site – Errors, 404 URLS, Malware, etc. You can also see which pages on your site they deem “infected”, and once you’re clean, you can submit your site for a re-crawl. After the re-crawl, they will remove you from their list of infected websites and will start allowing search traffic to find your URL again. They will also continue to monitor your website, and will notify you by email if you are reinfected.

Linux Malware Detect

This is for the advanced users out there who have root or sudo access to their server (If you have no clue what I just said, then just skip this). Run this tool on your web root directory, and it will output a list of the infected files it finds. Simple, yet very effective, and not limited to what can be accessed on the web by scanners.

Words Of Advice & Wrapping Up

This is by no means everything that is available out there, but it should help you to identify your problems and get you on the road to recovery. If you are not experienced with malware or being hacked, you are going to need the help of someone who knows all the short and long-term effects of these issues.

Food for thought: If you think it’s too expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur…