Why SEO is a Sub-set of Public Relations

Public Relations Feb 7, 2007

So, the concept of SEO is pretty much all wrong. I believe that SEO is just another branch of public relations in its early stages.

And I’ll explain why.

Public relations endeavors to get you publicity and media coverage at a lower cost than advertising. When you have a worthwhile story to tell, and it gets picked up as part of a magazine article, newspaper column or TV program, it’s more compelling and trustworthy than the equivalent advertisement that runs alongside that same said content.

Better-yet, it echo’s and re-amplifies itself as everyone starts picking up the meme, and the magic of word-of-mouth kicks in. Over time, if you keep up your end of the bargain with a positive customer experience, genuine long-lasting reputation ensues.

And it all started from not-advertising.

That’s not to say that advertising isn’t part of a nutritionally balanced marketing campaign. It is. Only that public relations campaigns can get you the same nutritional value at a much lower cost.

But there are no guarantees.

And therein lies the similarity between public relations and search engine optimization. They are both methods of reaching out to your audience through the formal editorial “meat” of the media, instead of the marginalized and often-edited-out advertisements and commercials. Both PR and SEO embed the message directly into the highly valued, repeated and trusted main content.

So, Google, Yahoo and MSN are just editors?

Yes. The search engine results are algorithmic, automated attempts to make what would otherwise be human reviews. When you influence search, you’re influencing automated editors and journalists that are very analogous to human editors and journalists.

PR and SEO are the same thing.

The world just needs to catch up with that type of thinking, because it’s only going to get more that way. The humans are not being replaced by robot editors. Rather, all the editorial content of the world is exploding at a rate that no organizational system can keep pace with. Therefore, the automatic editors (the search engines) play the role of the second editor. If you don’t get the article or blog written in the first place, then you weren’t successful with the first editor. If the newly published story, either on your own site or another site, doesn’t get picked up by search and served back on the right keywords, then you were not successful with the second editor.

You need to be successful with both editors: human and robot.

And this is why the creators of HitTail at Connors Communications believe that the whole movement of SEO is simply going to be subordinated under our profession in a few years. The only thing keeping it from happening today is the level of technical expertise that can flourish within a public relations company. Generally speaking, it doesn’t go past the company IT people, the PR people who can talk the talk, and perhaps a prolific pseudo-celebrity pundit or two who get hired just for that purpose.

But real, hard-hitting tech people in a PR company who can totally speak to why SEO is just a sub-set of PR is rare. It will, however, have to become more and more common, because the technical matters that fall under the domain of public relations are more every day–from how to get blogs to be influential, to how to pick the right subject-matter to write about, to the selection of publishing platforms. This is now all part of the realm of public relations, because they directly influence your ability to reach your audience, and they are not matters of advertising.

So, what does it all mean?

If you’re stuck on the technical details of SEO, expand your thinking. It’s not about merely tweaking title tags. It’s about knowing what to do if title tags suddenly start getting ignored by Google (unimaginable–but distinctly possible, the way meta’s became ignored years ago).

You don’t need to worry about the micro-details of SEO if you just select the right Web publishing platform. And today, that means a small selection of blogging platforms that do everything right.

So, the most efficient use of your time goes into knowing the merits of the different publishing platforms, and the ramifications of making that selection over time. If you want to grow some serious technical chops in the area of PR and SEO, learn out to deal with the wrong decisions clients have made from an SEO-perspective, without asking them to scrap everything they’ve built, and start new. Everything can be salvaged, and everything can indeed be retro-fit to perform better than anyone had imagined. It’s all just a matter of knowing everything that’s important in the PR industry, and figuring out what that means from an online perspective.

In a few years, the public relations industry will be composed of two types of people: 1) The outreach people, who will apply their skills online just as they do today with print and TV media. They’ll just be using better tools. And 2) The tech team, who will carry out special projects, knowing a great deal of depth about web publishing platforms, and how to re-spin and slice & dice the content in different ways for maximum exposure, and to keep pace with change.

  1. Avatar
    Shane Quigley

    Hi Mike, interesting article. I think you are right in one sense that SEO and PR are intrinsically linked and will be under one roof in the future, but I disagree with your point about search engine based success being a matter of choosing the right publishing platform.

    My company is responsible for some seriously high brow number 1 Google rankings and publishing platforms are the last thing we worry about.

    I also think that there are only a minority of PR people who are ready and able to change with the pace of the Internet, when compared to the average search marketer who thrives on change.

    I also belive our ability to demonstrate rapid ROI separates us from PR and therefore we have the edge in terms of growth and dominance in the online sector.

    I would very much appreciate your thoughts on my article:

    PR is dead, long live SEO!

  2. Avatar
    Mike Levin

    Hi Shane. For people who really know what they’re doing, then the publishing platform isn’t so important. Neither is it important when your chasing a coveted top competitive keyword. But HitTail is about providing an effective method to the world. And for the vast majority of web publishers, solving the SEO puzzle is much easier at the publishing platform selection phase than at the retro-fixing and link-building phase. Also, I agree that most PR companies can’t keep pace with change, but that’s why it’s a new breed of PR companies that will be leading the race.

  3. Avatar

    Now if only the PR dept could learn to code! Great read.

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