Chapter 1. Introduction to Digital PR

Considerations for agencies setting up digital PR

Before setting up your digital PR goals, determine what your offering is going to be. You’ll have different goals if you’re working on a digital PR offering as an agency versus in-house. First we’ll look at setting up digital PR in an agency environment. Here are some questions to guide you: 

Are you going to offer digital PR as a bolt-on service to a larger SEO package or as an integrated part of a content marketing or PPC campaign? Are you using digital PR to boost SEO work, or even to gain backlinks to new content pages included in your content or overall marketing strategy? Digital PR can stand on its own, but it’s also very handy to use it to boost wider marketing efforts. 

You’ll also need to get down to details and to think about how you will deliver your campaigns. Is it going to be a ‘traditional PR’ function where you’re creating monthly standalone digital PR campaigns for the client, relying on hero campaigns to get coverage for you every month? Or are you going to approach it with foundational link-building pointing to evergreen assets on the website? Both have their merits, but it depends what your goals are. If you need a big splash, fast, perhaps monthly campaigns are the way to go – if you are in it for the long haul, steady linkbuilding might suit better.

At Blue Array, many of our clients have digital PR and SEO services so they are able blend our expertise. For example, if an SEO expert works on a certain web page for a client one month, then the following month, the digital PR expert could create an asset and a campaign leading back to that page to supercharge the SEO work that’s been done. Of course, each could have separate goals with completely separate road map lines but it’s advantageous to work together when possible.

No matter how you answer the questions above, it’s important to have really good PR internally as well. It’s something that’s easy to overlook, but having high visibility within your agency will help in so many ways. Everyone in the agency needs to know what digital PR is and what it could do for your clients. For example, an SEO Manager is doing a backlink report and they see a need for the client to have a stronger backlink profile. If that manager is familiar with your digital PR work, they’ll know that it can build strong backlink profiles for brands. Perhaps they then recommend digital PR to the client on your behalf, or come to you to ask you to have a look to see if the client’s brand could benefit from these services. Making what digital PR can do, and its associated ROI, really well-known will really be helpful for SEO deliverables too.

Considerations for setting up digital PR in-house

If you work in-house, some of the same questions above still apply, of course, but you need to think more about how you’re going to form the department or job role. There is definitely value in performing consistent outreach to existing assets on your brand’s website, like evergreen articles or tip sheets, for example. It may not move the needle as quickly as other methods but as long as you are linkbuilding to relevant, high-quality websites and offering quality, unique content, you will get some positive responses sooner or later. Patience (and sometimes a thick skin) is needed though.

Another way to generate many great backlinks is through providing media commentary. #JournoRequest on Twitter is an excellent resource. In my last in-house role, our team would earn around 20 to 30 backlinks consistently each month, just through providing media commentary on newsworthy issues alone. We didn’t have to rely on campaigns or spend a lot of money creating multi-level marketing campaigns that may or may not work, or ones that may or may not land with journalists. Expert commentary is actually quite reliable for backlinks every month. Providing expert commentary is also really helpful for building relationships with journalists. Oftentimes a journalist is looking for commentary after submitting their article and getting feedback from an editor who says the article needs a bit more. For you to be able to come in as the saviour and offer value to a journalist when they’re desperate for a comment on deadline – well, that journalist is certainly going to remember you next time. What a great way to start a relationship with someone. We should always try to be helpful and not the stereotype of the annoying PR who’s the enemy of the journalist.

JournoRequests
Amie_Sparrow

Amie Sparrow

Head of Digital PR

Amie Sparrow heads up Digital PR at Blue Array. She has worked in both digital and traditional PR and marketing roles for a diverse mix of industries in a career spanning more than 15 years. In the past five years she has built a digitally-focused PR department for a company in-house as well as shaping and leading the Digital PR offering at Blue Array SEO. Amie has spent lockdown cutting through the Covid-heavy news focus to ensure her clients continue to meet targets and gain those all-important referring domains.

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Expert commentary is probably one of your most effective strategies depending on  your industry. Ego-baiting is another approach. Let’s say I really wanted to be featured in Abby’s newsletter, or on her website. Perhaps I would offer to interview Abby for my own website. Then I would publish her interview on my website and send it to her and say, “I’d love it if you could include a link to the article on your website or in your newsletter.” It’s a tried and tested method that usually works. Even if someone declines to link to it from their site, they’ll usually give it a polite RT or post it on social media.

Expert-Comment

There are lots of different strategies that you could use as an in-house brand. These examples show that it doesn’t always have to be campaign-based, there’s loads of other approaches. And also it’s worth looking at what is unique to your brand, and examining what internal data you may have that can be useful to the media or to other websites and brands. What internal data do you have on your customers? What information do you have, that no one else would have, that would be interesting to a journalist? Also, if it’s not super interesting, you could always layer it with something that is more timely and relevant. Oftentimes we’ll look at what internal data a client has and then look to see how we can layer that with Office of National Statistics data or US Census data or something similar. So then we’re really creating a unique research strand that no one else can offer to a journalist. 

It is really important to collaborate internally as well. It has to be really well known within the company what your goals are for digital PR, and that it’s not the same as what the goals are for corporate PR. Make that really well known so that when other areas of the business see potential opportunities, they can identify them and bring them to your attention.

What do you want from digital PR?

It pays to think what you want out of your digital PR before you start forming the offering – figure out what the priority lies.

I want the SEO benefits

If you’re mainly looking for the SEO benefits of digital PR, you want to target sites that give do-follow backlinks, have high domain authority and low spam scores. These are some really helpful tools that will help you identify those: Hunter.io, the no-follow Chrome extension, Moz, Majestic and Authoritas backlink analysis. 

Google prefers a natural mix of backlinks and there are going to be dofollows, nofollows, unlinked mentions, all of that stuff is a healthy part of a healthy backlink profile. However my thinking with my team is, why not target what you actually want? So most times we target our campaigns to the websites that give dofollows. If my campaign gets picked up by a media brand that gives no follows, then it’s great, but it’s not really what I want – I want the dofollow backlinks. And usually I find that if the campaign gets picked up by, for example, any of the JPI media titles that give do-follow backlinks, some of the smaller editorial websites are going to pick it up anyway, so there will still be a natural mix of do-follow and nofollow backlinks.

Product Extensions

I want the referral traffic

If you mainly want referral traffic, then you want to target sites that are a little more generous with their backlinks, and it won’t matter if the links are do-follow or no-follow or even sponsored. Remember you have to have a reason for someone to click, so you can’t just rely on a hyper-linked brand mention anymore, there won’t be any motivation to send people to your website ‘just because’. Back in the day, it might have been just a matter of course, as a matter of identifying the name of the brand or something, but nowadays you need to really compel people to click on your site. So maybe that’s when you send an overview of facts to the journalists for an article, but you have a more in-depth report on your website, or perhaps you have more in-depth graphs or other assets on your site that would compel a reader to want to learn more about the topic, knowing that they’re not going to be able to fit it all in the article. There’s a lot of ways you could do that to increase your referral traffic. Here are some helpful tools: Google Analytics, URL tracking tools like Google URL builder, even email tracking tools like Mailtrack work for this.

I want to improve E-A-T

If you’re just looking to improve your site’s expertise, authority and trust (EAT), you wanna target anyone and everyone who is relevant to your brand. So anything relevant to your brand, that’s your main priority. It doesn’t matter what kind of backlink it is, even if it’s just a brand mention that will be fine as you’re going for a natural mix. Obviously, the sites should have good metrics, but even a few sites with only half-decent metrics won’t hurt – Google expects a natural mix so you can imagine it would seem out of place to have only sites with very high DA.

The spoiler of it all, is that a single digital PR campaign can hit all of these goals. You can definitely craft campaigns that hit all of these, but it’s great to start by looking at what your main priority is first.

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