It’s been a long and arduous journey (for my colleagues, not me), but I have now been working in PR for 16 months, so thought I would impart some wisdom of what I have learnt along the way. Because, believe it or not, this is my first foray into the world of PR; I had previously worked as a customer service advisor in a bank, a checkout assistant and even a marquee erector, but never in PR. And it’s fair to say I was moderately wet behind the ears when I first started here at 10 Yetis Digital.
Anyway, enough about me. For anyone considering a career in PR, or someone who just wants to learn a bit more about the profession, here’s what I’ve learnt since joining the PR fold more than a year ago:
What PR actually is
Sure, I ‘knew’ what PR was before I joined 10 Yetis (or at least I did according to my application), but I never really appreciated the extent of it, and how much of what we see is the product of public relations.
Put simply – and my answer when all of my friends say ‘what is that?’ when I tell them my job – public relations is about reputation, and managing how a company/organisation/person is perceived by the public. Thus, one of my main roles as a PR Account Executive is to improve my clients’ public image, so that they are viewed more favourably as a brand.
There is a myriad of different types of PR, from digital PR to personal PR and even crisis comms, and this has been covered in more detail by the woman, the myth, the legend: Fran in her recent insight blog. What I will say on the subject is that everything public you see put out by a company or celebrity will (or at least should have) come through a PR person. Dodgy adverts and risqué products will have been vetted by a PR person, so the chances are if you see a big brand do something offensive in the public domain, then it is on purpose or it’s awkwardly slipped through the net.
What is SEO?
The astute among you will realise that this subtitle should be ‘what SEO is’, rather than ‘what is SEO?’ but that, my friends, is actually a little SEO joke for you. You see, search engine optimisation, or SEO as it is known by its pals, is the act of increasing traffic to a website through natural means; i.e. through organic search results rather than paid advertising.
Essentially, it’s the practice of trying to get your website to the top of Google (or Bing if you’re still in 2010, or Yahoo! if you’re back in 2001) for certain keywords, which are related to the site and/or company. Hence using ‘what is SEO?’; to try and rank for that phrase – hilarious, right?
There are all sorts of factors that affect SEO (some of which I’ll discuss below), and whilst PR and SEO are inextricably linked, they are actually different entities, and have different job titles. SEO tends to focus more on the technical aspects of getting a site to rank higher for keywords – such as page loading time, for example – where PR focuses on media coverage, and helps benefit page ranking in that sense.
Links are sacred, and there are two of them
It’s probably the first thing I was taught when I joined 10 Yetis, before I even knew where the toilet was, or learnt everyone’s name. Links are something that every PR holds dearest and what many would genuinely sell their soul for.
First things first, there are two *main* types of link (three, if you include the protagonist from Zelda): a follow link and a no-follow (or do-not-follow) link. The difference is not – as I first thought – that one takes you through to a website and the other doesn’t, but something rather more nuanced. Both types of link will take you through to the intended website if you click on it, but whereas a follow link has an effect on SEO, a no-follow link does not – well it does, but not to the same extent.
You see, Google and other search engines have ‘an algorithm’ that helps them to determine how well a website ranks on its SERP (‘search engine results page’ - another funny-sounding acronym). Whilst nobody knows what exactly it consists of, it’s generally accepted that the number of quality, external links is an overriding factor.
Social media is a great news source
Contrary to popular belief, the news isn’t always the quickest place to get the news, and contrary to even more popular belief, social media isn’t *just* for memes. Because it’s 2019 and everything is a little bit depressing, a lot of stories that you see on news sites will have actually come from social media.
Twitter in particular is great for breaking stories, as people tend to upload things they see to social media before alerting news sites. The moments tab – which is now a hashtag on the all-new, jarring Twitter layout – is really useful for monitoring what is going on in the world, and trending topics allow you to see news stories breaking before they become news.
News moves quick (unless it’s Brexit)
This might not be particularly surprising for anyone reading this, but it’s something that’s really important to PR professionals, particularly those with clients who are in a position to put forward expert comments on the news.
News moves quick, and the agenda changes all the time. If you are reading a news story that you think a client can comment on, you are probably already too late; if it’s an hour old you’re really pushing it, and if it’s two hours old there is probably little point commenting as the story will have already been covered everywhere.
This is where Twitter comes into its own, as if you’re reading a topic that has just started trending you know it’s a fresh story that might not be in the news yet, and you have a chance to put your expert forward before anything has been written, and maybe even get on to the coveted Press Association wire. Piggybacking the news is a great way to achieve coverage, and can be one of the best sources of links.
In conclusion, I have learnt a lot since I joined the PR industry: the difference between PR and SEO and what they mean individually, how best to improve a company’s SEO rankings, what follow and no-follow links are, where to get news and even what the labia library is (I work with a lot of women).
PR concerns the perception of a company to the public, and in a modern context it largely concerns securing good quality links to a website in order to improve their SEO ranking. And – to reiterate – follow links are the pinnacle of digital PR and I love them more than I love my family (sorry mum and dad).