~ S P E C I A L ~ F E A T U R E ~


8 Principles of Online Promotion

from

Complete Guide to
Internet Publicity

by Steve O'Keefe

INTRODUCTION Complete Guide to Internet Publicity

The excerpt, below, is taken from the new book, Complete Guide to Internet Publicity, by Steve O'Keefe. It describes the eight principles O'Keefe considers when designing online promotional campaigns. Based on eight years of trial and error and over 1000 online marketing campaigns, these core beliefs have been forged in the superheated crucible of cyberspace.

More information about the author and the book follows the excerpt. Please feel free to join Steve O'Keefe every Tuesday afternoon for a free, open chat about online publicity techniques at the Patron Saint Productions web site, http://www.patronsaintpr.com.


8 Principles of Online Promotion

by Steve O'Keefe

What lessons can we draw from our eight-year experiment with the commercial Internet? From a marketing perspective, and with a view from trenches based on hundreds of campaigns, here are the attributes I consider when designing online promotions.

1. Transactional

For the time being, the Internet is still a transactions- based medium. With few exceptions, it is not a good vehicle for entertainment. People have been conditioned by television to expect a level of quality that can't be delivered online - - even with what passes for a broadband connection. People expect their entertainment to contain beautiful, clear video streams, backed with quality acting, writing, lighting, sound, music, animation, and graphics. In some future world where it is possible to deliver this level of quality to a decent-size screen/monitor, most companies won't be able to afford to produce this kind of programming. Perhaps only then will it become apparent that most companies should stay out of the entertainment business and focus on handling transactions through their web sites.

Companies are spending most of their online budgets improving the efficiency of operations, and that's the way it should be. Rather than eliminate market intermediaries, the Internet makes it possible to economically serve trade customers and suppliers. Maybe eight years of experience has taught us the value of intermediaries in organizing markets?

The broad online audience follows a grab-and-go pattern, hunting for solutions, gathering documents, and heading home. Retail customers prefer to shop at stores where they can not only find good prices, service, and selection, but where they have an account relationship. Money spent turning your e- commerce site into an entertainment site is largely wasted. If the Internet is a transactional medium, it makes sense to devote your online budget to serving the transactional needs of your business partners, and to export your promotions to the high-traffic entertainment and information sites where your target audience gathers.

2. Filtering

In a world where every voice can be heard, nothing is so valuable as a good set of filters. From an unbridled infostream, we are entering an era of filtered content again. The public has learned to value the role of the media as judges of worth. They gravitate to sites where the filters are set to favor their tastes. They draw from a variety of sources, to make sure they are getting the full story and the right spin, but they also demand access to source documents so they can make up their own minds about how well the media is doing its job. Finding these key media properties, and working together with them, is part of the publicist's agenda.

The public will use e-mail filters to lock the vast majority of online users out of their mail boxes. Journalists will use filters, too, to keep from having their e-mail clogged with the pitches of indiscriminate publicists. Filtration can be a death sentence for publicists, forever banished from the In boxes of the media. The trick for publicists is to learn to court the media in a way that doesn't trigger filtration. One method is to work through the web sites where the press gathers. Another strategy is a return to printed publicity, where a poorly targeted news release doesn't carry a price tag of irrevocable shunning.

3. Targeting

Targeting is the natural reaction to filtering. Publicists need to be careful about what messages they send and who they send them to. If they can't impose this discipline themselves, it will be imposed by their audiences. Better targeting comes from knowing the detailed interests of the people you are trying to communicate with. However, the public is leery of revealing these details of their private lives. It makes sense to export promotions to those sites that are able to capture enough information about their users to target effectively.

In media relations, publicists have to do a better job of tracking what stories media contacts are interested in. They need to actually read the publications journalists are writing for, watch the programs producers put together, and note changes in direction signaled by new jobs or job titles.

4. Layering

One of the unique hallmarks of online communication is the layered message. The marketing chain begins with a simple query to find people interested in a topic, with a button to press for more information. These initial salvos have to be brief and on target, so those not interested in one particular message will ignore it instead of filtering you out permanently or retaliating against you. Those who find the message of interest should be able to easily dig deeper for more information.

At each stage of the marketing chain, this pattern is followed, with an easy opt out for those who are not interested in going further, and depth of information available for those who will follow. People drilling through this process expect a pay off at the end. Journalists expect to find good source documents, artwork, interview prospects, and contact information. The public expects to find detailed, relevant, up-to-date information.

5. Universal Access

Web surfers really don't care if you provide a variety of viewing options for your content -- as long as you provide the one they want. Each format decision you make can shave a few percentage points off the audience; make enough of these decisions, and you end up with an inaccessible promotion. The solution is to offer alternatives to meet the needs of different users: newsletters in text, HTML, and AOL formats; streaming media optimized for three different speeds; artwork displayed in low resolution for fast browsing, but available in high-resolution for the media; web sites designed to look appealing with any browser; promotions that don't require an arsenal of plug-ins to enjoy. Add foreign language translations and time-zone sensitivity to the list, and you have a set of variables that can overwhelm any webmaster.

Universal access is another reason to partner with high- traffic sites on promotions. It could be prohibitively expensive for you to offer the features desired by your target audience. Take payment and shipping options, for example. If you buy books from publisher sites, chances are your choices are very restricted. Go to Amazon.com, and you'll find numerous ways to have your books shipped, and a corresponding number of choices for how to settle the bill. The complexities involved in serving a large -- and largely unknown -- universal audience argue for a strategy of focusing your own web site on a core audience of business relations, and exporting promotions to sites capable of serving the diverse needs of the general public.

6. Self-Protection

Every promotion has to be examined through the lens of self- protection. People can no longer be expected to open unsolicited e-mail, and will certainly resist opening file attachments. You also have to assess the likelihood of a promotion to result in criticism and/or an attack. One of the problems I have with calculations of return on investment (ROI), is that they seldom take into account the negative impacts of poor promotions. What price do you put on damage to a brand or strained relationships with consumers? Does ROI take into account the costs of repairing computer systems infected with viruses, or installing and maintaining security software? Internet marketers need to do a better job of assessing the short-term and long-term risks to their companies from botched online promotions.

7. Sharing Value

Marketing messages by themselves are ignored online or retaliated against. A more successful strategy is to offer the public and the press something of value in exchange for accepting your promotional pitch. When you approach the media, you should offer a compelling story, and back it up with documents, statistics, artwork, and interview subjects. When you approach the public, you should offer content that satisfies, in the form of articles, tip sheets, help files, and offers of expert assistance. When you approach high- traffic web sites, you should offer programming that will help them attract and retain an audience.

Every company has something of value to share with the online audience. Usually, it is expertise in the field. One of the jobs of the publicist is to uncover the value locked inside a company, and format it for online delivery. The knee-jerk route is to advertise -- to pay to place the marketing message online and hope enough of the audience responds. The tactical route, with a more lasting impact, is to publicize - - to create something of value and donate it to the online audience, letting your marketing message ride along for free.

8. Partnership

As the number of web sites online explodes, the ability for small sites or stand-alone promotions to draw an audience dwindles. All of the characteristics of online communication point in the same direction: the need to promote products and services through high-traffic channels that the online audience has embraced. Filtered content has come to the Internet, and you need to get inside those filters by going to sites that are trusted. My new book, "Complete Guide to Internet Publicity" will show you exactly how to do that.


About the Author

Steve O'Keefe

STEVE O'KEEFE wrote the book on Internet publicity - literally. He is the author of the first book ever written about online publicity, the best-selling Publicity on the Internet (Wiley, 1997), an award-winning guide considered the Bible of the industry. That obsolete classic was replaced by Steve's newest book, Complete Guide to Internet Publicity (Wiley, 2002) -- his long-awaited magnum opus based on over 1000 campaigns. Steve pioneered many online marketing techniques which are now considered standard practice, including:

  • Web Site Registration Campaigns
  • Web Site Linkage Campaigns
  • E-Mail News Releases
  • Chat Tours

STEVE O'KEEFE was one of the original writers for Internet World magazine, wrote the "Cyber Publicity" column for PR News (a Phillips publication), and has written "Online Marketing" columns for several trade journals. His writing has appeared in over 100 publications including The Wall Street Journal, Harper's, Outside, Small Press, Salon, Curio, NetWorth, HotWired, and has been anthologized in several books including "Publicity Basics," by the prestigious Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Steve is a member of the adjunct faculty at Tulane University where he teaches online publicity and public relations.

STEVE O'KEEFE is Executive Director of Patron Saint Productions, Inc., a publishing consultancy specializing in online marketing strategy, campaigns, and training (http://www.patronsaintpr.com). He has worked with almost every major publisher in the United States, including: Random House, Prima, HarperCollins, Crown Books, IDG Books, Dearborn, 10 Speed Press, AMACOM, Heinemann, Prentice Hall, Knopf, Simon & Schuster, St. Martin's, and The New York Review of Books.

The list of authors Steve has promoted is truly stunning, and includes: Dr. Seuss, Chaim Potok, Douglas Coupland, Margaret Thatcher, Kenneth Silverman, Dr. Dean Ornish, Robin Quivers, Morris Dees, Robert Silverberg, Isabel Allende, Russell Banks, Florence Griffith Joyner, Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Tony Alessandra, William Gibson, Paul & Sarah Edwards, Marsha Sinetar, Terry Savage, Janet Lowe, and Philip Pullman among hundreds of others.

Steve is particularly proud that he is the publicist other Internet experts turn to for online promotion. He has launched campaigns for virtually every superstar of Internet marketing, including Jill Ellsworth, Larry Chase, Jim Sterne, Karen Southwick, Kara Swisher, Joshua Quittner & Michelle Slatalla, David Kline, Patricia B. Seybold, Adrian J. Slywotzky & David J. Morrison, Robert E. Kelley, Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey Stamps, Robbin Zeff & Brad Aronson, Paul Gilster, Daniel S. Janal, Kim M. Bayne, Chuck Martin, and Glenn Davis.


About the Book

Complete Guide to Internet Publicity

Complete Guide to Internet Publicity:
Creating and Launching Successful Online Campaigns

by Steve O'Keefe
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
2002, ISBN 0-471-10580-5, 436 pages, softcover, $34.95
Available at most bookstores online and off,
or buy it directly through our store here.

Nobody knows more about making a splash on the Internet than Steve O'Keefe. And no book reveals better how to do it than this one.
-- Fraser P. Seitel,
Author of The Principles of Public Relations

Steve O'Keefe's book is, by far, the most comprehensive Internet publicity book available. It's a tool that any business owner or publicist needs to read to conduct an effective online PR campaign.
-- Lorilyn Bailey,
CEO, NewsBuzz.com

Complete Guide to Internet Publicity is the bedrock reference book for designing and implementing online publicity campaigns. The book takes a "how-to" approach, with detailed instructions for planning the campaigns, creating the materials needed, launching the campaigns, dealing with any problems, and measuring the results. The instructions are highlighted with anecdotes culled from hundreds of campaigns conducted by the author and other Internet publicity professionals. Chapters include:

  1. The Power of Internet Publicity
  2. E-Mail News Releases
  3. Online News Rooms
  4. Discussion Group Postings
  5. Newsletters and Direct Marketing
  6. Chat Tours
  7. Online Seminars and Workshops
  8. Web Site Registration and Linkage
  9. Contests and Other Fancy Promotions
  10. Syndicating Your Promotions
  11. Building an Online Publicity Operation

Complete Guide to Internet Publicity is a goldmine for those people responsible for online publicity operations, whether as managers, professionals, instructors or students, including such professions as marketing, advertising, web site design & construction, e-commerce, direct marketing, and customer service.

The book and companion web site both include templates for all the campaign materials described, and time-saving resources to help locate target audiences online. This book is essential to anyone charged with promoting a product, service, company, person, or web site. Order your copy today.

Please join Steve O'Keefe for a free, open chat program about online publicity techniques. Chats are held every Tuesday afternoon from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time at the Patron Saints Productions web site, http://www.patronsaintpr.com.


Copyright 2002 by Steve O'Keefe. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Please feel free to duplicate and distribute this file as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact.