There are many cogs in the digital PR machine; here we reveal them, for those wanting to run their own campaigns.
By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology
If you’re in business and looking to sell more, you’ve most likely been looking at different and cost-effective ways of marketing your products so you raise awareness and get additional customers. Maybe you’re thinking about printing up some fliers and distributing them around town; perhaps you’re dallying with the notion of running ads on the local radio station or in your community newspaper; you might even be thinking of splashing out and sponsoring the town’s football team.
But with the majority of people getting their news and entertainment online, compared to traditional media, you may have come to the realisation that the internet is where you need to be, that you have to market your products digitally to get noticed and gain traction over your rivals. But how do you go about it? Even if your company has a social media presence, you can’t keep blasting about how great your products are, because that’s not how it works and you’ll just turn people away.
If, like most businesses, your objective is to increase your online presence and draw higher levels of traffic to your website, you need to draw up some kind of online marketing or digital PR strategy that will allow this to happen. And you may want to do your online PR yourself, instead of handing the task to an agency, because you simply may not have the budget to use a digital PR service. In this post, we’re going to show you some ways you can go about creating and executing a digital PR strategy to get the kind of results you’re after.
Digital PR: the benefits for companies
Before we get to devising a digital PR plan for those who want to run their own campaigns, let’s have a brief look at the advantages this form of marketing and publicity has for firms. The most notable and immediate effect is an uptick in traffic to your website, due to higher search rankings, because Google takes into account your newly gained earned links from high-authority sites. This happens when you win coverage in various media based on campaign ideas you’ve come up with; and Google will also reward mentions — implied links — of your company and its brands. You may now notice that when you use relevant keywords in Google, you appear higher in the list of results and maybe even on the coveted page one, far above your competitors. This is a hugely beneficial outcome, because it means web users are more likely to click through to sites that appear at the top of results rather than those on page two, three or further down.
When a digital PR campaign is running, it may also generate a buzz on social media, which is a great way for a company to boost its image online — the more people talking about the story, and the firm, the better. It results in higher levels of social shares and also more traffic to the company’s website, especially if the original story that was picked up by the media is hosted there, as a blog post, knowledge base article or press release.
All this can have the effect of snaring new customers and sales, as people visit your website for the first time, while also enhancing brand loyalty — customers love to see their favourite brands creating quality content aimed at them, and they like that the companies they admire and buy from are active online and part of the conversation. It’s no wonder digital PR has become such an invaluable tool in firms’ internet marketing efforts.
DIY digital PR: the basics
If you want your company to benefit from some or all of the above results from digital PR campaigns, you need to work out a strategy: what are you going to create, how are you going to get it into the online media and which sites are right for you?
The starting point is:
- Knowing who your audience is
Who is your average customer, and what are their demographics, in terms of age, gender, location, education and profession? If you don’t yet fully know, it’s time to work out your buyer persona. This will be the starting point of not only your digital PR campaign but all your marketing initiatives, allowing you to target your message to the people that matter to you. Anything else is just a waste.
- Coming up with ideas (ideation)
Even for seasoned PR pros, this can be the most difficult part of devising a strategy. What can you create that will pique the interest of journalists and get you in the media? The news cycle, or agenda, is constantly swirling, and what might work today could be a dead duck tomorrow. But get it right and you could get a ton of valuable coverage that includes links to your website. Where to start?
Consider new developments at your company that might interest journalists, locally or nationally. It could be a new management appointment, the launch of an innovative new product or service or perhaps even industry information that’s not generally known. Journalists love press releases, so you can write one up about your newsworthy item and reveal it to the world.
Nothing new happening? Then make some news. Run a survey, using various online tools and services, and ask questions about a topic connected to your industry that will hopefully give you answers you can create a news story from.
You can also come up with creative ideas to land press coverage, developing story lines around your business to write articles the media will love. And you can keep an eye on the news and when something happens that’s relevant to your sector, you can newsjack it to create your own, related story that will be highly relevant to journalists — or just send in a quote on the news item that reporters may be able to incorporate into their pieces on the subject.
These are just some ways to go about content ideation to create content the media and their consumers will want. When you’ve decided what you’re doing, get cracking and write – making sure to have someone, even a friend, proofread your piece for typos and other errors that could land it in reporters’ bins.
- Researching digital media
Who will you send your wonderful content creation to? It’s time to research news, industry and other sites that are relevant to your target audience. Simply googling will bring up lots of options, but it’s not enough to just find websites; you have to check them out and make sure they’re good enough for your purposes.
Find out what the sites’ domain authority – a measure of how many sites link to it: the more links, the more Google deems a site to be authoritative and therefore worthy of high rankings – is; top news sites will be in the 80-90+ range (out of 100) while trade sites may be around 50-60 and others, such as online lifestyle publications, could be around 30-40. The higher the better, but don’t settle for anything at the lower end of the scale (10-20). Use Moz, which developed this metric, to discover DAs.
Also look at websites’ traffic, spam scores and anything else to give you a comprehensive picture of the site and how solid it is, or not. As part of this research, find the most relevant reporter or editor at a site that you can pitch to, and their email – the preferred way to pitch (not an intrusive phone call). If their contact details are not listed on the site, check out their Twitter account, as most journalists will have one, and see if their email is listed there. If you’re still out of luck, you can do some further detective work or use a service like RocketReach that may have it, or try combinations of the reporter’s name and site URL to create what may be their email and you might hit the jackpot.
Now you’re all set to send your story to reporters and see if they’re interested in publishing it. It’s vital to keep in mind that with shrinking budgets and newsrooms, reporters are under pressure like never before, and whereas decades ago they might have covered one beat (topic, like politics) now they could be writing about several. This means their time is limited, they have to write several stories a day and they’re inundated with pitches from PRs and companies.
The message is: keep your pitch short and to the point. Journalists may only scan the subject lines in their long list of emails and just open the ones that interest them, so make sure your subject line commands attention.
Keep the body of your email to a few brief paragraphs, setting out what your story is about and why you think the publication and its readers would be of interest. If it’s a press release, you can include it in the body of the email – not as an attachment, as many news outlets won’t open them, for fear of viruses – as well as survey results, infographics and anything else you think might be helpful for the reporter to see.
Follow up in a couple of days if you haven’t heard back from the journalist; often, they may be interested but simply haven’t had time to respond. Or, as also often happens, your mail could have gone into their junk folder. Best time to pitch? In the morning; not later in the day, when journalists are bogged down in stories and racing to meet deadlines.
Then you can sit back and wait for your stellar press coverage to start rolling in – a digital PR job well done.
All this too much for you but you still want digital PR for your company? Time to talk to the experts – schedule a free initial consultation with the PR pros at Reachology now.