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PR: The Future of PR – Embracing Digital Transformation

Posted by Tyler Reed, MBA
May 20, 2024

The following is an excerpt from a presentation given on May 17 to the North Florida chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Search engine optimization (SEO) and public relations (PR) are two distinct fields that share a common goal: increasing a brand or organization’s visibility and credibility. While SEO is focused on improving search engine rankings, PR is concerned with building relationships with the media and public. Despite their differences, these two fields intersect in several ways, and when used together effectively, they can significantly impact a company’s success.

Here, we’ll explore the critical intersections between SEO and PR to help your team deliver the right message at the right time for maximum impact. 

PR Strategy Hinges on SEO Content Creation 

SEO and PR both rely heavily on content creation. Whether it’s blog posts, press releases or social media updates, creating high-quality, relevant content is vital to both fields. PR professionals help position thought leaders to develop or participate in content opportunities to get media coverage, build relationships with top outlets and build authority in front of specific audiences. 

Put simply, SEO experts develop content to improve search rankings. Search engines today are no longer constrained to Google and Bing but rather encapsulate virtually any medium where users actively search for relevant answers to their queries, whether that’s finding a tax lawyer on LinkedIn, looking for real estate investing videos on YouTube or even searching an inbox for a bylined article that piqued their interest. 

By collaborating on content creation, PR and SEO professionals can strategically create searchable content that serves the audience’s needs, engages them and leads them toward an action. 

Quality Backlinks Are Critical to Success in Search

Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site. They are a crucial factor in SEO, signaling to search engines that your site is authoritative and trustworthy. Backlinks can also be a valuable PR tool, driving traffic to your site and increasing your brand’s visibility. By working together, the PR and SEO efforts can identify opportunities to earn backlinks from relevant and reputable sources, such as industry publications or news outlets. 

Whenever you score that fantastic bylined article opportunity, you must ensure that you have placed a backlink to your client’s website. The author bio is a great place to sneak this in. Publications understand this and are generally more than willing to accommodate them since PR pros supply a steady stream of free content from top industry authorities.

It’s All About Reputation Management 

Good PR is about managing a company’s reputation and building trust with a targeted audience. SEO can play a crucial role in this by helping to organize a brand’s online reputation. By optimizing content and ensuring that positive information about a company appears at the top of search results, SEO-minded professionals can help to protect a brand’s reputation, enhance its credibility and ensure that the public sees the brand in the best possible light, underscoring the practical application of SEO in PR. 

Google recently revised its mainstay E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) model used in its search rater guidelines. In addition to the previous E-A-T model’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, Google’s new E-E-A-T model (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) now evaluates the content creator’s experience to determine maximum relevance. Maintaining a “reputation” with the algorithm isn’t so different from reputation management with the public. The audience craves authenticity, which is precisely what search engines evaluate when crawling content. 

Welcome to the Wide World of Social Media 

Social media is critical to both PR and SEO. PR professionals use social media to connect with journalists, influencers and other stakeholders, while SEO experts use social media to drive traffic to a website and improve search rankings. By collaborating on social media strategies, the PR and SEO duo can amplify their efforts and reach a wider audience.

For example, whenever you source authors a bylined article, make sure to highlight this effort across platforms (as long as the publication does not prohibit this). The article can post on the publication’s site, the company can publish a quick recap and link to the article on its site and on social, and the author can post links to the article and the recap on their social. Further, encourage other employees to engage and amplify the coverage. As a PR pro, like, share and comment on your clients’ posts as well to drive engagement and foster deeper relationships.

This example also showcases the concept of “content recycling” where we’ve used one authored piece in many ways. Going further with this concept, you may consider doing a podcast on the article, a miniseries breaking down different points or a webinar covering the exact same content. In that way, you can get the best return possible for the expense of developing a single piece of content while creating multiple touchpoints for the audience to engage with, wherever they are.

AI Isn’t a Fad – It’s Here to Stay

As I write this, the Copilot and Autocorrect artificial intelligence (AI) within Microsoft Word are actively reviewing and suggesting content. Within your email, social media and across search engines, AI is actively playing a greater role. For those who purport not to have embraced AI yet, you’re likely already using it. Despite what you may have heard, don’t think of AI as just another tool in your tool kit. Think of it more as a sounding board where you can start to formulate raw ideas to develop into solid content.

The flip side of the coin is that you should never copy and paste AI wholesale. Besides the myriad copyright issues, studies are repeatedly showing that AI content does not perform as well as human-generated content across the board. According to an April 2024 data study, human-written ads perform better than those generated by AI. The study found that human-written ads have 60% more clicks, 45.41% more impressions and a 1.33% higher click-through rates (CTR) than AI-generated ads.

In the end, AI is great for speed and scale, but when you want creativity, quality and emotional connection, you should always have a human behind the sticks. With any AI prompt, “garbage in, garbage out” is your mantra. Be sure to use good, prompt engineering techniques, which require more detail.

SEO Best Practices to Bear in Mind

Whether it’s owned, earned or paid media, remember that every piece of content deserves a few essential SEO elements before it goes live to increase its searchability and potential impact. While PR pros don’t necessarily need to be SEO experts, there are a few considerations every practitioner can address to give content a boost.

Length: This is one of the most often overlooked elements of good SEO content. While there is no “magic number” for word count, every page on the web has to be over 300 words just to get crawled by search engines. As this is the bare minimum, a piece this length will likely yield minimal results. A good target word count is 1,500 words, which is about two to three pages of content. According to SEMrush, the absolute best performing blogs for organic search run 3,000-plus words. Long-form content may mean a heavier lift, but it simply performs better. Evaluate cost-benefit with your author to find that sweet spot (mainly when relying on busy clients for bylined content).

Links: Linking strategy could take up an entire blog series, but for our purposes, there are only two you need to know. Outbound links are those that point to an outside website. The sites should be authoritative and highlight part of a phrase that describes the source. For example, “best SEO tips for small business” sends readers to Google’s blog.

The other type is inbound links, which point toward relevant material on your own site. For example, “crisis communications PR firm” points directly (inbound) to Poston’s crisis communications service offering. Once again, there is no magic number for how many links you should employ, but a good rule of thumb is one or two of each link type for every 500 words or so. 

Keywords: If you noticed, those links above used keywords as part of the embedded link. Keywords are crucial to a solid SEO strategy and are easy to employ. Use free tools like Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator to find a list of relevant keywords and how they are currently performing. Look for words and phrases with relatively low competition and higher search numbers.

Sometimes integrating keywords can be tricky. For example, “best PR firm Jacksonville” is clunky. That’s where solid wordcraft comes into play, and you could use something like, “Looking for the best PR firm Jacksonville has to offer?” and suddenly, you’ve inserted a high-performing key phrase naturally. 

Structure: The last item on our quick SEO checklist should be structure. As you or your subject matter experts (SMEs) craft content, make sure it’s easy to read online and for your desired medium. For online articles, use headlines, bullets and shorter sentences to break up walls of text no sane person will read anyway. Pro tip: Integrate keywords into your headlines for an added punch. 

Check out this article to dig deeper into our best SEO tips for PR practitioners.

Successful PR Requires a Multidisciplinary Approach

SEO and PR may approach similar objectives differently, but both seek to enhance a brand or organization’s visibility and authority. By integrating tactics from both realms, PR can leverage the power of proven digital strategies to develop a unified communication plan that utilizes the advantages of each field and magnifies their combined influence.

Through methods such as generating content, establishing backlinks, managing reputation and utilizing social media, the convergence of SEO and PR presents brands with numerous prospects to reach their objectives and thrive in engaging an audience, building community and fostering deep connection.

Not sure how to marry data-driven insights with boundless creativity to engage your audience across the digital stage?  Ask us how we can help.

Tyler Reed, a senior account executive at Poston, is a strategic communicator who works with clients to develop influential brand messaging, generate buzz and maximize media exposure. He is a regular guest on industry television segments and podcasts and has been featured in several leading publications.