By Holly Rollins
It’s a no-brainer that professionals in America spend an incredible amount of time online, an average of 22.5 hours per week, according to the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future. The majority of our consumer base is online. The result? Digital marketing and PR has never been more important.
Digital vs. traditional PR
Traditional PR is all about working with journalists to have your business featured in newspapers and magazines. Before the dotcom boom, PR specialists and publicists’ goals focused on the number of times their clients were included in newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
And then came the internet. Many newspapers and magazines moved their stories to websites, and the role of traditional PR shifted. Just as publicists used to compete to get their clients in the most widely read newspapers, now they’re competing to get their clients in front of vast online audiences. That’s not to say that PR people aren’t still working to get their clients in the newspapers–far from it–but the focus has changed, and now PR companies and their clients are able to get more bang for their buck with publications that have both print and online versions.
In a way, digital PR allows businesses to access two audiences at once.
What is digital PR?
Digital PR is not dissimilar to traditional PR, but its focus is online visibility. You’ll still be doing things like:
- Writing and sending press releases
- Building relationships with journalists
- Organizing events and reviews
- Writing blogs and thought leadership pieces
Adding a digital twist adds a few extras like:
- Writing press releases with relevant, high-value backlinks
- Building relationships with online journalists
- Organizing podcasts, events, and reviews
- Using SEO to secure a high ranking on search engines
- Writing thought leadership pieces for online publications with high-quality backlinks
- Creating content for social media
The goals of digital PR are very similar to the goals of traditional PR, but the methods are different.
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SEO and Google ranking
Digital PR’s first goal is online visibility. It’s important to show up on the first page of a Google search, and cleverly executed digital PR can achieve this and more. A well thought out digital strategy will include SEO; link profiles, anchor text distribution, link monitoring, and ranking all play a role in increasing online presence and measuring the efficacy of a marketing campaign.
The press release in the modern world
It’s the oft-debated question in the PR world: are press releases dead?
Press releases are polarizing. A good press release gets across the who, what, when, where, why, and how as quickly (and concisely) as possible. They’re also incredibly easy to write poorly—(many journalists keep “press release fail” compilations on their social media channels). Publicly owned companies must use them to communicate, however, and most niche market publications rely on press releases for their information.
But simply putting company news in a press release and popping that release on a distribution service is unlikely to help your digital strategy. You’ll need to carefully consider the best way to make your press release work hard for you. How? Stern Strategy Group offers some great insights:
- Include backlinks. You MUST include backlinks in your press releases. The backlink is the key to digital PR value.
- Create a timeline and build momentum. A press release, even if it’s just on your website, shows current and potential clients that your business is doing well.
- Use them as part of a targeted media pitch. A press release is a great way to show credibility, especially when you’re pitching thought leadership pieces.
Thought leadership establishes you as a leader in your field, but did you know that it can actually lead to new business? According to a survey by Edelman, 48% of execs and 45% of decision makers said a company’s thought leadership directly led to them doing business with the organization.
Digital PR is a bit tougher. Much of the value of thought leadership comes from those high-ranking backlinks. Use a tool like the Moz domain authority checker when checking backlink value, and make sure to do your research. Some journalists do not include backlinks in their articles and will be VERY frustrated if you email to ask for one. It’s always best to pitch to a journalist who has used backlinks before, to get the full digital value of the opportunity.
Pro tip: Online journalists aren’t bound by print deadlines and publication days, so pitching times can be a bit more flexible. Try pitching at 11 a.m., and remember to avoid early Mondays and late Fridays.
The rise of social media has dramatically affected the way most businesses think about PR. Where social media was once about content creation, digital PR optimizes social media channels and makes it all about delivery. Whilst content is key, social media for digital PR is all about measurement.
Social media offers a range of insights, ranging from likes and shares to reach and impressions. Use the data to zero in on sales. Are there any correlations between sales and impressions, likes, or shares? This data has the potential to revitalize your business.
Building relationships with online journalists
A PR pro is only as good as his or her little black book of contacts, and without face-to-face meetings, every interaction is critical. How can you build good relationships with online contacts?
- Only pitch relevant ideas. In our digital world, it’s so easy to research what journalists have written about recently and what they’re interested in. Take your time, do the research, and in your pitch, mention a recent article. Everyone likes to be complimented. A journalist who knows you care is much more likely to throw a backlink in as a favor.
- Respond quickly. If a journalist needs something, whether it’s a photo, a comment, or another story, get back to them as soon as you can. This may mean keeping an eye on your emails when a story is about to break, but it’s a small price to pay for the incredible exposure they’re offering.
According to Edison Research, 144 million Americans listen to podcasts. Odds are, your customers are some of them. Podcasts are a fantastic way to tell your story, because they allow you to use your own words with your own voice. Podcasts are also a good way to engage your audience and have them keep coming back to you for industry intel.
When it comes to return on investment, the answer is clear: today’s most effective PR is digital.
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