What is digital PR? (and why aren’t you using it to get ahead?)

Looking for new customers but not sure where to find them? They’re online, and you need a hard-hitting, no-nonsense digital PR strategy to reach out and connect with prospectives.

By William Furney, content marketing manager, Reachology

You don’t need us to tell you how fiercely competitive the business world is; sometimes it seems you’re doing all you can just to stay afloat, while your competitors roar ahead.  What are they doing that you’re not? They’re most likely using the latest marketing tactics to reach out to their target audience, snare new customers and grow.

Like many companies now, they’re using digital PR to raise awareness and get their message out. Since the pandemic, when the internet took on a whole new level of importance and businesses everywhere realised how vital it was to their survival, the commercial conversation and raising of brands’ image has been happening online. Which is why more companies than ever are ditching traditional PR and switching to the digital version.

They’re doing it because that’s where their audiences are. Printed media like newspapers and magazines have long been in decline, as you can see from the graph below, as people get their news and information online instead; and the rise of streaming services like Netflix mean fewer people than ever are tuning in to television. This has led to a huge change in the way companies reach out to their current and potential future customers. Are you adapting to this new media reality or risking being left behind?

Not Reading All About It: Plunging paid circulation of daily weekday newspapers in the United States from 1985 to 2020, as people increasingly get their news from websites.

So how can your company leverage the power of digital PR to attract new customers and develop partnerships? How can you develop a workable digital PR strategy that gets real results and lets you race ahead of your rivals? In this post, we reveal our digital PR knowhow here at Reachology so you can use this wildly popular promotional method to boost your company’s image, and profits.

Here’s the reality of digital PR

Scratching your head and wondering what on Earth digital PR actually is? Don’t worry, as we’re about to tell you everything you need to know, and we won’t waffle on and try to bamboozle you with all kinds of digital marketing jargon to show how clever we are – promise!

Digital PR Is basically public relations that takes place online — generating discussions, spurring pickups by the media and creating such unique and interesting content that millions of people will want to share it with their friends, family and colleagues (going viral). It involves reaching out to people through the many digital channels where there are sizeable audiences, such as:

  • Online newspapers and magazines
  • Bloggers
  • Podcasts
  • Press releases and syndication
  • Social media
  • Influencers
  • Video
  • Email
  • Online events, like webinars
  • Your website and its blog

Before the wondrous realm of the internet came about – only a couple of decades ago (Google is a mere 23 years old) – and the exploding world of ecommerce it enabled, companies had to rely on traditional media to get the word out. That meant publicity via newspapers, magazines, billboards and other outdoor advertising and on television and radio. But the media landscape has dramatically changed, and the media environment has become incredibly more complex.

When you want to devise an effective digital PR strategy that wins you new customers, you have to take into account the sheer size of the internet and how incredibly fast it continues to grow. As of now, there are over 1.9 billion websites, and counting. And it’s predicted that in little over a year — by 2023 — almost two-thirds of the world’s population will be online, accounting for around 5.3 billion people using the internet.

Cutting through all that noise and getting your company and its brands noticed amid the colossal activity in this massive space relies on creating a digital PR strategy that gets attention, and results. With so many commercial enterprises screaming for attention online, you need to find a way to get your voice heard, and make an impact with your audience. There are no half-measures in the digital PR sphere. 

Getting real: Measuring the results of digital PR

Public relations the old way was, and still is, hard to quantify, in terms of the impact and results it gets. Running a display ad or advertorial in a newspaper, for example, doesn’t guarantee that anyone who sees it will take any desired action, like signing up for an offer or getting in touch. It’s largely a scattergun exercise of reaching out to as many people as possible in the hope that a small percentage will take notice and see the message or become customers — effectively throwing big sums of money at “old” media and hoping for the best. 

And although printed and electronic media (TV and radio) often have audited circulation figures and ratings showing their viewership and listeners, it can be next to impossible to work out what the return on a marketing spend is when using traditional media. Thankfully, the effects of digital PR are inherently easy to measure, because of the tracking technology used on the internet.

This dramatically slashes traditional wastage associated with PR, because companies – or a digital PR agency they hire to do the work for them – knows almost immediately what is working and what’s not, and so they can test and keep tweaking campaigns, to gain maximum exposure and efficacy.

Creative PR + SEO focus​
Making Gains: Digital PR allows companies to better gauge their marketing return on investment, compared to traditional methods with “old” media, such as newspapers and TV.

Campaign managers, or digital PR services provided by agencies like ours, get detailed user reports showing the numbers of interactions and engagements with posts on social media platforms, giving them invaluable insight into how their campaigns are performing. And as links to sites are an essential element of any good digital PR strategy, they also need to work out their value.

So if a media outlet links to an authoritative piece of content on your website — a white paper, an infographic, surprising results of a survey, an interview with an industry leader or an informative blog post — you’ll want to know how that links holds up in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Is it beneficial to your site, or potentially harmful?

Different tools, from Moz to Ahrefs and many others, give varying results for the value of any one link, and this can often leave marketing executives and business owners confused and unsure of how good a backlink to their site is. Here at Reachology, we’ve made it easy, and relatively foolproof, by developing our own website-appraisal metric that takes into account a range of factors and gives a decisive verdict on links. It’s an iron-clad guarantee for our clients. 

Called Q-Flux, our proprietary methodology helps to eliminate the kind of spammy link-building that has been associated with digital PR, and gives clarity, reassurance and peace of mind to companies, that the links they’re getting are solid and valuable, in terms of their online exposure and search engine results. Overall, you’ll know your online PR efforts are paying off if you’re seeing a marked increase in organic traffic to your website; these are people who are visiting for reasons other than paid ads, and you’ll be able to see all the data in your Google Analytics account, like this:

A no-nonsense approach to creating a digital PR strategy

The first step in working out an effective digital marketing strategy is knowing what you want — what the end results of your online promotional activities will be. Because if you don’t have a goal, and targets, you’re not likely to get far.

It might be that you’re launching a new product or service and want to generate some buzz around it, or just generally raise the awareness of existing brands. If it’s sales you’re after, especially during a prime shopping period like Christmas or New Year, you’ll want to choose digital channels that will entice people to buy — perhaps by using a code to get a discount. This, again, would be your end goal. Another might be to coax people into signing up to a newsletter, so you can build a database of potential new customers; and may also want people to contact you directly, with the aim of them becoming new customers or clients.

Once you know what your desired goal is, it’s advisable to give it a timeframe; otherwise you risk endlessly toiling away with your digital PR efforts without measuring the results over a set period of markers that will tell you how well, or badly, you’re doing. So you can set monthly, quarterly, six-monthly or even yearly review periods; but leaving it too long, like 12 months, means you may veer off course without realising it and waste your digital PR time and spend.

Corrective measures when you’re not getting the outcome you want are essential, so stick to something like a three-month review, because results in digital PR – such as links to your site being picked up by search engines — are not always immediate and take some time (months, in some cases).

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to know who you’re going to be communicating with – who your target audience is and the kind of people it’s made up of. If you haven’t worked it out, and you launch your digital PR campaign, you could end up talking to the wrong people. So create a buyer persona – a description of your ideal customer so you can target your digital PR efforts towards them.

Who’s Who?: Make sure you work out your buyer persona before forging ahead with a digital PR strategy and campaign, so you know who you’re targeting. (Image: Hubspot)

Details should include such basic information as gender, age, profession and location, and can also include various behaviours, or habits, and more detailed demographics. You can use a number of online tools and templates to help you build your buyer persona.

Once that’s done, it’s time to get on with the work of getting the word out – your message that you want the world to see, or at least a certain part of it, according to the buyer persona you’ve devised. You can start with creating compelling content that people will want to read and view (videos), and reaching out to journalists to get your story in the news.

Maintaining active social media channels is a vital part of the digital PR mix, and you’ll want to post regularly, with content that interests people and is not overly promotional, as it would turn users away. You can then expand your digital PR channels to podcasts and other channels, and grow your audience, and your customers, more.

We’ve seen in this post how digital PR is the evolution of the traditional method of communicating with the media and the public, and we’re not going to lie — it is a LOT to take in, and do. Big companies and organisations may have a digital PR division as part of a larger and general marketing department, but small- and medium-sized firms usually can’t afford such a capital-intensive outlay, which is why many hire a digital PR agency to handle the task for them. It slashes the cost while helping to carve out more audience and market share than ever. 

Not sure how to devise a digital PR strategy for your company and its brands? The market-leading experts at Reachology and their disruptive and innovative digital PR services are here for you! Contact us now for a free initial consultation.

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