What is Digital PR? The Online Public Relations Guide

Digital PR is an online marketing strategy used by brands and businesses looking to increase their online visibility. A Digital PR agency will create unique content and research before outreaching it to journalists, bloggers, and industry influencers by sending an online press release to them. The aim of online PR is to earn high-quality backlinks, brand mentions and improve SEO performance.

To avoid sounding too technical, in layman's terms it is an online marketing strategy that helps companies enhance their online visibility.

Those who work in Digital PR know a thing or two about the importance of going digital. And to those thinking about hiring a Digital PR agency, you will be wondering what value it holds. Think of Digital PR experts as the wizards of the SEO world - the two have merged out of an SEO's need to deliver visibility on Google.

If you're thinking about raising your Google game, and looking to elevate your business authority, then you'll want to read on as this Digital PR guide will truly capture the what and the how.

How Do You Do Digital PR?

Well, at the heart of Digital PR is link building - driving organic, high-quality backlinks from one website (e.g. a news outlet) to another (your website). The idea is to create innovative and engaging editorial research which journalists, bloggers and any form of content creator want to publish on their website with the insertion of a backlink (hyperlink); in turn strengthening a brand's online presence and SEO.

Difference Between Digital PR and Traditional PR

PR

You will have heard of PR, but you'll now be asking what the difference is between traditional PR and Digital PR?

Digital PR is predominantly online, as opposed to offline strategies, commonly associated with traditional PR. The motivation behind digital campaigns is to generate an online presence through relevant content campaigns, which can help build the authority and trust of a website.

Where traditional PR typically focuses on press release distributions, readership, and viewership, Digital PR involves non-paid for opportunities, whilst creating editorial research for the purpose of elevating domain authority.

Why is Digital PR Important?

It can build a brands reputation

Although the inherent goal of Digital PR is to build links, sometimes coverage without backlinks can be a strong signal of trust, nonetheless, bolstering positive reinforcements to the reader. It means if anyone were to Google your brand, they should see useful, high-quality articles that are SEO driven in an organic way, indicating that your brand is a respected source of information for your given field.

It can increase website traffic

The more citations and backlinks, the greater the potential for website traffic. The more content that is found through a simple Google search or shared through social media, the more likely someone is to visit the site; with the potential to convert as a customer.

It can increase organic rankings and overall SEO performance

Although links are not the ONLY ranking factor, they are still incredibly important. If your content is published by leading sites, whilst establishing niche relevancy, your website will benefit with higher rankings; overall improving your site's SEO.

It generates leads

If you have a strong Digital PR strategy, your website will be featured on highly trusted and relevant websites. This alone can generate new leads for your business.

It can boost media relations

To truly succeed at Digital PR, you need strong media relations - building and nurturing relationships with journalists is incredibility important. If a journalist likes your work, you’ll leave them hungry for more, approaching you time after time for content. It's a win-win situation! Authority and trust go a long way in Digital PR!

Choosing a Campaign Type

Tabloid rich stories

They're as juicy as freshly squeezed orange juice - striking, the perfect balance of sweet and sour, can cause a stir if not juiced properly, and we all love a cheeky glass every now and again.

If you brainstorm a tabloid rich story, you're likely to make an impact with a story that's compelling and fuelled by gossip; which consumers love to read. They can be "easy" placements - not necessarily links, but achieve powerful brand mentions, which can only add to your website's credibility.

Journalists will also crave this content time and time again, so if you deliver stories they love, they'll keep coming back for more.

Media requests

When answering media requests, the result can be quick, relatively easy and low-risk PR links. It's one of the easiest ways of securing backlinks by utilising your brand's field of expertise to distribute newsworthy comments to journalists seeking information. Not to mention, journalists will often provide credit in the form of a link. What more can you ask for?

Data

Crunching numbers should be at the heart of campaign ideation. But it's no easy feat, and a data-driven campaign can be high risk, and not always time efficient. That being said, if you consider your idea to be the crème de la crème and you have confidence in the hook, then give it a shot! You’re more likely to benefit from more authoritative and relevant placements from high DA publications, which are often of a similar/relatable niche to your brand - increasing chances of improved rankings of keywords.

Reactive

Reactive PR will promote your brand image in a positive light, showcasing your expertise. But the clue is in the word - you need to be quick, thorough and, on the ball when pumping out reactive content. It can be the most rewarding campaign type, as if done well, it could cause your story to go viral, gaining more links in less time. Less really can be more.

There really is no knowing if a campaign can go viral, but there are some fool-proof ways to increase your chances. You'll want to jump on core themes - such as product-based stories, cheating scandals, and touching on subjects such as money, marriage, fake news etc. Again, it's high-risk, as it can be time consuming, without knowing the real impact of success.

How to Plan Digital PR Campaigns

Brainstorm

A successful idea is the beating heart of any campaign. It is supported by data, visuals and a gripping story. But without a truly "good" idea, your campaign will very quickly fall apart, and you'll often find yourself flogging away at a dead horse.

Brainstorming isn't a one size fits all, and good ideas don’t come from that 3pm stump in the day. Whilst some of the best ideas come to us when we least expect it.

To fuel those fresh ideas which can jumpstart your brainstorm session, consider some of the following questions:

  1. What's happening in your industry - past, present and future?
  2. What does the reader want to know about?
  3. What does the journalist want to write about?
  4. Who would you like to target - is it the business professionals or the consumer?
  5. Should you focus on data-rich campaigns that are relevant to your industry?
  6. Is there a national/seasonal event that can support your idea?

Preparation is key when brainstorming

Although you need a certain degree of spontaneity when brainstorming, there is also an element of preparation in advance that can form, expand, or support an idea you have with real data.

When coming up with PR ideas, always ask yourself:

  1. Does the journalist care?
  2. Will the reader be interested in what you’re providing?
  3. Will your client like the idea/understand the premise?
  4. Will it achieve those juicy, stand-out placements?
  5. And finally, can you imagine it being placed?

If you can't, then ditch the idea!

Where can you source data? Examples include:

  1. Governmental datasets such as GOV, ONS - These often get covered quickly as journalists use them a lot, but you might be able to find a new angle on something.
  2. Industry reports from leading private companies.
  3. YouGov.
  4. Freedom of Information Requests (FOI).
  5. Create your own survey to distribute.
  6. Google Trends.
  7. Ahrefs/SEMrush for keyword volume.
  8. Google Keyword Planner.
  9. Social media analytics.

Google commands

Considering there are millions upon millions of pages on Google, you'll be pleased to know there are multiple Google search operators that allow you to search in a more fluid way, whilst limiting your search.

Here are some examples:

  1. Finding reports/statistical releases: 'football statistics year', 'football statistics report year', as well as more specific search commands such as 'Premier League sponsorships statistics year'.
  2. If you're looking for information on number plates, you may use the following: intitle: "Number Plate" inurl:news - searches pages in Google which have "number plate" in the title and "news" in their URL.
  3. "" - If you're looking for a specific phrase, put it in quotes, forcing Google to use exact-match.
  4. Insite:websitename.com/.co.uk fashion - tells Google to only pull articles found on the website related to this topic.
  5. intitle: - this tells Google to search only in the page titles for a word or phrase.
  6. Related: operator. Shows results similar to that website. Could be good if you have found some niche specific sites and want to find more like it.
  7. allintitle: operator. Returns results which have all of the words following the colon in the title.
  8. AROUND operator. Shows results where the second word is within X amount of words of the first. The below search would return pages where the words "number plates" are within 6 words of "private" and have either 'news' or 'blog' in their URL.

Visualisation

Data visualisation is a key element of Digital PR, and you should consistently ponder your audience before embarking on a graphic. The type of visual will depend on your campaign type, which we’ve spoken about earlier.

A good, strong graphic should act as a stand-alone visual that encapsulates your data. A journalist and reader should understand the data without the context of the press release, taking complex data and transforming it into a far more digestible manner.

Finally, less is always more. Don’t include a visual if it’s not needed or doesn’t exemplify your findings. Don’t overcrowd your visual so it’s bursting with information, as you’ll lose interest from the receiver straight away.

Press Release and Outreach Email

There are unquestionable ingredients when packaging up your campaign to maximise your chances of being published.

The email

Also called a "pitch" to journalists. This is arguably, more important than the PR as it will make or break whether a journalist looks at your email to begin with.

Your email needs to include a brief introduction. This can include a leading statistic, fact or referencing something that’s trending in the news. You’ll want to jump straight in, and not waffle on, so it’s crucial to introduce the topic, what’s been researched and how.

At this point this is where your USP should shine - if your hook isn’t established straight away, you’ll lose the journalist and there’s no going back.

What to consider when drafting a subject line:

  1. Open with statistic, such as a percentage as it engages the journalist immediately and showcases a unique data stance.
  2. Vary your subject lines according to the field you’re outreaching to.
  3. Play around with a combination of subject lines, until you reach your strongest.
  4. Keep it short, sweet, and snappy.
  5. Stuff your ‘keyword/s’ in the first 5 words if you can. If your subject line is too long, journalists may not see the last part.
  6. Consider your audience/media outlet – perhaps take inspiration from how they write their headlines and send them something they can identify with.

Press release

Much of the hard work is 'done'. You've compiled your data, analysed your results, visualised your data, and you're ready to move onto the next phase of your Digital PR campaign. Your mission is to translate everything you have into a press release that will engage and lure journalists in. But remember, you’re not writing the finished article or feature, you're simply supplying the journalist with the steps for them to do so.

Press release dos:
Press release don'ts:

Outreach

Regionals

Regional newspapers crave content at almost the same rate of nationals, so targeting regional outlets can prove a worthy cause. When brainstorming ideas at the very beginning of the process, anticipate if your data lends itself to a regional hook. If so, it could be an easy way of securing placements, and syndicated ones too.

And although regional news outlets are prepared to take your content, don't assume they will add a backlink. It can be harder to achieve a link, but as per national sites, they have a high domain authority (DA) meaning citations could be as powerful as without a link.

Sectors

When you're at the point of outreaching your campaign, one of your first considerations should be interested sectors.

Take a moment to consider who would be intrigued by your research, as it could open up a positive can of worms for relevant sub-sectors to outreach to. In doing so, you'll be presented with several chances to write catered press releases, drafting personalised subject lines that echo the audience you're emailing.

Your campaign shouldn't limit your approach, it should push boundaries, in a bid to source more specific, and appropriate publications through a systematic approach to outreach.

International Outreach

The holy grail of Digital PR is backlinks, and you're not going to rake them in just sitting around and hoping journalists are interested by your release. You need to graft, and graft hard, and one 'easy' way of securing high DA links is by going outside of your market/demographic.

Simplify your topic and think about how universally appealing it may be. If it is, there's even more scope for outreach to Europe and the rest of the world.

Even if your campaign has country specific data, don't be fooled by its limits. The fact the data focuses on one country alone shouldn't deter you from sending it more widely. If you can pinpoint a subject that's likeable no matter the country of interest, then there's absolutely no reason international publications wouldn't publish your work - if anything, they can be the most interested, opening up your backlink potential.

How to Measure The Success of a Digital PR Campaign

Digital PR is a far more measurable marketing approach in a digital landscape, unlike traditional PR, due to its offline emphasis. That being said, it can sometimes feel like you've hit a dead end, and stuck in the dark, unsure how best to monitor and measure the success of a PR campaign. But it doesn't have to feel all doom and gloom, as thanks to multiple analytics tools and Google data, it's become a lot more manageable to measure success of a PR campaign.

Once a campaign launches, you'll be hoping and praying that your efforts will pay off with an influx of high-quality backlinks. And whilst, it's somewhat natural to see a certain amount of low-quality, perhaps undesirable links filtering through, your primary focus is to warrant the most authoritative backlinks your site can benefit from. Using tools like Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, Moz Pro and BuzzSumo will enable you to view incoming links.

Domain Authority (DA)

This metric, supplied by Moz, predicts your probability to rank in the SERPs. The more influential and relevant the backlink, the better your DA will be. You should take notice of the DA of a site, as well as the trust flow and citation flow (supplied by Majestic).

Social Shares

Don't dismiss the power social media holds in an age of modern technology. Social shares can really elevate your brand reputation, not to mention reveal an insight into the way you cultivate your Digital PR presence.

Your end goal is to see and hear your campaign spoken about. Whether it be through tweets, Facebook comments, LinkedIn posts or likes; no matter the platform, the more positive reinforcements your content has, the more likely it is your brand will come out on top.

Social media is also a platform to engage, and be engaged, so it's vital that you direct as much traffic back to your site through shareable and referrable content.

Choosing the Right Digital PR Agency

Considering how fast paced the digital marketing industry is, there's a plethora of strategies and tactics that are discovered on a daily basis, and so it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest trends without sufficient guidance.

There's nothing embarrassing about admitting you need the help of a digital marketing agency, and specifically a Digital PR agency to streamline your business and take it to the next level in the rankings.

When choosing a Digital PR agency, the decision shouldn't come too easy - ultimately you want to pick one that fits with your brand values and principles and understands what you wish to get out of your brand.

How to Vet a Digital PR Agency

Understand your company's marketing needs

As much as you're scouting a company to satisfy your company's needs, it's only made possible if you understand exactly what you're after. What are you looking for specifically? What's your core focus? Do you have a budget in mind and where do you wish to prioritise your budget?

Research agencies, as much as they’d research you

Like with anything in life, take the time to do your homework. When looking for Digital PR agencies, you should take the time to investigate the work they do and if their results is impressive.

Do they outsource some of their services you're after, or do they conduct them entirely in-house? Can they run effective SEO and Digital PR on their own site? And do they have a healthy backlink profile.

Furthermore, we all love to be referred a company through recommendations. So, ask around in your business community, friends and family if they know anyone they'd recommend.

Prepare Your Questions

It can be easy to lose sight of what it is you're after, especially if your first meeting, whether in person or virtually goes on for several hours. Before your first conversation, think about the kind of questions that will help you find an agency that suits your needs.

Try Before You Buy

A meeting is the best way forward after you've been initially impressed by a Digital PR agency. Scheduling a meeting is the best test that your company gels with the agency of your choice and it's the best way to ensure one can work with one another.

Like to learn more? This blog post details some useful information as to the steps you can take when choosing a digital marketing agency.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does a Digital PR campaign run?

Digital marketing agencies will provide a timeline of work, as some campaigns can be pre-authorised core campaigns, lasting several weeks or months especially if building a large-scale asset. Whilst some campaigns may only last a couple of hours, depending on the campaign type.

It must also be noted that there's no definitive end date to a campaign once it's been outreached and collecting placements. If you're looking for an agency that goes above and beyond, you'll want to see intuition when a news story of relevance circulates and they're quick at being reactive. Likewise, you don't want a company to stand still - every campaign should be squeezed dry of potential.

How long is a piece of string? Ultimately, the decision for setting a links KPI is entirely your choice. If you are looking to hire an Online PR agency to conduct monthly, or even quarterly campaigns, then you will set a suitable KPI. Once this KPI is set, a campaign will be expected to meet at a minimum the set KPI, but ultimately, the goal is to gain as many placements as possible.

Will I oversee a campaign from start to finish?

Most SEO PR agencies will have a certain level of creative freedom and licence to push a campaign out from start to finish without a client overseeing the idea due to time constraints. As campaigns often rely on what's trending in the news, it's important to understand as clients, that not every idea can be discussed, as this will present itself with its own challenges, falling behind other competitors in your field.

The only exception to the rule will be at the brainstorming phase. It's recommended to have a discovery session, so the agency you intend to hire understands your field and your primary goals. Once this is achieved, it's easier for your agency to pitch ideas, and for you to express any thoughts or concerns before an idea is carried out.