Transcript of Greg Jarboe Podcast with Eric Enge on Web PR

Podcast Date: April 30, 2007

Greg Jarboe

The following is a written transcript of the April 30, 2007 podcast between Eric Enge and Greg Jarboe:

Eric Enge: Hi, I am Eric Enge, the President of Stone Temple Consulting. You can see our website at www.stonetemple.com. We are here today with Greg Jarboe, the co-founder of SEO-PR and we plan to talk about Web PR strategies, and see the SEO-PR website at www.SEO-PR.com. How are you doing Greg?

Greg Jarboe: Good Eric.

Eric Enge: Well, thanks for joining us today. So, let's talk a little bit about the way the PR process used to work as a starting question.

Greg Jarboe: Well, how far back do you want to go? Do you want to go back to when I started, or back when they were crossing the planes and covered wagons?

Eric Enge: Well, let's keep it reasonable and see as we can talk about something like ten years ago.

Greg Jarboe: Okay. Ten years ago public relations was starting to change in a more fundamental way then it had in the previous ninety years. Public relations as a profession was actually only created at the very beginning of the 20th century by pioneers including Ivy Lee and Edward Bernaise. But, by a decade ago, the advent of the Internet was reshaping public relations as people had been practicing it for ninety years in some fairly fundamental ways. Prior to 1997, we focused almost all our attention on journalists. And, the whole public relations profession may have been a misnomer.

You called it public relations, but it was really media relations; you pitched stories to journalists and they either wrote the stories or they didn't and then you were either made or broken by how you were pitched. These days journalists are struggling with their own transitions; there are today about half as many paid journalists around the United States as they were in 1990. A lot of their jobs have evaporated. A lot of the publications that they used to work for don't exist anymore. I know a number of them, because I used to work with them in '90s at Ziff Davis.

Titles like PC Computing are gone; titles like Interactive Week are gone; titles like Yahoo Internet Life are gone, ZDTV is gone and all those journalistic chaps are gone with them. And, in their place, two things have popped up, one of which is bloggers at last count by Technorati, there are over seventy-one million blogs, and it's a hundred and forty times more than they were just four years ago.

The other thing that's come along is search, and the pioneer there was Google, taking a look at it in October of 2002. The first time I did a search and found press releases in the results, I knew that that was a fundamental shift. Now, PR people could communicate directly to an audience, whether or not the press decided to write the story or decided to pass on it.

Eric Enge: Right. That's really a big shift as you say. It seems like one other thing then that this does is it effects how you put your message together, because you get much more direct in conversation with the consumer, and your messaging would be different.

Greg Jarboe: Yes and no. Messaging to reporters isn't that different than messaging to consumers. You still want to speak in plain, understandable English, hype isn't appreciated by either journalists or prospects. Give me the facts, let me make the decision for myself is actually fairly consistent across both audiences. The one fundamental difference though is that your call to action is different. In the old days, the press release basically invited the reporter to please call me for an interview. And, that's still part of most standard press releases, you are still asking for the press to contact you. But now, you have a second call to action possible, which is to give the prospect a link in your release to more information about the company or the product, or click here and go to the website, and now the consumer has a call to action as well.

Eric Enge: I've also seen it suggested that in the new environment, that one of the things you change is the hurdle you have to get over before its good enough news to announce. In other words you'd be announcing potentially smaller events and occurrences and getting a higher frequency of getting press releases out there. What's your take on that?

Greg Jarboe: I guess I take a little different view on that. If you had specialized news in the past that had a narrow audience, your job as PR person was to go find the specialized media that covered that area. Not every story is going to get picked up by the main stream media. But, if you've got something that is only interesting to people who are interested in a cool thing, guess what, there are cool thing magazines out there that you can go pitch the story too. There is always niche media that you could go pitch specialized stories too. What has changed, and what is different is, what is News? News; having something important to say is still useful, whether it's to a consumer or to a reporter. But, the consumer often has a different take on what is News to them, then a reporter might.

Let me give you a good example. We did some work back in 2004 for Southwest Airlines, and they were announcing new service to Philadelphia. As a part of their launch, they announced a $29 airfare one way. Now, there is a story there, if you are interested in Southwest Airlines adding the fifty-ninth city to the number of cities they service. Although, it's not one that might catch most reporters' eyes, but you tell a consumer, you can get the flight to Philadelphia for $29, and that is a story for them.

Eric Enge: Right. So, that is the case where it would cause you to do things more frequently then you might have previously. But, it's really because of what the consumer thinks is important, and how it differs from what the traditional media person or the bloggers think is important.

Greg Jarboe: Exactly. Most journalists, and this has been true for hundreds of years; this isn't anything new, are focused on politics and they are focused on celebrities, and the public is also focused on celebrities, and to some extent politics. But, they have another range of interests that journalists reluctantly get around to covering from time to time. Bargains, or sales for example, is something no journalist would ever report on. But, I will tell you what, consumers want that information.

Eric Enge: Right, exactly. You mentioned before that the number of journalists is about half of what it was in 1990. And, you also talked about how the bloggers are now a substantial portion of the target audience. But, talking that traditional media, do you approach them differently than you used to or is the approach really the same as it was before?

Greg Jarboe: It's actually very similar. Pitching an A-level blogger is just as difficult as pitching a main stream reporter. Both of them are conscious for time. Both of them want to get the story out early. And, you need to establish personal relationships with bloggers as well as with reporters, if they are going to take your call or return your call on a regular basis. And so, in some respects the fundamentals of public relations are the same. What is different is most PR people have a fairly good handle on, if it's the New York Times calling; boy, you better take their call or return their call quickly. So, they have a sense of main stream media's pecking order, and the same is true for A-list bloggers. Note that Technorati just a week ago changed its ranking format, and I had to go back in and re-double check who the top hundred bloggers were as now they were ranked differently.

Eric Enge: Right. Well, and also it's the top bloggers in your particular space that matter, and you have to have that mapping and that's not always so easy to figure out. I can tell you from my own experience in terms of seeing what sort of Click-through rates I get from mentions in various blogs. The click-through levels I get from certain blogs definitely don't lineup with the perceived readership of those blogs.

Greg Jarboe: There is a second factor too. We did some work last summer for the Christian Science Monitor, and we were tracking the traffic and where it came from. We got more traffic, in fact three or four times more traffic from the Huffington Post then we got from ABC News. And, ABC News had run it on the evening television, and then the morning television and they put it permanently on their homepage, on their website. And, Huffington Post still generated more traffic, and I don't think that's because they have a bigger audience. Audience size is one issue, but I also think it's they engage their audience a little more fundamentally, and are more likely to energize an audience and send it your way, then to merely inform the audience and then some set of that audience might be curious enough to look for more.

Eric Enge: One thing that I have always liked about dealing with a blogger is, because they are always putting messages out there, that you can actually see what needs they are expressing, and use that as opportunities to build relationships with them, which makes it that much easier to get them to post about your stuff when you have it. I am not sure the dynamics of doing that are as simple with traditional media people.

Greg Jarboe: Well, there is another factor, which is traditional media people generally wrote for offline media, and links was sort of an after thought. And, nobody had the time, and nobody built the web editorial stuff to add the links. And so, you might get publicity, but you might not get a link to your site. With bloggers on the other hand, links are almost fundamental to what they do and so again you can get two stories; one has a link, one doesn't, and the one with the link is more likely to be found on a blog.

Eric Enge: Right. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about optimizing press releases and things like that. What are your top tips for optimizing a release?

Greg Jarboe: Well, the first one is to do keyword research and that's pretty fundamental whether you are optimizing a Webpage or Press Release, or Blog Post or almost anything else that you might want to optimize these days. And, the one tip I guess I would give people is to recognize that News search engines have a different algorithm from web search engines, and that news search terms are different from web search terms. So, just because they are looking for it on Google, doesn't necessarily mean they are looking for it on Google News. The fastest way to get a feeling for that is to go to Google Trends and type in a term and the Trend line in the top chart will show you what the web search terms are. Underneath it will be a news search term and they will find that the peaks and the valleys and the spikes don't always coincide. So, understanding that News search is a little different than web search is the first step.

Eric Enge: You can use Google Trends then to get keyword data for News Search, or how do you go about getting it?

Greg Jarboe: That's one way to do it. There are a couple of other ways. Keyword Discovery actually now has one of its databases include news search terms in addition to web search terms, so you can also get them that way. Or, the other thing you can do is go to Yahoo News, do a couple of searches and up at the top Yahoo News will say also try, and that will give you then a sense of what three or four word variations of the two word term you typed in might look like.

Eric Enge: Right. So, you can presume that Yahoo! is showing the most commonly used, related phrases. So, you are not getting direct volume numbers, the way you are used to in other tools, but you are in another ways getting indicators of most important phrases.

Greg Jarboe: Exactly, I remembered shortly after Hurricane Katrina trying to trying to optimize a press release about Hurricane Katrina. And, every one of the normal keyword research tools told me nobody was searching for Hurricane Katrina, it wasn't a term. That's basically because most of those tools take data from the previous months and when a news event like that happens it won't report it until after the effect.

That's when we started learning to go to Yahoo News and some other tactics and techniques to try to figure out the search terms that popped up overnight.

Eric Enge: Right. Because, there was urgency there to be much more real time, so they are more likely to have that data update quickly.

Greg Jarboe: Yeah. It's a different world and again it's one of the several subtle but significant differences when you are tackling optimizing a press release.

Eric Enge: Right. It's also interesting to me just as a quick side bar here that, and I don't think most people realize this, Yahoo News is much bigger than Google News.

Greg Jarboe: Yeah. And, that does come as a shock to people, but Yahoo News has actually been around since 1995, and Google News was launched in the fall of 2002. Although Google News was the first to go beyond the typical top one hundred news sources to index four thousand five hundred different news sources. Yahoo News has been around for longer and I think its position in the portal has also helped it build an audience over the years, and it's held on with their audience.

Eric Enge: OK. People forget what leverage Yahoo gets out of all their destination sites.

Greg Jarboe: Yeah. And, they do actually a much more better job with hanging on to their traffic after they get it. So, you'll find that where Google News will point to the headline and a snippet of text over press release over on wire service site, Yahoo News actually takes a copy of the press release, keeps it within Yahoo News and serves ads around it. So, it's trying to harvest that traffic a different way.

Eric Enge: Right. So, getting back to optimizing, the keyword research is used to help drive your title, and some other ways in which to put the content together. But, how about putting links in the release and what's the strategy for that?

Greg Jarboe: Well, the strategy there has shifted; up until December of 2005, anchor text was golden in press releases. And then, unfortunately too many people through the Fall of 2004, and Spring and Summer of 2005 began abusing that by creating a whole new category of Link Spam by creating bogus press releases and just to get the anchor text in the so called release to build links to sites in who knows what industry. Both Google News and Yahoo News changed the way they treat anchor text in press releases and they have now basically eliminated the page rank value of those anchor text links. So, if that is the reason that someone is throwing anchor text in a press release, it stopped working about two years ago.

What still does work, though, is if it's a legitimate release with real news and you get a consumer reading the release, that link is still a traffic builder. So, while it does not have page rank and indirect search engine optimization benefits, it still will send visitors to content on your page and that still has a benefit. The second benefit that the link has is, if a blogger or a journalist picks up the story, and if they then decide to include the link in their story then that link is gold. So, having the link there and encouraging the bloggers and the press that this is relevant information can pay big dividends.

Eric Enge: Right. So, at the end of the day then just throwing press releases out there isn't building link value by itself, and you still need to focus on having a really high quality content in your press release, so that people will take it up and consumers will read it and click through on it, or that people will pick it up and republish the press release and now you are getting link value.

Greg Jarboe: Exactly. And, one other thing that we've found working with our clients on tracking all of this is that the press releases do generate traffic. And, they create measurable traffic, you can tell how many people have come from the wire service release. What is underestimated is that publicity also generates traffic, whether its main stream media or its blogs, and that publicity can sometimes be twenty times more traffic then the press release itself. And so, again the fundamentals of PR are still there, the press release is valuable, it generates traffic, but the publicity is the big multiplier.

Eric Enge: Right. And, since you mentioned it, let's talk a little bit about tracking the results. What are the techniques that you'd recommend for doing that?

Greg Jarboe: Well, each of the wire services now have gotten SEO religion, and are starting to offer some kind of measurement package with their SEO offerings. So, you'll find that's true whether you are using a Business Wire, or PR News wire, or PR web, or Market Wire, or Prime News Wire. All five of those wire services have some kind of SEO tracking package. What all of them track is traffic to the release from Google News, because again Yahoo News takes a copy of it. Unfortunately, as a result you don't get to measure the traffic to the Yahoo News version of the release. And so, that's something that whichever wire service you use, you should make sure that you take advantage of whatever the metrics are that they are offering.

Eric Enge: Right. Just recognize that they are not covering Yahoo News, which is the biggest one out there.

Greg Jarboe: Yeah. You are getting a partial picture, but it is still a useful piece of information.

Eric Enge: Yes.

Greg Jarboe: And, then the way to get the full picture, because obviously the wire services can't track your publicity, they can't track your blog coverage, and they can't track Yahoo News is then to make sure that you are using your web analytic software, that you are taking a broader view and not only looking at the traffic that came in from the wire service or the press release. But, looking at the referrers in your log and identifying the new sources that generated traffic to you, and then connecting the dots. We've done that for a variety of clients, and they are just stunned at just how much of a traffic driver a good healthy, newsworthy public relations campaign can be.

Eric Enge: Right. And, are there any special tools that you use?

Greg Jarboe: There are, and one that we've been data testing for the last several months is called BuzzLogic. What it enables us to do is not only identify who the top bloggers are, you can go figure that up by looking at Technorati and looking at the top hundred. What it does is identify the top bloggers by conversation, so as you mentioned earlier, I am not interested in showing who is just generally popular, I am interested in who is the most influential blogger in the special key area that I am focused on. And, what BuzzLogic does is generally identify the blog post that had the biggest ripple effect, but it also let's you see at the clients both who was upstream, in other words who the blogger linked to, and then who was downstream. I.e., who linked to the bloggers' post, and you can map out the influence model.

Eric Enge: Right. So, it gives you a quick picture that you can use to just figure out who you are going to work the hardest on.

Greg Jarboe: Well, exactly. We just presented a case study earlier this week at the MarketingSherpa Summit for work that we did with Window Secrets, a newsletter. And, we were able to identify the top bloggers, invite them to a webinar the day before a big story broke, and to brief them on what was going to be in the story. They then of course did their articles and blog posts, and what we were able to do is double the, not only the amount of traffic to this site, but also double the number of subscriptions over the first week; over any previous story that they had ever run.

Eric Enge: That's great. What about tools like Vocus for example that provide you lots of information and contact information on various kinds of journalists out there?

Greg Jarboe: All that is useful, but in some cases it's useful as having a phonebook. What is more important is not only knowing who to call, but having a relationship with them. If you are cold calling an important journalist, it's good to have their phone number or their email address. But, if they don't know you and you've never worked with them before, put it this way, it's like any cold calling, it's a lot of calls and very few acceptances.

Eric Enge: Right. You have to be thick skinned to do that kind of work.

Greg Jarboe: Well, you can put junior people on it, because sometimes they don't know enough to be frustrated yet. But, more often then that, the better way to go is to work within a segment of the industry long enough so that people know you and you know them. So, you are not calling somebody for the first time.

Eric Enge: Right; any other tools worth mentioning before we wrap it up?

Greg Jarboe: Well, let's see. One of the ones that we like using is ClickTracks. We use it a little differently then most people do. Most people would just put it on the website like web analytics software. We like to use the hosted version of ClickTracks; and we take snippet of the JavaScript, and we put it on the press release, but we also then put it on the landing page and that helps us sort of connect the dots in the ways that even the wire service matrics don't give you.

Eric Enge: So, you actually embed it in the body of the press release itself. That way when people put it on sites in different places, you can actually have a little bit of your ClickTracks JavaScript sitting on their domain.

Greg Jarboe: Well, if you are lucky, a lot of the scrapers of course wouldn't pick that up, but when it is distributed through XML then yes, you do get it picked up, and you can get a little more robust tracking.

Eric Enge: Right. You are not trying to do anything other then just track the clicks through to your own site from various postings to the press release.

Greg Jarboe: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Great Greg. I think it's been fun and thanks for talking with us today.

Greg Jarboe: Well, thank you Eric. I have enjoyed it.

About the Author

Eric Enge is the Founder and President of Stone Temple Consulting (STC). STC offers Internet marketing optimization services, including SEO, Social Media and PPC optimization, and its web site can be found at: https://www.stonetemple.com.

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