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Public Relations 101 in a Web 2.0 World

Effective promotions embrace social media and 'old school' channels.

It’s difficult to pick up a business publication these days without finding an article about the power of social networking for building your brand and publicizing your business.

Everyone wants to talk about Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. “Twitter” was even named “word of the year” by Global Language Monitor, a firm that analyzes and tracks trends in the development of words and phrases in the English language. Among the more than 1.58 billion English speakers in the world, Twitter was the single word most often used in 2009.

We share the excitement of Web 2.0 innovations and spend lots of time working on sites to spread the word about our work, and share information we think might interest our readers. Every indicator points to a growing role for Web 2.0 as a promotional tool for your business. Whether you have yet to achieve measurable success through social media promotion, no one who has been working toward that goal can deny that using these sites can be fun and very engaging.

Since we’re so enthusiastic about these tools, we thought we’d share with you a recent experience that reminded us just how important the old-fashioned kind of publicity can be. That’s especially true if you’re prepared to combine both good, solid PR 101 and your Web 2.0 efforts. Here’s our story.

This fall we were honored by the National Press Club at its 32nd Annual Book Fair & Authors’ Night. We were there to represent our recently released book, “How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Other Social Networks.” This event was a real feather in our caps and, as you might guess, we were very thrilled about it. Of course, we updated our status on all the right sites and sent out tweets about it, too.

With just one article in our local paper, we suddenly found ourselves with a number of exciting opportunities

Then we went analog and started calling our local media outlets. We’re fortunate to live in an area with two monthly magazines, a daily newspaper and several smaller weekly papers. Big things started to happen once an article about our book and upcoming honor appeared in a local paper.

Within days of the phone call to pitch our story idea, we’d talked to a reporter and had scheduled an appointment with a press photographer to come for our picture. The week before our appearance at the Press Club, a very thorough and flattering article ran in our paper, and then things really started to pop for us. We heard from several local governments requesting us to speak at local business club meetings. We were contacted by a service organization to present a program for seniors about using these sites. Most satisfying, our local military outpost approached us to present some help and support to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who need help finding jobs in our difficult economy.

With just one article in our local paper, we suddenly found ourselves with a number of exciting opportunities. Of course, we sent out status updates and tweets about the article and our new efforts, too. Our social networking allowed us to share links about both the article itself and our upcoming honor. And our local media success gave us new topics for our social media promotion.

Tips from a PR master

Scott Testa, Ph.D. and professor of business administration at Cabrini College, just north of Philadelphia, is a master at combining standard PR practices with the power of social media. A visit to his Twitter page shows his success in having his work featured in such publications as the Houston Chronicle,, The Denver Post, Ad Week and many others. He is always in the news.

“I try to make reporters’ and editors’ jobs easier,” he explains.

Here, he shares some tips to make it more likely that you, too, will be able to get some media attention:

    eBay sellers are experts, whether in operating an e-commerce business or in their own product areas

  • Keep your pitch short and to the point. Testa knows reporters and editors have limited time. Before he gets in touch with a reporter, he makes certain he can answer the question: “Why would my readers be interested in this?”

  • Reach out on the phone. “Your emotions come out well,” Testa says. “I leave short succinct voice messages.”

  • Portray yourself as an expert. eBay sellers are experts, whether in operating an e-commerce business or in their own product areas.

  • Tie your pitch to something timely. If you sell antiques, pitch your story idea when there’s an antiques show in town for example. If you sell electronics, tie your pitch to a new product release.

  • Make yourself available. Scott has a good relationship with lots of reporters, and he understands that their jobs sometimes require quick attention. “If they have a tight deadline, I will talk to them at night or over the weekend,” he tells us.

You would be justified in asking us just exactly how we propose you develop relationships like these. Well, we’ll have to leave you on your own to explore your local media, but we can recommend a fabulous Web site, Help a Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is where reporters go to ask specific questions about articles they’re researching. We’ve used it many times ourselves. HARO collects these queries, then e-mails and otherwise gets the word out about them twice each day. Your job will then be to browse these queries to see if any of your areas of expertise are included. Just like that, you’ve found a media outlet to approach.

Of course, we’ve long proposed that eBay sellers link with charitable giving as a way to build loyalty and promote their businesses. Whether you work through eBay Giving Works or stay strictly local, when you partner with a nonprofit organization, not only do you benefit from the publicity about the event you support, but you double your publicity efforts, as both you and your partners will be promoting your involvement. Once you have completed a charitable gift or event, go back to your social media outlets to let the world know the good thing you did in your own backyard.

As you can see, successful social media promotion and successful business efforts go hand-in-hand. You may not have noticed the steps you took that led you into this brave new world of Web 2.0, but now that you’re here finding new ways to integrate your life both on the Web and off can present you with a world of new opportunities. Be sure to send us a tweet so we can see what you’re up to!

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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