Top 5 Dos and Top 5 Don’ts of Online PR?

I tried to pull together a short list of dos and don’ts of Online PR this week for a newsletter I was writing and throught I would share them here as well. It was aimed at an SME audience but I think the messages are relevant in general as well. I am expecting that people will have different views on what should make the top five in each case, so lets see these as starters for ten! :-)

Top 5 Online PR things you should do  

– listen
– be authentic
– give
– respond
– stay in the conversation

Top 5 Online PR things you shouldn’t do  

- forget online visibility
– spam
– be irrelevant
– treat as a channel
– ignore



If you do nothing else you should do this. The online media world offers a fantastic opportunity to listen to what people think about your industry, your business and your competition. Using the various sites and tools that are available will give you a wealth of information that would cost huge amounts in market research fees to have discovered in the “real” world.

This information will help you to understand the communities and influencers who are relevant to you and what topics they are interested in.

Be authentic  

Just because you are in an online environment don’t forget that this world is still made up of people not computers. People like authenticity. They like people who are genuine about themselves and in an online PR context this means being transparent about who you are and why you are approaching or engaging with a particular person or community.

If you start a blog where you will be covering topics that are sometimes self promotional in nature then be clear about this with your readers. If you comment on a blog post where you have a professional axe to grind ensure your potential bias is clear to the blogger and their community (unless you are confident they know you so well as to not need such clarity).


Like your Mum and Dad probably taught you “it is better to give than to receive” and online this is still the case. Don’t go into a relationship with an individual or community online with an agenda or an expectation of something. Would you respond well to such an approach? Try and understand their needs and then give them something of value. This could still be of a commercial nature e.g. a travel business might provide details of special offers before these were given to the general public, but more often it will be less direct – some relevant guidance perhaps.

These no strings “gifts” will help to build the relationship and then hopefully that other well used phrase about giving will occur – “what goes around, comes around”.


Having listened to what people are saying online and possibly given something of value it is important to respond to their questions or concerns. Again, as in life in the “real” world, most people would think it rude if someone ignored or blanked them, particularly if they actually instigated the conversation.

This is potentially a challenge for organisations with large communities who want to talk to or about them. This is when you need to have a clear structure within the organisation as to who is going to field what questions and enter what conversations. For instance in may be appropriate for queries of a more customer service nature – “I have a problem with X” – to be responded to by someone from your customer service department rather than a PR or marketing person. Or at least direct them towards this more appropriate channel.

Stay in the conversation

Having responded and established a dialogue with communities don’t stop talking. This is a mistake a lot of people can make online. You do great work listening and understanding who is interested in similar things to you and your business, you engage them potentially through giving something of value and then respond to their initial interest.

Then you stop. You disappear from the online world. People visit your twitter feed but you have stopped tweeting. Their RSS reader never shows a new post from your blog. Where have you gone they wonder? At best they accept your sudden lack of interest and move on. At worst they feel slighted by your lack of investment in sustaining the relationship and make their feelings known!


Forget visibility

The “dark side” so to speak of the transparency and durability of the online media world is that everything, and I mean everything, you say can end up online. It has become very common now for people to Tweet live while listening to a presentation for instance. You may not have considered the risk that what you said to that particular room could end up being relayed to 1.5bn internet users if they choose to find it, but it can.

Clearly the content you actually do produce and upload yourself, comments you make on blogs and tweets that you update will definitely be there for all to see. Don’t make the same mistake as these people and forget that online everyone is listening.


A fundamental temptation of the Internet is the ability to send a message to a huge list of recipients at the click of a button. In the days when “snail mail” or faxes were the only options the cost of paper, envelopes, stamps, phone calls and ink, never mind the time to produce them, meant that there was a price to be paid for spamming people.

With emails the price is paid by the recipient in the lost time through checking, and almost certainly deleting emails they didn’t want. Think carefully before pressing send – “have I earned the right to send this person an email?” At RealWire we take this very seriously and spend a lot of time researching and contacting sites to try and ensure we don’t fall foul of this. As we are human, we slip up occasionally, be we strive to improve all of the time as we know that permission is a fundamental part of any PR strategy.

Be irrelevant

This is very closely linked to spam. Effectively I will very quickly lose any permission I may enjoy to send people messages if I send them irrelevant content. A key reason for choosing “Top 5s” for these articles was the response to my previous newsletter which suggested that articles of this nature were more relevant to you the reader. Well I try and practice what I preach hence my response this month or I risk those readers who found the previous Top 5 article interesting choosing to “mute” me.

At RealWire we say that it is only through delivering relevance you can ever hope to achieve influence. Clearly the corollary will mean you achieve nothing.

Treat as a “channel”

I sometimes hear people talking about online as a “channel” i.e. print, broadcast and online channels. I understand why it is thought of in this way but for me this misses a fundamental point about the online media. The reason I refer to it as “the Online Media World” is because that is what it is – a virtual equivalent of the real world.

People are publishing, like they do in newspapers, on websites, or broadcasting on sites such as You Tube or even BBC’s IPlayer, but they are also giving opinions, sharing stories, commenting and generally talking about things that interest them. Just like we do in the real world. Because the online world is populated by people as well just connected via telecommunications providers and ISPs. This means that everything you think about doing offline in PR terms you need to think about online.


Last, but definitely not least, the one thing you must not do is ignore the online world. For two key commercial reasons.

Firstly because people will talk about you whether you engage or not and if you don’t engage you can’t tell your side of the story.

And second because at least some, if not all, of your competition will engage online and with 1.5bn people to talk to that could turn into a pretty hefty competitive advantage.

RealWire “Releasing influence” – our new animation goes live

Following on from our Online Media animation from the start of this year we have just finished the second part of our “trilogy” – “Releasing Influence“. *Please note this animation is more self promotional in nature*.

The first part of the film follows on from “The Online Media” and describes how news releases have the potential to achieve influence in this world. The second describes how RealWire can help senders of news to do just that and also how our service helps them to understand the impact they have had.

The last of the three should be ready in a few weeks time and will deal with the importance of delivering relevance to recipients of news.

But for now here is the video. Would love to get people’s feedback.

Google isn’t people Google is an algorithm

The title of this post is a comment I made in my presentation at 3i and have used a few times since. (I suspect I heard or read this somewhere once so if anyone knows the who, what and when please tell me so I can attribute).

I was reminded of the quote when reading last week about Eric Schmidt’s comments regarding Twitter and the concept of Twitter as a search engine. Drew Benvie is also carrying out a Twitter search experiment which has resulted in some discussion todayThose with more knowledge of these things than I will probably be able to point out many other reasons but IMHO Google’s success in search was based on five (probably pretty obvious) key factors:

– a simple interface
– low time to get started
– quick
– relevant results
– high coverage of topics

So how does Twitter compare? The table below is my (basic) attempt to summarise a comparison of the two against these five factors. I have added the last two to highlight the key differences as I see it between the basis for the responses.


For those active members of the Twitter community (like @drewb for example) I think that:

– the potential for increased trust due to the basis of response being real people and;
– for the same reason (potentially) increased relevance of the “results”

are likely to mean that they use Twitter more frequently to answer some of the questions they would have directed towards Google in the past.

However I suspect that these early adopters are the sort of internet sophisticates that already use a wider variety of means to find information – Social bookmarking, Blog searches etc.

For those occasional Twitter users, and those outside of the community altogether, Twitter has a way to go before it will be a significant search competitor to Google in market share terms for the key reason of time investment.

So for the majority of the world’s 1.5bn internet users I suspect that the ease of getting an answer from Google will continue their hegemony of the search market for the foreseeable future – however long that is these days!

Spotify – mixer tapes made easy

Last Friday I spotted a tweet by Sally Whittle about a Spotify playlist she had created. I fancied some music to fill my afternoon and I was curious to see if I could get this whole sharing playlist thingamajig to work. Well I did and its brilliant! And Sally’s playlist was tops too :-) So I had a try myself and it was great fun. Sally has subsequently started a playlist meme and this has been continued by Jed.

Following my post last week about Twitter being fan mail for the 21st century this got me thinking how much easier creating this playlist and sharing it was than when I was a teenager.

Creating mixer tapes was an art and one that took a lot of time and effort. Every track had to be recorded from source (records in the main for me!) to the tape. So creating a 20 track playlist like mine cost money (the tape) and took around three to four hours allowing time for selection and recording. Remember you had to work out the order first, no ability to just move things around on a screen. Oh and I also had to own all the music!

Whereas on Friday it took me about 10 minutes and cost me nothing and I had the entire Spotify catalogue to choose from. True a few of the tracks I thought of using weren’t there but given that new ones are being added all the time this will get better and better I suspect.

I once had to create a five hour series of tapes for an 18th birthday party for a friend of mine. Took me an entire day. Would have taken about an hour I reckon on Spotify!

I realise that this isn’t really new in that the ability to create playlists from digital content speeded up the process a long time ago and that if you aren’t too worried about the legal issues you don’t need to “own” all the content. However the key differences with Spotify are first of all it is legal and second it is the ability to share your playlists so easily and so widely.

However the slight downside of this is that making a tape back in the day was such an investment of time it was a way of demonstrating how you felt about that special someone :-) Plus it couldn’t be shared very easily – yes you could copy it but it took time – so it was likely to remain personal to them. Post Spotify I suppose there is a danger that creating such playlists is now no different to a quick visit to the petrol station to buy a bunch of flowers when you’ve forgetten someone’s birthday!

Anyway it’s still bloomin’ great and though I haven’t been formally tagged in this meme I am going to be cheeky and join in so I tag Stephen, Mat and Shannon. Look forward to a lot of great tunes.