Updated for 2022
The first decades of the 21st century witnessed a fast-growing population of internet users, thanks largely to technological innovations that allowed easier online access.
To date, 4.95 billion people or more than 60% of the world’s population are online. The speed with which digital connectivity started influencing the buying behaviour of consumers gave new opportunities for business owners to grow their revenue.
One channel that opened up is digital PR — a combination of traditional public relations practices and data-led online marketing strategies aimed to build a brand’s online presence.
But what is digital PR and how does it differ from traditional PR? And how does it fit into the fast-changing SEO landscape?
Table of Contents
What is Digital PR?
Digital PR aims to land online publicity for a business across various mediums, including news sites, podcasts, social media, influencers’ networks, video portals, and high-profile blogs.
This exposure gives businesses exposure to a wider audience, who may not have stumbled upon their brand otherwise. And due to the nature of these online platforms, audiences can engage and interact with these businesses through comments, replies, and shares. Digital PR falls under the wider umbrella of content marketing, which focuses on improving a business’ search rankings and online visibility. But it also encourages bloggers, influencers and others to create links back to a single piece of content, and so can also be seen as a powerful offsite SEO tactic.
In a way, digital PR is similar to traditional PR as both involve reaching out to platforms that have a bigger following to improve brand awareness. The difference lies mostly in the channels that are used, with traditional PR gaining positive coverage through media like the radio, TV, and print publications. Due to the format of these channels, space is limited, which means this process tends to highly favour big businesses that have several newsworthy product launches and announcements in a year.
Traditional PR was also born in an era where websites and social media did not exist. Interaction tends to be a one-way street as audiences will only have the press releases printed in a publication or announced on TV as their touchpoint. Digital PR, by comparison, is cheaper to do, more dynamic and nimble and can leverage the targeting power of digital channels and platforms to get in front of not just lots of people, but the right people.
The Benefits of Running A Digital PR Campaign
When done right, digital PR can:
- Increase your search rankings — The quality of backlinks you get is an important factor that can affect your search rankings. When a high-quality publication includes an external link that leads back to your site, it tells Google that you’re a reputable source and worthy to be more visible on the SERPs.
- Drive more traffic to your site — Links from other publications leading to your site also means more traffic as readers will inevitably be curious as to who you are and what your business is, especially if your content is helpful to them. This is why it’s important to also consider linkability in your process, as coverage in relevant publications means their own traffic are potentially your own customers too.
- Increase brand awareness — Landing coverage, whether through a brand mention or getting your PR piece published, will expose your brand to more people in your industry. They may not immediately convert into paying customers, but your brand will start gaining traction the more you do it.
- Improve your credibility — High-profile placements will not only get you into Google’s good graces, but it will also increase your credibility with your target audience. When potential customers search for you and find you mentioned in several publications, their perception of you will improve and can even sway their buying decisions
What Content You Can Use For Your Digital PR Campaigns?
The exposure provided by the right person and the right publication would greatly help your brand. However, in this digital age, sending press releases to any and all media companies just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Nowadays, reaching out to an influencer within your industry would carry as much weight as any news outlet. As such, it is vital that your digital PR campaigns work closely with your SEO, content, and social media marketing.
If you need fresh ideas to jumpstart your campaigns, look at the following:
Human interest stories
Storytelling in the digital space allows your brand to cut through the noise of in-your-face online advertisements. If you’re going this route, you can produce human interest stories like:
- Social proof — Interview one of the people in your company or your customers whose lives were changed by your product/service. You can also tap user-generated content through social media competitions or giveaways. A David vs Goliath story, wherein someone overcomes the impossible, can always pique people’s interest.
- Holiday stories — These are staples in the media every holiday season. You can let people know of the charities you’ve helped or perhaps a new app that you developed that can make people’s lives easier (e.g. an app that can ease the holiday shopping rush).
- Celebrity stories — You can partner with a local celebrity or a national celebrity to create content and help promote your brand.
Data-driven content is one of the content formats that journalists prefer publishing or quoting in their news pieces as it provides hard evidence to support their stories.
Surveys, for instance, will help you develop content that would either be interesting to your industry or add new information to existing literature. Interesting results, especially those that would surprise people, are always newsworthy and would help gain public attention.
You can pitch your data as long-form content or turn it into an infographic or a video to make it more digestible for the readers.
Thought leadership content
A lot of websites establish their authority in the industry by regularly publishing content. According to the 2020 Edelman-LinkedIn study, 88% of decision makers believe that thought leadership content can enhance their perception of an organisation, while 48% say this type of content can actually influence their buying decisions. And therein lies the challenge.
In publishing thought pieces, make sure that these are the kind of information your target audience is looking for. For instance, instead of talking about your business and what you can do, produce content that would help your audience solve their problems.
You can post these on your site or reach out to websites that your audience regularly frequent for help. If you pitch these to relevant publications in your niche, they can potentially quote the leaders of your company and provide a link back to your website.
Newsjacking is the process of leveraging breaking news in generating awareness for your brand. Let’s say news came out that is directly related to your niche. You can write your own article about the topic and include your opinion on the matter.
This helps you position your brand as highly knowledgeable and updated on current events.
To do this properly, follow these steps:
- Monitor news – Subscribe to online news sites, read newspapers, or scan social media. This will help you be one of the first people to know once important news breaks out. Just so it won’t take a lot of your time, you can limit yourself to five publications a day.
- Produce content fast – Once related news comes out, you need to act fast. Other companies are most likely doing the same. Gather more information and write your own news article. You can also prepare a quote from someone in the organisation who is knowledgeable about the topic. Write a press release around that, and submit it to news sites. Beware, however, of providing inaccurate information. You need to act fast, but accuracy is just as important.
- Include keywords – Don’t forget to include keywords in the content you will publish on your site or pitch to media outlets. This will help with your search rankings.
An important thing to note is that you use this tactic when the news would only benefit your consumers. Avoid taking advantage of sensitive topics (e.g. natural disasters, controversial issues, etc.) to gain public attention. You would not want this to backfire.
You’ll go a long way If you can give journalists a genuine scoop as they love publishing exclusives, especially those that the public will be interested in.
This can be an exclusive interview with one of your company leaders or experts who have something relevant or controversial to say, a first look at data that will not be released to the public until a certain date, any consumer behaviour that changed because of your product, or a new trend that you started. Back these up with data or statistics to increase your chances of getting published.
There are several press releases that you can provide to the media, including new product launches, new services, or an upcoming event that you’re hosting.
When writing your press releases, make your headline stand out, include hi-resolution assets (e.g. photos, videos, etc), and write it in a way that the readers will find the value in your offering. To improve your SEO, you can also have a dedicated media section on your website where you can upload your press releases and organisational news.
6 Effective Ways to Get Your PR Pitch Noticed
Creating good content is just one half of the digital PR battle. The other half lies in knowing how to properly do outreach and pitching. To land high-profile placements, do the following:
1. Create your media list
Creating your media list should be the first step in your outreach plan. But this isn’t as easy as including any and all publications that you can Google.
You should conduct thorough research and establish whether the journalists you intend to reach out to cover the beat that’s relevant to your niche (e.g. technology, business, health, etc). Look them up on social media and check their work. The publications, meanwhile, should cater to the audience that will be interested in your business and can potentially turn into customers.
Also keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to the media. You can also reach out to influencers. Once you get them to publish your content, you now have access to their huge social media following and website traffic.
2. Use tools to make your life easier
Nowadays, you won’t run out of tools that you can use to streamline the pitching process. But not everything should be automated.
You can automate steps like finding email addresses, following up on your email pitches, sending the actual emails, and measuring the responses to your emails. There are even tools that can help you figure out which publications to pitch.
What you cannot automate is your actual pitch. Mass pitching, while it can cut your time significantly, will only make your emails feel robotic which will not help establish rapport with reporters or influencers.
There are several tools you can use including HARO, Email Hunter, FollowUpThen, Google Trends, and Ahrefs.
3. Quality pitch over quantity pitch
The PR process revolves around establishing good relationships. This is why using a templated email sent to several people isn’t usually effective. Remember: Quality over quantity wins the pitching game.
When creating your pitch, don’t forget to talk like a human. Automation can be efficient, but prospects respond better when they feel that they are talking to an actual person.
This is why research is a vital first step. You’ll be able to find facts that can help you personalise your emails instead of sending a generic one.
4. Crafting a pitch that actually gets read
When crafting your pitch, remember to:
- Focus on what’s in it for them — For media practitioners, emphasise what value you bring to the table (e.g. your authority in the field or the timeliness of the topic). For influencers, you can give them an exclusive offer, free use of your product or service, or provide valuable info to their audience.
- Craft an eye-catching subject line — Be specific with your email subject lines (e.g. 20% increase in grocery app usage) instead of using a broad one (e.g. there’s a new report on consumer behaviour). You’re competing with several other pitches and specificity can help you stand out.
- Be clear with the intent of your email — Tell them what you’re asking them to do, whether that’s interviewing someone from your company, covering an event, or publishing your press release.
- Personalise your email — Address them by their names and never ‘CC’ all the reporters who cover the same beat (regardless of how efficient this is). Establish rapport by researching anything that you may have in common (e.g. a football team you both support) or mentioning previous articles that relate to your current pitch.
- Make it short and sweet — Don’t beat around the bush. Personalise the email, introduce yourself, give them a quick summary of what you need, and wrap it up by telling them how they (and their readers) can benefit from your pitch.
- Provide different options — You can also pitch other story angles (e.g. different topics your company leaders can comment on) or other PR pieces that they can publish (e.g. upcoming events).
- Leverage your previous relationship with them — If you already have a contact list that you’ve previously gotten in touch with, leverage it. This is why establishing relationships is one of the most recommended steps as this will help you in the long run.
5. Explore other channels of communication
When reaching out to the media, you may find that some of them are not immediately available via email. You can use other channels like their social sites or meet them at networking events. You can also go the traditional route and pick up the phone. The same goes for influencers that can be often found on several social platforms. Remember to tailor your pitch according to the channel you’re using.
6. Make it timely
If you’re pitching a holiday story, make sure you send this weeks before it should go live. Publications often follow a strict content calendar, so if you send it too late, they won’t be able to accommodate you. This also goes for the deadlines. If they ask for content from you, send it on time.
How Do You Measure The Success of Your Digital PR Campaign?
Whereas clips (e.g. news items, feature stories, etc.) are the metrics of traditional PR, digital PR uses analytics and media monitoring tools to measure campaign success.
Traditional and digital PR differ in strategies employed, but they both aim for the same objective—to get the word out about a brand.
And for online objectives to be met, KPIs need to be measured. There are plenty of metrics, but the key is narrowing that down to those that are vital to achieving your goals.
Whether you are aiming for higher sales, an increase in brand awareness, or more clickthroughs from social media to your website, here are a number of KPIs you can look at:
If your outreach to bloggers or journalists goes well, your content on their platform would have links directing visitors back to your website.
This has two effects: 1) backlinks are one of Google’s top-ranking factors, which would then help your SEO; and 2) it would show the effectiveness of your outreach efforts.
You can find out which backlinks are sending traffic to your website in Google Analytics. Click on Acquisition on the left-hand menu > All Traffic > Referrals.
You can also use tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs to research link building opportunities.
Pro Tip: Backlinks shouldn’t be the primary goal of your digital PR campaign, however, they’re one metric to benchmark your campaign against.
Conversions coming from PR hits
Once you gain backlinks from blogs and/or publications, you can track if people actually clicked and went to your website.
More than that, you can also see if this led to engagement or conversions, such as scheduling an appointment, contacting you, purchasing, redeeming offers, or downloading content.
Again, go to Google Analytics. On the left-hand menu, go to Behavior, then Behavior Flow.
This would show visitor interactions, starting from the landing page, to the pages they navigated, and finally, the page where they left.
Pro Tip: If there are specific actions you want visitors to perform on your website, create Goals in Google Analytics. Read how to set them up here.
3. Social referrals
By looking at this metric, you will see how effective your content and social strategies are in bringing leads to your site.
Follow these steps: Google Analytics > Acquisition > Social.
Social media conversations
Nowadays, the number of times your company and/or your content is mentioned on social media is a legitimate metric.
Apart from Google Analytics, there are other tools you can use to help track mentions and conversations. This includes Mention (a real-time social media monitoring tool) and SharedCount (a tool to track URL shares, likes, etc).
Media mentions include all the times your campaign or brand was discussed in any online capacity. These carry a lot of weight, especially if the media outlet has a credible reputation and a huge following. There are several tools that can help you track brand mentions, including Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and BuzzSumo.
Quality of the mentions
Each mention, whether on social or on a media outlet, needs to be assessed in terms of quality by using:
- Sentiment Analysis – This determines the tonality of a mention, helping you establish the source’s attitude towards your product or service. Is it positive, neutral, or negative?
- Prominence – This analyses how often, and where your brand’s name is mentioned in the copy, for instance, in a headline, or lower part of the copy.
This metric is especially helpful if you find your business in a crisis situation, so you will know how to respond appropriately.
If your goal is brand awareness, measuring the uptick in your web traffic is a good indicator of a successful campaign.
Look at the boost in your traffic and unique visitors through Google Analytics. Go to Audience, then Overview. Don’t forget to set the date to when you started your PR campaign, so you can validate whether the new traffic influx is the product of your PR tactics or not.
GA Annotations and URL builder
Social and media mentions will give you an idea of the short-term successes in your campaign. However, you also need to look at the long-term effectiveness of your strategies using the following tools:
- Google URL Builder – This will help you track which of your campaigns drove traffic to your site, converted into leads, and then to customers. Instead of simply linking back to your site using your URL, use Google’s URL builder. It attaches a campaign tracking code to your URL, so you can see if anyone clicked on the links included in your pitched content. To track your campaigns, go to Acquisition menu, then Campaigns.
- Annotations – This Google Analytics feature would let you tag and add notes to certain events or actions that generated a spike in your traffic. For instance, a PR hit from a high-ranking publication would give you a short-term spike in your referral traffic. You then need to note which event caused this spike to help you keep track of which action generated results. Annotations would greatly help with long-term analyses, especially when you start launching multiple campaigns.
If you’re publishing infographics or videos on your site, you need to know if people are reading or watching your content.
On Google Analytics, go to Audience then Overview. You’ll see a section on Avg Session Duration which tells you the amount of time individuals spend engaged with your site’s overall content. Alternatively, you can also check the amount of time people spend on specific site pages coming from individual traffic drivers (e.g. Facebook referral, referrals from other websites). To do this, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, then look at the column for Avg. Session Duration.
If your videos are hosted on Youtube, you can check the Average View Duration of your videos. Over time, you’ll figure out trends in viewership so you can improve future content.
Use Digital PR To Boost Your Business
Digital PR is all about getting the right type of content published on the right platform, which would then reach the right target audience. One of the great things about this is that even small businesses can utilise these strategies to get their own PR campaigns running.
Remember to set specific goals, measure the right metrics, and add a timeline for both short-term and long-term successes. How are your digital PR campaigns faring? We would love to hear if any of these strategies helped you. And if you need an extra hand, you can book in a free strategy call with us and we will gladly assist you.