Chapter 2. Most Common Misconceptions about Digital PR

I’ve worked in the digital PR industry for just over two years now, however when I first started out in my digital PR career, there were a few things that I noticed, that I now know not to be true. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about digital PR.

1. Digital PR is only about the links

The first misconception then is that digital PR is only about the links. Sure, links are the goal if you’re a digital PR – this is, after all, one of the key differences between traditional and digital PR. But you’d be mistaken to think that links are the only thing we can achieve with our digital PR strategies. From brand awareness and trust, to social engagement, authority building, referral traffic and more – there are so many different metrics you can put in place to analyse your digital PR campaigns and really show that ROI on your digital PR strategies.

We had a really great example of this happening at Digitaloft at the end of 2020. We launched a campaign for a beauty and cosmetics client, which revealed the best and hottest beauty brands in 2020, and as well as building some really topical, high quality links, this campaign (and the corresponding coverage on Vogue got picked up by Huda Kattan herself, who posted the coverage and campaign on Instagram as a post – she also tagged the client and is now following our client on Instagram.

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Despite our client paying for our digital PR strategies – and the links and coverage that come from these – this type of coverage for a smaller start-up brand is money-can’t-buy coverage with the beauty superstar sharing to her 48 million+ followers. This exposure and engagement from a key beauty influencer within the industry really proves the ROI on a great campaign idea, and is an amazing bit of PR for the brand.

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Abi Bennetts

Digital PR manager

Abi Bennetts is the digital PR manager at Digitaloft, and has worked at various digital PR agencies for over two years now. Abi has spent the last nine months since joining Digitaloft (on the same day that the UK’s lockdown was announced) on a lot of video calls, pivoting our digital PR strategies to continue to provide relevant content for journalists and helping to grow the digital PR team!

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2. All PRs have to be extroverted

Moving on to my next misconception, is around the misconception that PRs are all extroverted. The digital PR industry can feel like quite a loud and noisy place to be in sometimes. There are a lot of extroverts in the digital PR industry, but we’re not all Samantha Jones in Sex and the City (I wish). The main qualities when we’re looking to build our team at Digitaloft, are more around skills such as problem solving and enthusiasm and tenacity. This is because when it comes to pitching a campaign, the whole success of a digital PR campaign rides on the ability to put a great idea out there, and then to push a campaign until it’s maximised all the angles and press opportunities it possibly can.

If you don’t have the confidence to put your idea out there because you think that the loudest people in the room are going to get there first, then you’re never going to get that great idea out of someone. So actually, we really need to be banishing that misconception that you have to be extroverted to work in digital PR, so that those who more traditionally associate themselves with being an “introvert” have the confidence to venture into an ideas session or outreach strategy session and know that their insight and ideas are as valued as the more confident people in the room.

3. You need to have existing media relationships to land coverage

Journalists generally don’t have as much time as they did, to build the same relationships that they were building 10 years ago, meaning the once gospel little black book of PR contacts is no longer as important when it comes to landing features.

I think a great pitch and an engaging story or piece of useful insight rules all. That isn’t to say that relationships aren’t important at all – these relationships are great when it comes to more reactive and product PR. For example, if you can build a relationship with a journalist where they know that you’re representing a client who can give speedy and useful insights, then that’s great and will probably lead you to land some great features for your clients. However I would say that digital PRs shouldn’t feel the pressure to have a really strong black book of journalist relationships, because if you’re offering everything they could want in a pitch, then most writers are going to take you up on that opportunity.

4. All content marketing can get links

It’s easy to fall into the trap when you’re new to digital PR, to think that just because you’ve created a campaign or you’ve come up with an idea and you’ve gone to the trouble of creating this asset, that it’s automatically going to get links. However, all great ideas and content needs that PR hook or headline to land that coverage at scale. To ensure we have this hook all of our ideas are link-worthy and able to land coverage on a large scale, all of our ideas go through a really strict validation process.

This validation process briefly is:

 

  • Data – can we get a strong and credible data source behind the campaign?
  • Has it been done before, or could a journalist do it themselves? You want to be adding value to a journalist’s workload – or doing something they cannot.  
  • Will it resonate with our target audience? So not only will it resonate with our client’s target audience, but will it also resonate with the readers of the journalist that we’re targeting?
  • Who will cover this? For every digital PR campaign you create, you should have in mind a subset of publications and journalists who are going to want to write about your campaign or your story.
  • And then finally, is it right for the client? It can be really hard when you come up with an amazing idea that you’re emotionally attached to, to gain perspective on whether the idea is topically relevant, or indeed right for your client and where they are in their business at that moment, and this will depend on a client by client basis.

If you take all of these things into consideration, then your content marketing or campaign will have a much larger chance of building those links and coverage at scale. 

5. It’s all about the asset

The last misconception I wanted to discuss was that it’s all about the asset when it comes to building links via digital PR strategies. However, I believe that we should always be thinking story first. 

An asset, whether that’s an infographic, a full page takeover interactive piece, should be the anchor for journalists to link back to. The asset should also act as an anchor to draw readers and audiences back to the client’s site, and help potential customers on their journey once they’ve reached the site. 

However, to land links or coverage in the first place, you don’t need to spend loads of money on fancy designs or interactives if a strong, topically relevant story is there. I think we’ve all seen a massive shift in the way that digital PR is moving, where actually these quick turnaround comments with no assets are landing links more than ever before – so don’t worry about spending thousands of pounds on a big interactive piece – and instead spend time on creating stories and insights that your client is proud to share.

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