By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology
You’ve decided to pursue digital PR, but securing coverage for your company in the top national, regional and industry news sites is not an easy feat. So how do you go about creating a digital PR campaign that will give you the right results and help to grow your business?
Today we’re giving you the knowledge, so you can run your own digital PR campaigns and find greater success for your company in the digital space.
Our seven tips to build your own digital campaigns are especially handy if you don’t have a digital PR company working for you and you’re doing it all on your own.
How to create a digital pr campaign
Follow these tips to create a digital PR strategy that will then become a fully fledged digital PR campaign that will get you results.
1. Set clear and measurable objectives.
Before you do anything, you need to work out what the outcome of your digital PR campaign should be, so you can aim at getting the results you want. Otherwise, if you don’t know what your objective is, you might end up with little or nothing at the end of a campaign.
Do you want to:
- Increase your company and brand awareness?
- Grow your backlink profile and appear higher in Google search results?
- Have more traffic to your website, resulting in greater conversions and sales?
- Support a new product/service launch?
- Do some personal/brand reputation management to improve your image?
- Help manage a crisis that has hit your company?
- Get more people talking about you and sharing on social media?
You can use various techniques to help you with your objectives, such as SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-bound. And your digital PR campaign goals should also be measurable; this way, you’ll know if you’ve failed, reached or exceeded them.
Keep track of your progress as your campaigns develop by monitoring:
- Organic (excluding paid, via ads) traffic to your website
- Conversions: where someone on your site takes action, such as buying something, downloading a guide or other asset or using a contact form to get in touch
- Links back to your website from articles in high-authority websites
- Rankings for your selected keywords
- Mentions: in digital PR articles, of your company and/or its brands
- Social media followers and shares
2. Research and define your audience from the outset.
Who do you want to see your digital PR campaigns? And eventually your products? There’s not much point targeting them towards audiences that have no relevance, as you’d be wasting your time.
Do you, for example, have a buyer persona – a representation of your typical customer – or have you never even looked at it?
It’s a great place to start when researching and defining your audience, and such key demographics as age, gender, education, location, income, family, attitudes, habits and many others. This provides you with essential marketing data that allows you to pinpoint your audience and get greater results from your digital PR campaigns.
Lots of online tools and templates will help you to create your buyer persona, so you know exactly who you are aiming at and selling to. And in defining and refining your target audience, find out as much as you can, including:
- Where they are (country/city/town/village)
- Their languages
- What they’re interested in
- Their highest level of education and career
- Whether they work from home or the office
- If they own their home or are renting
- What kind of disposable income they might have
- If they’re single or in a relationship, with children (and if so, how many)
- What issues they care about when thinking about companies (environmental responsibility and carbon emissions, for example)
- What typically influences their buying decisions
- If they are active on social media, and if so, which platforms
This kind of customer data/buyer information is invaluable, in running digital PR campaigns and also getting new customers, and how you go about it is up to you. You can:
- Trawl social media networks, looking for clues and information
- Carry out research via surveys
- Hold focus groups
- Interview people on the street
- Use Google Analytics on your website
- Outsource the entire endeavour to a specialist audience-research firm, like Audiense and others.
3. Research trends and news sentiment to pinpoint your ideas for stories.
If you can uncover new trends in your industry or sector, they could make for a great news story that would interest journalists.
You might have some information and data from your own business — like a marked increase in sales of a certain product — that you could use as the base for a story. Or you could use tools like Google Trends to find out new behavioural shifts. It uses data from people’s searches on Google, Google News and YouTube to see what’s trending in almost any sector, and you can add comparison topics to generate even more potentially interesting results.
Also look at news sentiment when devising your digital PR campaigns. This means appraising how news stories relevant to your industry are portrayed: negative or positive?
If the news relating to your sector is overwhelmingly negative — a new scandal or new and harmful data about its effects on health or the environment, for instance – you should avoid latching onto it for your digital PR stories. Doing so would add negativity to your firm.
But if there’s really good news about your industry and products, by all means go ahead and create pieces that showcase your company’s contribution, as long as you have a solid news hook that will interest journalists. It could be something new, like innovative products or services about to come online, a quote from a boss or expert at your company that adds to current debate or news or data, such as from a survey, revealing something.
4. Prepare your content and site for links, with correct internal linking set up.
As one of the most important elements of digital PR is linking from articles placed in top-tier media to your website, you’ll need to ensure that whatever content you create for journalists contains a link that’s natural and relevant — otherwise Google might discount it.
Depending on the story you’ve created, you need to ensure you host this on your website in the most natural way to “earn” the link. This could be a video, a dataset, an expanded piece of company news or some images. The important part is hosting this in a way that would encourage the link naturally from the journalist/publisher.
From here, you need to consider how you direct the link equity (power from the links to your website) to the right areas. As digital PR and SEO go hand-in-hand, you should check that you have internal linking properly set up on your target page and the rest of your site. This is where all pages of your site, from informational to products, sales and blog posts, link to each other in natural fashion, thereby providing a better browsing experience for people and helping Google crawl your site more effectively — potentially resulting in higher rankings.
So go through your existing pages and add links to other pages if there are few or none. If you regularly publish blog posts, you can use a tool like Link Whisper that goes through all your content and suggests pages that are suitable for linking to each other. It can also detect broken links, which can negatively affect your digital PR campaigns and overall SEO efforts. Link Whisper is a paid service, although it has a free version that also provides page-linking suggestions.
5. Get to know your target journalists and their previous stories.
The next step in creating a digital PR campaign is researching journalists and their work. It’s good to go through what they’ve written previously, so you get a feel for what they do and how they do it. You can then mention some of this in your contact with them, and it will help to build relationships.
Google top media in your area, surroundings and country. These will primarily be news websites. Then do the same for niche and industry-specific online media — news sites, online lifestyle publications, specialist websites specific to your sector and relevant blogs.
If you’re unfamiliar with any of the sites, use tools like Semrush ($) and Ahrefs ($) to gauge how worthwhile they are. They will give you metrics like domain authority, traffic, spam score and other vital elements of websites to determine if you should go ahead and get in touch.
It’s best to get journalists’ and bloggers’ individual emails, rather than a general “contact” or similar, and if they’re not listed on their site, you can look them up on Twitter, where their email addresses may be in their bio. Or try tools like Hunter (paid but 25 free searches a month) that may have them in their database.
6. Pitch with purpose — personalise, personalise, personalise.
Journalists don’t like mass emails directed at nobody in particular. They want pitches addressed to them and that have a benefit. It’s surprising how many people send out emails with just “Dear” or even nothing in the first line.
Selling in the benefit of your story to the journalist/publisher will help set you apart. If your story is good enough and you feel a particular, major news site might run with it and other sites might then feed off the story, you can offer that site your piece on an exclusive basis.
Make sure your pitches are brief and to the point. Journalists do not have time to wade through endless paragraphs of an email, as they’re inundated with pitches and are typically working on multiple stories at once.
If it’s your first time contacting a journalist, build trust by mentioning that you’re emailing because you saw their recent articles on a topic and that you have a piece that’s relevant to that subject.
You may not get a response from some or even all of your pitches. If that happens, follow up a couple of days later, and if still no reply, give it one more go, after another couple of days, and then leave it.
You can use our free journalist pitch template to write your own pitches.
7. Monitor and measure your results.
Time now to tot up all that great online coverage you’ve snared during your digital PR campaign. If you’ve pitched a large number of journalists, you’ll need to use a service or tool to find all the articles. Start with Google News, Bing News and Google Alerts.
You can opt for tools including:
- Nexis Newsdesk
- Muck Rack
Most of these services are paid, however, and have hefty fees, so you might want to try gathering the coverage yourself, though manual searches.
Check links in your articles, to make sure they work, and if there aren’t any, politely ask journalists to include them. If they refuse, or don’t answer you, you still have a mention of your company or brand, and that can be just as good.
Measure the results of your digital PR campaign by scoring the sites’ domain authority and other metrics we mentioned in No. 5. Here at Reachology, we use our own formulas to work out the value of digital PR campaigns. They’re called Q-Flux and ReachScore and are invaluable for our clients to see the real value of their digital PR spend and results.
Creating incredible digital PR campaigns: the wrap
Now that you know how to create a digital PR campaign, it’s time to give it a shot yourself.
- Take time in setting your goals and doing your research. Digital PR is a slow burn and campaigns, generally, don’t spring up overnight. Everything from initial research to content creation and pitching journalists can take weeks, and you may also have to wait for your articles to be published. Allow several months for a campaign to run.
- Target the top media in your sector and in news and other verticals. Links from these types of digital media are Google gold and literally cannot be bought – getting coverage in them is dependent on how strong your story is.
- Work on building relationships with journalists. If you do your digital PR work well, you’ll be providing valuable content to time-pressed journalists. They will come to trust you and be more receptive to successive pitches, making your job of getting coverage all the easier.
If you find that it’s too much work, you don’t have the skills or that you’re just too busy running your company, you can use a digital PR service like ours. We’ll give you a free initial consultation and tell you exactly what we can do to help you get ahead online.