Here’s why, if you want to improve your search rankings you need to use PR



“Search engines have evolved to be much more sensitive to manipulation – to the point that SEO really is indistinguishable from PR in many cases.

“The traditional skills of PR, creating genuinely newsworthy content and earning coverage, mentions, shares and links from respected publications, sites and industry influencers, are key for effective SEO.”

This is why PR has to be an integral part of your marketing strategy if you want to improve your search rankings.  And why we have to be constantly watching out for changes which affect the way search rankings work.

Five search trends to watch from a PR and SEO perspective:

1.The rise of voice search

People search differently by voice than by typing.  What you yell at Alexa or Siri is not exactly what you type in your search bar.

Brands need to create content that works for long tail searches, with key words which are going to be used in this format.  Which is a good thing, as highly specific multi-word phrases tend to be more effective in achieving well in search rankings

“PR agencies that understand the importance of key words and how they work in the mobile world can add real value to clients as content strategy changes.”

2. Featured Snippets

Half of all searches are predicted to be voice searches by 2020.

So Featured Snippets – the block on the top right of your Google search – will be absolutely vital as they are used to drive voice search results.

Activity and content needs to be devised with these in mind.

3. Personalisation

There will be a more searches based on images and personalisation, where the search starts by seeing the right picture for that person.

PR must take this into account. Good quality imagery and visuals should accompany your copy.

4. Eyefluence

Google bought an eye-tracking startup last year Eyefluence. We need to keep an eye out on this trend (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

5. Fred

Fred, Google’s latest update has put a huge emphasis on good quality content.

“The rules of great communication remain constant: understand your audience and give them the content they want.

New technologies mean that search experts can never completely relax as there is always a new trick to learn.”  Danny Parker, editor PR Moment.

These five trends formed the basis of an internal training programme we recently delivered at Twelve PR.    

You can read the original copy and quotes on

Building brand trust. What is the role of PR?

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Trust in business, government, journalists and charities has all fallen dramatically in the past year.

Charities took the biggest trust hit, dropping from a “neutral” position of 50 per cent trust in 2016, to 46 per cent in the autumn, to 32 per cent at the turn of 2017. [i]

What can you do to prove that your brand or product can be trusted?

If you’re a charity for example, how can you protect your revenue streams, which allow you to keep delivering your charitable mission, if people don’t trust you with their money? Does PR even have a role in building brand trust?

The role of PR

The Trump election and Brexit votes have shown us that people are fed up with ‘corporate speak’. They are want plain, even blunt words, without any spin.

But this is not the time to ditch the PR.  This is exactly the time to use your PR team even more.

Your communications people need to get out there and connect with staff, customers and stakeholders so that they can help ensure that the voice from every level and touch point of your organisation can be heard.

For example, in October last year the National Trust was hit by accusations of corporate bullying.  The story  was covered over a few weeks in the national media, followed later by reports of a dramatic drop in donations because of the bullying allegations.

Amplifying authentic voices

One of the ways the National Trust has responded to this is to encourage communication from staff at grass roots level:

“PR has already evolved to the point where our gardeners and our teams in the field tell authentic stories about the charity. Those stories don’t always have to come from the press or PR team. Looking ahead, it’s all about widening the network of people who are going to be telling our stories.”

You can read the full article about this in PR Week but the message is clear – use PR to facilitate and amplify the voice and views of people at all levels of your organisation so that your true values and actions can be seen and trusted.

Here’s an example

Our client Cawleys is one of the largest family owned, waste management businesses in the south east.  Like all businesses in logistics, it wants to recruit good HGV drivers. Cawleys is a great place to work, with supportive teams, training, flexible hours etc. It really does deliver on family values as a great place to work.   But all companies says that don’t they?  How do we make it authentic, ensure people trust the message from Cawleys and apply to work there?

We’ve created a campaign across social media to show what a day at work as a driver at Cawleys is really like.  We’ve made sure the driver’s voice is heard as she speaks so well. Yes the person at the wheel of the skip lorry is a brilliant female driver – what better spokesperson than Kayla?

Six steps to build trust in your PR message

1. Back up every statement you make with evidence.  It’s old fashioned but more important than ever.

2. Draw evidence from as many sources as you can.  Evidence includes stories from individuals who can tell their story or describe their experience of your brand or product.

3. Identify your champions.  Keep talking to your people and ask their opinions and you will find someone who has something interesting and authentic to say.

4. Ensure you are using accessible channels or promoting your message – their message –  in the right medium.

5. Make it short and easy to understand.  For example if you are using the Yoast plugin to check your SEO performance on WordPress platforms, when it says make your text shorter, or less dense, it might be an idea to do       that. It is suggesting ways to make your words more accessible.

6. Use different methods of communication. Remember that one in ten adults struggle with literacy, and use videos.  Use captions on your videos for people who can read well, and who watch videos with the sound on mute.

[i] The measurement of trust  survey is from Edelman’s Trust Barometer which has been conducted for the past 17 years. It is based on a survey of 33,000 respondents globally including 1,150 people in the UK during the Autumn of 2016, either side of Donald Trump’s election as US President.


What can PR do for my business?

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or… the Independent to cease publication in print. 

The last print edition of the Independent newspaper will probably be published on March 26th.  What has this got to do with PR and what it can do for your business?

I was working at the Guardian when the Independent was launched.  How we worried about this newcomer and the threat it would pose to our sales. None of us knew there was an iceberg forming in the water ahead of us which would hit the bottom line of every single newspaper, the internet.

Explosion of media channels

While the print edition of the Independent has been sunk, the number of media channels has exploded, and the need to employ a PR agency to manage reputations or meet targets has increased.

News comes from hundreds of different places now, with competition just as intense online as it was in print, as this quote about the Independent’s situation shows:

“The online version faces almost as tough a task in competing with the excellent online offerings of other established news organisations,” said Charlie Beckett, director of the London School of Economics’s Polis journalism think-tank.

“As well as the new digital kids on the block such as BuzzFeed and Politico, the international news brands such as the New York Times are edging into the UK market.”

More skills required

With this proliferation of media channels, it is becoming much harder for any one person to have the skills required to manage communication effectively.

Businesses need to monitor and manage their profile across a much wider range of channels, or work much harder to identify the ones which really make a difference, if they are to change behaviour in their favour.

It requires a team, focused on different tasks, across different channels, repeating activities and learning from them day after day to keep ahead of change and help products or brands be heard through the noise.

One good piece of coverage in a national newspaper can still transform a business – for good or bad – but what is also different now from a communications point of view, is the long tail of the internet and the volatility of opinion.

Good management and preparedness

The volatility of opinion is a particularly new phenomenon which needs careful management and preparedness. A corporate error or mistake can be magnified a thousand times over if it takes off on social media, and a ‘mistake’ can take so many forms now.

At the extreme end it can be a true disaster such as an industrial accident, but it could also be ‘doing nothing’ when challenged with a question on twitter from a member of the public, which is picked up as a sign of indifference or arrogance, which then gains momentum online…

It might be a well-intentioned response to an email which is then publicised on a blog post which is shared a thousand times online until the mainstream media picks up on it and it becomes a crisis you have to deal with.

Proactive communication and marketing

This is just the reactive side of the communications business.  What about proactive marketing and campaigning? Last year, ad blocking grew by 82% in the UK, and by June 2015, 12 million internet users were actively blocking ads.  This makes the need for editorial profile more important than ever, and is where a PR agency can really help, both to create the content and also ensure it can be seen in the right places.

A good PR agency will be able to integrate your communications and help you manage it effectively across the many different channels now available.  Here are some questions you can ask to find out what a PR agency can do for you:

  • Will I have a team working on my account which includes a variety of ages, to give me experience across many channels rather than just one? A very young team for example may cover social media channels brilliantly, but can they also handle broadcast or board level communication?
  • Do they have all the skills I need in-house, for example SEO, video production, content writing, Google goal-setting and analysis, and well as brochure writing? If many or all of these are outsourced, you could be paying twice for a service. Don’t be afraid to ask who is doing what and ask for examples.
  • Can they integrate different marketing channels? For example, can your PR agency deliver and measure the results of an email campaign, which will dovetail with your new product launch and exhibition activity? Can they help you survey customers and harness their opinions?

Integration and relationship building

The one thing that doesn’t seem to change in the communication world is the importance of a good relationship.

A PR agency should help you achieve your business objectives, and should give you the tools to measure how well they are doing this.  Because they work as a team across all media channels they should be a well-spring of ideas for you, able to anticipate your needs and offer creative solutions and ideas.

The better they know you and your business the more they should be able to help, and the more you know about how they work, the greater return on investment you should see from them.