Founder and President of Come Recommended, and author of Lies, Damned Lies, and InternshipsHeather Huhman has +10 years experience providing content marketing and digital PR consulting for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers using content development, social media marketing, media & blogger relations, and SEO.

How does your job fit into the advertising process? I would argue that press relations doesn’t fit into the advertising process. Your marketing and PR should be done in coordination with any advertising campaign that you run, but advertising and public relations often work side-by-side as part of a greater overall communications strategy.

Here’s a pretty classic graphic that describes the differences:

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What’s a PR campaign you’ve worked on? Most recently, Come Recommended was contracted to run a 9 month content marketing and digital PR campaign for the launch of Resunate‘s product launch.

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We provided Resunate with a full content marketing and digital PR campaign, including pitching stories to the media at least once per month, blogging and guest blogging several times per week, focusing on specific SEO keywords, creating infographics and video content, creating and implementing a Twitter chat, and submitting Resunate’s product to startup and app review websites, among other tactics.

As a result, Resunate was named:

  • The no. 1 resume tool by DailyTekk,
  • The no. 1 tool for finding the perfect job by Mashable,
  • One of the top eight great apps for your job search by FINS, and
  • A “smart resume builder” by Lifehacker.

We also achieved for Resunate its goal of getting its top 11 keywords in the first page of Google search results. Resunate is now used by more than 20,000 job seekers in 150 countries with significantly positive job outcomes. This company was actually successfully acquired in July of this year.

What are Come Recommended‘s one-time PR ‘bump’ offers? It’s important to remember that PR, like advertising, shouldn’t be a one and done campaign, something that you turn on and off, and then hope it worked.

That being said, we recognize that many brands are operating on limited budgets, or maybe aren’t yet fully aware of how much of an impact a PR campaign could mean for them. That’s why we created our “bump” options. Our one-time “bump” packages are a great introduction into the world of PR and perfect for startups that have a limited budget and reasonable goals.

A goal of 1,000,000 new visiters isn’t going to be accomplished with a single PR release. But if your goal as an up-and-coming blog or newly started business is to get your name out there, then landing a guest blog post on a highly-ranked and highly-trafficked website definitely accomplishes introducing you to potential readers and clients as well as jump-starts your brand’s reputation.

That being said, one time press release options will produce a lot of one-time short-term traffic, but then maximizing your conversion rate ulitmately depends on:

  • How interesting your website is,
  • How interesting you are,
  • How good your content or product/service is,
  • How relevant your content is to the visiter, and
  • How accessible your social media and subscribe buttons are.

I wouldn’t recommend investing money into a PR or advertising campaign until the visiter’s experience on your website is attractive, relevent, and designed to ‘convert’.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A great PR campaign like “A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.” -Bill Bernbach]

What is a misconception people have? 2 big misconceptions I’ve encountered are that:

  • PR people are traditionally seen as spin doctors. Everything I put out there I absolutely believe in. Yes, there are people out there who are in it for the money and will write whatever you want them to write whether it’s true or not, but building your brand reputation based on lies isn’t a good long-term strategy.
  • PR is really expensive and you should always hire a PR expert to be on your internal team. Depending on your brand’s objective and budget, it may be more worthwhile employing an external full-time or part-time PR agent. At the end of the day, you need a PR support that functions.

I think the worst thing you can do as a brand that sells a product or service is to not think about PR at all. You’ve spent so much time making your product or service and website good, why wouldn’t you think about how you’re going to promote it?

This all boils down to “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, in PR, if no one’s there to hear it, then there’s no sound.

How can you tell a good PR agent when you see one? Good PR agencies will have good references, good contacts within their industry, and good samples of their work available upon request. Anyone can write a press release, but can they turn that press release into interviews and articles?

If you ask around about the PR agency and no one has heard of them, that’s not a good sign. The PR agency should be familiar to people. This is why you see me just about everywhere, publishing articles in Mashable and in US News, to name a few.

What’s the difference between “on” and “off the record”? Online publications are very, very demanding and require writers to put out fresh content constantly. So people in that industry are much more likely to ‘run with it’. Therefore I tell my clients that there is no such thing as ‘off the record’. If you say something, it’s out there.

How do you track your PR campaign’s visiters? Google Analytics is useful in tracking where visiters are coming from. For example if our client has never been on Mashable, and we get them on Mashable, obviously any traffic is a result of our activities. It’s pretty easy to measure that.

What is a lesson you’ve learned from experience? When running your own business expect to periodically make dumb mistakes up until the very end. It just happens. So to minimize that, really be careful before committing to anything. If there’s any way to test the waters before you spend a huge chunk of money, do it. Because PR is a lot like advertising in that it’s not guaranteed, there’s always the risk you might not get your return-on-investment.

Where do you go to for inspiration? In no particular order:

What advice do you have for someone who wants your job? Before you start your own company, work for a few start-ups to learn from their mistakes and to understand the business side of PR and running a business.

What’s one of your favorite ad campaigns? Here are two:

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? I think that if you’re a blogger or a small business looking to get more traffic to your website, then advertising isn’t the way to go. The online landscape is changing – people don’t click on ads, and they don’t like being advertised to, so you have to learn to do it in a lot more subtle ways. Fortunately there are many free ways to get your name out there that just require time and a little bit of knowledge.

As I’ve mentioned before, guest blogging is an excellent form of public relations and helps improve your Google page rank. Pagerank is important because it allows your website to be found organically, therefore you want to be on sites that rank highly on search engines.

So when looking for guest blogging opportunities, pitch to websites relevant to the topics on your own blog and that have a Google page rank of at least 5/10.

But be aware that a lot of websites that host guest bloggers have rules limiting promotion down to only a two-line biography included with the post. This means you’re writing about things that are relevent and not overtly promotional.

You should also be advised that websites can have high traffic and low pagerank as well as low traffic and a high pagerank. You need to weigh them both to make sure that people are reading your material immediately in addition to the value that you get from your guest post.

A second method is leaving meaningful comments on blogs that have a high traffic and pagerank. The immediate benefit is your comment is posted immediately (or somewhat immediately if it requires moderation) and people can potentially click on your URL, resulting in traffic to your site. However just because you post a comment doesn’t mean traffic is guaranteed!

Another benefit is that posting a comment is similar to a guest post in that you now have a URL linking back from the high page ranking website. It’s a quick way to increase your visibility, but it’s not as powerful as a full guest blog post.

So while you’re pitching blog post ideas to the websites, I would recommend as part of your PR campaign to find and leave meaningful comments on at least five different high Google page ranking websites in the same niche as yours per day. I say “different websites” because while 15 meaningful comments on Mashable helps you develop a reputation on Mashable, those 15 comments only count as 1 quality backlink to your website. Therefore you should also focus on finding other reputable websites to leave comments on to increase the number of backlinks to your website.

Lastly, I agree with Joshua Waldman‘s statement that “If you have an advertising budget and no product, then write free content, and invest your advertising budget into creating a product to sell”, and I would suggest focusing on a content-based product such as an ebook or a training course rather than a physical product because content-based products are very easy to update depend on your particular skills that you’re knowledgable about.

There are countless blog commenting plugins such Intense Debate and Livefyre for WordPress as well as others such as the Facebook plugin and Disqus. How should I choose my blog commenting plugin? From a PR perspective, I would recommend using a blog comments plugin that gives your readers as many login options as possible. The Facebook comments plugin may be good for advertising on Facebook, but you’re forcing your users to choose one platform that they might not even be part of (Yes, there are still people on this planet not on Facebook!)

For every 100,000 pitches to high page ranked websites, maybe 1 gets accepted, and you have written 6 articles for them. What advice can you offer to get your foot in the door? In addition to my articles, Come Recommended has helped dozens of our clients get published in highly-trafficked websites.

Mashable was my 2011 goal. Having presence with them was important not only for me but for my clients. To be accepted as a guest blogger, reading the site and knowing what type of articles they look for is important. So I read Mashable everyday for six months before I even considered being ready to approach them. Once I was prepared, understood their guidelines, knew their target audience, and knew exactly what they were looking for, I approached them and was accepted. The first pitch is often a hurdle, but once you’re in and they know you by reputation, it opens the door to future guest posting opportunities.