Digital PR is a marketing strategy that combines traditional PR media relations with digital channels such as SEO, social media, and influencer marketing. Digital PR allows brands to develop relationships with influential media outlets in order to earn editorial coverage, thus improving their website backlinks, brand exposure, SEO, and more.
As the world continues to move away from traditional print journalism, brands will need to adapt to develop relationships with influential entities that have large online followings. This is where digital PR comes into play.
The goals of digital PR can undoubtedly differ depending on your brand. Some companies might want to partner with Instagram accounts with large followings containing their target demographics to drive sales. Other companies might like to partner up to an influential entity to generate more brand awareness. However, one of the most common uses of digital PR is to build backlinks.
To obtain editorial backlinks, a lot needs to happen. You need to brainstorm different ideas that a journalist would be interested in covering. You then need to create content that’s newsworthy and warrants the journalist’s time and attention. Next, you need to research all of the potential journalists interested in covering your content and pitch them. Often, hundreds of pitches are required to place your content successfully.
While this seems like a lot, this is the reality of building backlinks in the present day. For this reason, we wanted to aggregate the various steps in this comprehensive guide to show you how to generate backlinks using digital PR tactics.
Types of digital PR campaigns
In our experience, campaigns that use data points generally work the best in terms of getting coverage. By being data-driven, we’re helping journalists create a story by uncovering fascinating, new data that their readers likely don’t know about.
In addition, taking a data-based approach is a repeatable model. While an organization could partake in some newsworthy event (charitable event, merger, company announcement) these stories are difficult to repeat month after month. However, there is a lot of untapped data out from which to create stories. This approach ensures that you can consistently generate newsworthy campaigns without relying on external, third-party events.
Of course, data campaigns aren’t the only way to generate digital PR and there are many other completely valid methods. However, we find using data tends to be the most consistent and reliable.
Existing data campaign
In an existing data campaign, you’ll want to identify some type of data source you can use to find interesting insights as the premise of your content you’ll be pitching to journalists.
Creating surveys is a fantastic way to get data that you can use in your content if you don’t have data readily available. You can do this by using tools such as Google Surveys and getting around 2,500 – 3,500 responses, creating a unique dataset.
As the title suggests, a map campaign is a type of digital PR campaign where you overlay your data insights on a map. For example, in this campaign for “The Most Googled Pie In Every State” from Prevention.com, you can see how they overlay a pie icon over every state in the United States.
The digital PR process
1. Ideation phase
Now that you know the general types of campaigns, it’s time to start thinking about which one you’ll want to create. This starts with the ideation process.
Ideally, you’ll want to ideate anywhere from 3-5 different campaign options. By ideating multiple campaigns, you can then compare them against each other to determine which one will most likely generate the most coverage and backlinks for your brand. To give you more insights on how to ideate multiple topics, you can use the following rules:
Rule #1: Choose a topic tangentially related to your business
It’s important that the topic of your campaign is somehow related to your core business. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense for a gardening retailer to create a piece of content that talks about the most fashionable cities in America and pitch the story to Vogue. A digital PR campaign that covers the cities with the most urban gardeners and pitching to Apartment Therapy will result in much more targeted coverage.
Please note how we used the phrase “tangentially related”. The topic you choose doesn’t have to exactly match your core business. In the flower retailer example above, you might also consider other digital PR campaigns around other outdoor topics, as gardening generally ties into this concept. By not limiting yourself to only campaigns about your products, you’ll open up a large number of campaign possibilities and increase your chances of getting coverage.
Rule #2: Choose a newsworthy topic
Another key point is that in order for your digital PR campaign to be successful, you’ll need to ensure that whatever you create is going to be newsworthy in some way. If it’s not, journalists will have no incentive to cover it, as it won’t help their articles earn clicks and shares.
Rule #3: Check to see if similar campaigns have been done recently
Before moving ahead with a campaign, you’ll want to make sure that it hasn’t been done too recently. Nothing is worse than going through all of the steps to create and pitch a campaign just to find that journalists have already covered it.
Rule #4: Rank your campaigns
Once you’ve brainstormed multiple ideas for digital PR campaigns that you want to move forward with, it can also be helpful to rank them. Not all campaigns will be created equal, and some might be naturally stronger than others. We find it helpful to give each campaign a 1-5 rating across five different criteria:
- Backlink potential: How likely is this to produce backlinks?
- Outreach diversity: How many different publications would be interested in covering this?
- Outreach angles: How likely is it that we can find multiple different angles to pitch this from?
- Subject topicality: How relevant is this campaign in today’s news cycle?
- Audience size: How large is the size of the audience for our target publications
2. Publish the campaign: design & blog phase
Now comes the exciting part! You get to transform your campaign from a bunch of raw data in a spreadsheet to beautifully designed graphics that live on a page of your site.
The campaign should be added as a blog post to your site and consist of two components:
- Custom graphics that highlight your data insights
- Copy that provides more detail about the research and findings
3. Build an outreach list
After publishing your campaign, you’re then ready to start the pitching process by finding relevant journalists to pitch to.
4. Pitching phase
The final part of any good digital PR campaign is the pitching process, where we take all of the journalist’s contact information we just collected and begin to reach out to them.
The golden rule of the pitch
One key thing to remember when pitching is that the average journalist receives many, many different pitches every day. Part of their job is to wade through all of them and make decisions about which ones will be the most successful. Because journalists are constantly bombarded with potential stories, you’ll want to follow the golden rule of pitching:
Do as much upfront work for the journalist as possible.
This means that your outreach needs to be short, direct, and easy to read. We’ve found that it’s really helpful to use bullet points to keep things succinct.