Search engine optimization and public relations go hand in hand –just like peanut butter and jelly. While it’s possible to have one without the other, to maximize their effectiveness, you need to employ both tactics.
Online PR is an excellent tool for creating content that creates natural, organic backlinks by utilizing keywords and links within press releases. It can also improve your reputation by creating positive content that pushes negative reviews down in the search engines.
However, PR isn’t just for businesses. Individuals, such as celebrities and politicians, take advantage of public relations all the time. Nevertheless, there are many traps you can fall into if you don’t know what you’re doing, and the results of these pitfalls can be disastrous.
The current presidential race has presented several examples of public relations faux pas that could have been avoided. Here are just a few:
Herman Cain Denies Sexual Allegations
Background: Over the past few months, several women have come forward alleging that Herman Cain sexually harassed them. Another woman came forward claiming that she engaged in a long-term affair with the presidential hopeful. Cain denied all of these allegations, claiming he had never even met some of the women.
The Pitfall: Using the “deny, deny, deny” technique (also known as the “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” technique).
What he should have done: The absolute worst thing you can do during a crisis situation is tell a lie—especially when you are in the public eye. Someone, somewhere, will eventually catch you, and then your credibility will plummet even further. Cain should have taken control of the story by confirming what events had taken place, and making a public apology if necessary. You would think that Cain would have learned from the Bill Clinton scandal and the Anthony Weiner controversy and would have realized that lies come back to haunt you. But I suppose everybody thinks they are the exception to the rule. Hint: You’re not. Better to play it safe than sorry.
Background: Back in October, Michele Bachmann’s entire New Hampshire campaign staff resigned, citing frustration with the campaign. When Bachmann was interviewed about the incident, she responded that she was not aware that anybody had resigned. In the weeks following the incident, the New Hampshire campaign staff started giving additional details about their sudden resignation. They stated that they were frustrated because. Bachmann’s national staff had essentially ignored the New Hampshire team, and had not paid them their wages in more than a month.
The Pitfall: Ignorance.
What She Should Have Done: Ignorance was shown both in Bachmann’s lack of knowledge about her New Hampshire team quitting, and in neglecting them to the point that they resigned. It’s important to always know what is going on in your organization—from knowing that your employees are frustrated, to knowing that they no longer work for you.
Disgruntled employees can be the biggest threat to any organization because they know the dirt, and can easily take to the media to spill it. I know there’s a saying out there that “any publicity is good publicity,” but this is not the case. Practicing internal PR is a must in order to manage your organization effectively.
Rick Perry’s Debate Blunders
Background: Rick Perry has been infamous this campaign season for his terrible debating skills. At one point in October, the Texas governor made a comment that he didn’t want to participate in the debates anymore. He later changed his mind after he was criticized (and I’m sure after his campaign staff told him the move would be political suicide), but his debating skills have not improved. Since his statement, Perry has been known as the “forgetful” politician—forgetting which government agencies he would eliminate if he were elected president, forgetting the nation’s legal voting age, forgetting how many Supreme Court justices there are and forgetting the name of a Supreme Court justice he was criticizing.
On a search engine optimization related note, Perry currently holds the title for the most hated video on YouTube, which is reportedly the world’s second-largest search engine. The video currently has more than 660,000 dislikes, stealing the title from Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video.
The Pitfall: Being unprepared.
What He Should Have Done: Practice speaking in front of a mirror, and bring note cards to debates and interviews. Just do anything but wing it. It is essential to be prepared in PR; not doing so can hurt your reputation as an expert and bring about unwanted publicity.
Jon Huntsman “Sells Out” on Global Warming
Background: In August, Jon Huntsman tweeted, “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming.” However, just a few weeks ago at the Heritage Foundation, Huntsman seemed to back off that statement by implying that science might not have all the answers.
The Pitfall: Not sticking to your guns.
What He Should Have Done: Jon Huntsman should have either a) never tweeted his position on global warming or b) made his statement at the Heritage Foundation to be in line with the tweet. A social media marketing strategy could have done wonders in this situation. You can’t have it both ways to please everyone. If you try, you just end up disappointing everybody.
Newt Gingrich Thinks Poor Kids Should Clean Dirty Toilets
Background: On more than one occasion, Newt Gingrich has stated that he would do away with child labor laws in order to allow “poor kids” to work as janitors and earn money for their families. He also stated that he believes schools should get rid of their janitorial staff and hire the students to clean the schools. Gingrich claims that this would teach children a good work ethic and give students a sense of pride in their schools. Gingrich has since backed off from his comments.
The Pitfall: Offending your publics.
What He Should Have Done: Gingrich should have done some quick research on his publics to find out if they agreed with eliminating child labor laws. By making such a bold, unpopular statement, Gingrich offended many voters, which could jeopardize his presidential bid.
Rick Santorum Feels the Wrath of the Bloggers
Background: Almost 10 years ago, Rick Santorum made some disparaging remarks about the gay community. One blogger, Dan Savage, was angered by the remarks and held a contest on his blog to redefine the meaning of the word “Santorum.” The new definition was meant to be shocking and offensive. Savage then encouraged his followers to link to the definition. The campaign was so successful, that it outranks the senators own website and Wikipedia page. Savage recently threatened to redefine the word “Rick” if the senator does not play nice. Last year, Santorum approached Google asking them to remove the website from its rankings, but Google decided to take a transparent approach.
The Pitfall: Offending the wrong people
What He Should Have Done: So, as mentioned before, it’s impossible to please everybody. However, Santorum has done little to fix his Google problem. Santorum should have employed a few search engine optimization tactics to outrank the website and nip the problem in the butt.
Mitt Romney Flip-Flops
Background: Over the past few years, Mitt Romney has been famous for taking a stance on an issue one day, and then changing that stance, causing him to be labeled a “flip-flopper.” There is even an entire website dedicated to keeping track of all the flip-flops that Mitt Romney has made.
The Pitfall: Trying to please everybody.
What He Should Have Done: The fact of the matter is, you’re not going to please everybody, and you shouldn’t try. Mitt Romney needs to concentrate on pleasing his publics. Utilizing online public relations would also be a good idea to offset the flip-flop website.
Obama’s Online Store Took All My Money
Background: Barack Obama hasn’t really ramped up his campaign yet, but I wanted to keep this blog post as unbiased as possible. So this anecdote is a personal one. Recently, I was trying to purchase two coffee mugs for some Obama fans on my Christmas list. I put my credit card info in, and a dialogue box popped up saying “I’m sorry, your payment did not go through, please try again.” I then proceeded to “try again” 42 times before eventually giving up. A few days later I received a bank statement in the mail saying I had been charged overdraft fees. After a tearful call to the bank, I was told that while I was never officially charged for my purchase, I had $40.00 withheld 42 times on my bank account. Long story short, those coffee mugs cost me a lot more than $40.
The Pitfall: Detail disorientation.
What He Should Have Done: OK, so I doubt the president himself is the code monkey for his own website, as I’m sure he has more pressing issues to worry about (like war and the economy and stuff). However, his campaign team needs to become more detail oriented – especially if they are promoting said coffee mug over the social media channels every day. Mistakes can hurt a company’s reputation and cost a lot of money, and a political campaign is no different.
Candidates RSVP “No” to Trump Debate
Background: Donald Trump announced that he would be hosting a Republican debate on Dec. 27. Trump also announced that he would officially endorse one of the candidates for president following the debate.
All but two (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) of the Republican candidates have said that they would not attend the debate because they were afraid that Trump would find a way to turn the event into an episode of “The Apprentice.” Critics say that this is not becoming of the presidency. Trump was eventually forced to cancel the debate.
The Pitfall: None.
What They Should Have Done. This is one move political candidates have done right. It shows the American people that they take the campaign very seriously and do not wish to see the campaign turn into a reality TV show for sheer entertainment.
Whether you’re a business looking to improve your image, or an individual looking for advice on how to manage your reputation, public relations can do wonders. If you’re seeking more common public relations pitfalls and how to avoid them, check out this PRMarketing.com e-book.
- New Hampshire Polls: Will We See An Iowa Bump? (huffingtonpost.com)
- US Republican rivals chase Romney (news.smh.com.au)
- Santorum, Romney Focus on Obama as Huntsman, Gingrich Target Frontrunners (foxnews.com)
- Romney retains strong lead in New Hampshire as Santorum gains in polls (guardian.co.uk)
- Tables Turn on Romney as Rivals Assail Him in New Hampshire (businessweek.com)