Sustainable Web PR Requires Relationships

For big, larger than life plays, successful web PR is based on great content and pull ideas that tell a story.  But what about  the less obvious yet more frequent daily mentions, links and endorsements that are a regular part of the web?  They’re not about buzz so much as they are about relationships.

Buzz is a vital element of digital PR, however that’s just half the equation.  The other half is relationships, something the web lets you form organically over long periods of time.  Buzz is the first step, the introduction, the way to get on the radar of those you are looking to connect with.  Without buzz you have nothing, but buzz without forming relationships puts you at the same spot.

Your social web efforts, even your SEO efforts should be creating relationships as a byproduct.

Some of my insights from fostering relationships on the web as an artist and a marketer include:

  • Relationships are symbiotic online, just as they are offline.  Both parties should get something of value in return, and in the mind of both parties this should be even.  ‘Value’ is highly open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people – understanding your audience is key to forming those relationships.
  • Some consider web relationships shallow, but I would disagree – strong relationships on the web aren’t easily broken and the fact that they are semantic actually makes them stronger and potentially more valuable as time moves forward.
  • Relationships with the right people in time will help you/your brand build social capital.  In fact, as few as 10 people could potentially put you on the path to success.
  • Good web-based relationships are nurtured and strengthened as products of the following formula:  (time)(valuable interactions) = strength of relationship.
  • Relationships actually have nothing to do with blogs, Twitter, email, or any one tool – they have to do with connections and are in fact platform agnostic.
  • Getting consistent mentions by a blogger or social media power user is more about relationships than benefits.  The same is true in traditional media to a good degree.
  • Don’t undervalue your digital relationships and do everything you can to grow them – they are now one of your brand’s most valuable assets in either the physical or digital world (it’s a mistake to think they are separate).
  • Bloggers enjoy having frequent conversations with each other, thus why many writers often mention the same sites/stories.  If you’re a blogger and you’re not getting links from other blogs, it’s not necessarily because you’re boring, it’s probably because you’re not linking out frequently enough and being social.
  • Are you actively encouraging the people who take the time to share, link or talk about your brand on the web?  If your business is ignoring these people instead of connecting with them, you’re opening the door for competitors to steal them out from under you.
  • A silent army of people promoting your content is in many cases due to positive relationships (although it is also due to great content – but if you can have both, even better).
  • Relationships can actually be formed from content alone – it is that powerful and emotive if you do it right.

I’ve found the web-based relationships I’ve made to be life altering both professionally and personally for the better, and know some of you have had the same type of experiences.  I’ve seen the same benefits for companies and brands, but am still surprised at how few take the time to nurture them.  The benefits are not always directly measurable, sure, but not everything needs to be tied to a dollar amount or numerical value if it is helping carve out a trusted digital reputation.