Digital PR works. It doesn’t just work – it works incredibly well if you use it the right way.
But what makes it work? What’s the secret sauce?
Well, it’s not much of a secret. Digital PR works only and only when it’s backed by a good PR strategy.
Because you will be spending a part of your digital budget on PR, it’s important have a digital PR strategy that ticks all the right boxes. In this post, we will see how to build an effective digital PR strategy from the scratch.
A digital PR strategy is a detailed roadmap that your campaigns will be expected to follow.
This strategy rests on four pillars:
Understanding and identifying what you want to achieve
Planning for Implementation
Creating detailed plans that drive your campaign towards pre-decided goals and objectives
Executing these plans
Monitoring and analysing results
An effective PR strategy is a plan of action that keeps guiding your digital PR campaign through its lifetime.
Many PR agencies just try to emulate what works for traditional PR. This involves relying on an impromptu strategy, or worse – not having one at all. Because digital PR has grown so far apart from traditional PR, this is a predictably bad move.
It’s not only inefficient, it guarantees underperformance, and, in the worst scenario, complete failure. With such ad hoc methods, you will always be following the campaign, not leading it. Having a well-laid-out PR strategy provides an end-to-end cover for such problems.
No marketer or PR agency in the world can turn every campaign into a smash hit. Some campaigns work spectacularly well, some struggle to break even and some just fail miserably. The solution lies in optimisation – amplifying what works and discarding what doesn’t. And this, eventually, boils down to being able to develop a robust but adaptive strategy.
The working method we are about to discuss is divided into ten points for better understanding. These points are best followed in the order given here but you can change things around if that serves your campaign better.
Defining clear goals and objectives is more important than is given credit for. Without knowing where you want to go, what’s even the point of driving around for days on end?
Goals are the end-points for your campaign. Every bit of your campaign will, in one way or another, work towards achieving these goals. Goals are broad ideas and usually cannot be quantified.
There are three common types of goals in PR:
Goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, but that’s not what you should be doing. Objectives come after you have defined your goals. Goals can exist without objectives, but not the other way around. In most cases, objectives can be quantified, letting you measure the campaign performance (as we will see later).
Multiple objectives can be classed under one goal. Objectives help you cut the goal down into bite-sized and measurable chunks.
Example: For the goal ‘Increasing brand awareness and visibility’, objectives can be: ‘Running a promo event’, ‘Publishing three case studies on two authority websites’ and so on.
The next step is to define your target audience as accurately as you can. For new campaigns, you can prepare multiple target audiences and run split tests (A/B) to inch closer to the ‘sweet spot’. Remember – serving your campaign to a wrong set of people will only burn a hole in your PR budget.
Being able to define your target audience is a data-driven art. There are no set formulas – just templates that you will need to adapt to your requirements. Once you have the right audiences defined, it’ll be easier to find PR hosts who cater to similar audiences.
Here are some steps that will help you define targets:
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The key message is the essence of what a campaign is trying to communicate. If you understand this message well, it’ll be easy for your campaign to reflect it effortlessly.
In any given campaign, each goal carries one key message that is adapted to various objectives and delivery channels.
Example: For the goal ‘improving the brand visibility’, the key message can be: ‘This brand has just launched their fifth store in London in record time’.
The use of editorial calendars isn’t limited to content marketing. A well-devised editorial calendar can bring the much-needed clarity, time-boundedness and direction to your digital PR campaign.
An editorial calendar is the content roadmap for your campaigns. It should contain a list of key messages, outreach contacts, roll-out dates, staff responsibilities and other relevant communications. It should be accessible to you, your marketing team, PR team and content creators.
Tip: Always leave sufficient wiggle room in your editorial calendar to allow for last-minute change of plans and opportunities.
This is where digital PR and content marketing merge. If you are collaborating with digital media, it’s very likely that you won’t have to create content. Your PR hosts will use their staff writers, journalists and reporters to create content that fits their editorial policies.
If you are, however, working with niche-based authority websites or contributing guest posts, you will need to create content that is consistent with the host website. This, of course, should be done keeping in mind all the four previous steps.
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Right, this is where you start letting other people in on your campaign.
Outreach is the lifeblood of PR, and digital PR is no exception to this. Thankfully, digital outreach is much, much easier than traditional outreach.
There are two way to pitch your content to digital media and other websites on your radar:
The easiest way to get authority publications on your side is for you to jump on their board. Using tools like Google Trends and BuzzSumo, you can see what’s trending in your industry or sector. This will let you know what’s ‘selling’ and how you can make your PR pitches fit that bill. You can also get in touch with journalists, publishers and media persons to see what their content calendar has in the pipeline.
Unsolicited outreach works really well for medium sized publications and social media influencers. These publications are always on the lookout for interesting, original stories to serve to their audience, and this is where your pitch can fill the content gap. You can use independent services like Cision to identify websites and people that align with your campaigns.
Make sure you follow the classic rules of PR outreach (personalising your pitch and writing a spot-on subject line, for example) to maximise the chances of your story being picked up.
Ineffective outreach can potentially kill your campaign even before it gets started. At HQ SEO, our digital PR services help PR pitches reach the right people, at right times. To know how this can help your business, contact us here.
Once you have reached out to people and finalised publication dates, it’s time to spread the workload around. The optimisation of campaigns is necessary only when you have multiple campaigns with similar objectives running.
The aim here is straightforward– focussing more on campaigns that are more promising. For example, if your brand awareness campaign is going to be featured on the website of a national daily, you can put more efforts into it. This is essentially a predictive move that is based on the performance data of previous campaigns.
You should be fully prepared to track the results of your digital PR campaign before it goes live. Depending on your goals and objectives, the way you track metrics will change.
There are two types of metrics you should be tracking:
Leading indicators ‘lead’ the campaign as it moves along. These indictors do not directly decide the success or failure of your campaign. They do, however, tell you if you’re going in the right direction or not.
Some examples include: audience sentiment, brand mentions, inbound links to the publication page (on the PR host’s website, not yours) etc.
This is where all your tracking efforts should converge. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tell you what tangible results you have gained from running a campaign.
Some common KPIs for digital PR campaigns include: referral traffic, click-through rate on the publication page, social media engagement, lead gen stats, recorded sales, organic traffic stats etc.
Unlike traditional PR, digital PR starts yielding results immediately. Therefore, you should have a system in place to analyse the results at regular intervals.
Some KPIs will be results in themselves (for example: referral traffic), while others will need to be analysed further to reach an actionable conclusion. The ultimate aim here is to ‘translate’ all the metrics into results like ROI, number of leads, cost per lead, improvement in domain rating/authority, number of backlinks generated etc. You will also need to establish benchmarks to compare these results to. You can use relevant industry benchmarks as starting points.
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This is an entirely optional step that I personally like to follow because it helps me put things into perspective.
Running digital campaigns (or any campaigns, for that matter) is a learning curve – even if you hit the bull’s eye. So, make a note of all that’s gone right and all that could be improved. This personal exercise goes a long way towards not making the same mistake twice.
As I mentioned earlier, these ten steps are workflow directives – not digital commandments. Once you understand how the process flows, following it will be easier.
The success of a digital PR campaign rests entirely on how well it is strategised. Your campaign will inevitably have to deal with twists and turns, but if you have a solid strategy to fall back on, it’s very much possible to get good returns on your PR spend.
Building a digital PR strategy takes a great deal of patience, experience and, of course, expertise. At HQ SEO, we bring all of these factors on board with our comprehensive digital marketing and PR solutions for businesses. To learn more about how you can maximise digital PR ROIs, get in touch with us here. To request a free proposal, just fill in the form below.