What is digital PR and how can it work for startups?
(6 minute read)
Digital PR is the use of trusted, independent and unbiased online publications and websites to positively influence a brand’s target audience.
It is a marketing strategy that start-ups can use to reach specific audiences who may find their products or services of interest whilst also improving SEO and gaining brand awareness. It’s an effective way for start-ups to reach big audiences without spending huge amounts on advertising.
If your start-up is new and you’re worried that page 57 of Google just isn’t going to cut it digital PR could be the solution to your problems.
Traditional PR focuses on print-based publications, TV and radio. But online media is quickly overtaking the more traditional avenues. As the growth of online marketing continues and we as consumers get used to receiving news almost instantly, digital PR is rapidly replacing traditional PR – people are turning to influencers and online publications before newspapers and TV channels.
In the social-media-first world we’re now living in, traditional placements in well-known magazines or newspapers have become more valuable as social proof (Instagram stories) and a sign of growth than as results drivers themselves.
But, whilst traditional PR is perhaps not as powerful as it once was, a whole host of new opportunities have arisen for ambitious, digital-savvy start-ups.
This recent episode of SocialMinds is a really interesting listen if you want to know more about the nuances of PR and how social media is changing the landscape: Front Page News Feed: Is PR Still Relevant in 2019? | Nicki Bannerman
What is Digital PR?
Digital PR is an online marketing strategy that can be used to increase a business’s online presence. This typically includes reaching out to relevant journalists, bloggers, influencers and publications and sending them an online press release to gain high-quality backlinks (improving SEO), social media exposure and positive brand coverage.
Digital PR helps you gain backlinks to your website from other online publications or websites, as well as reach a wider audience and gain reviews that are honest and hopefully positive. Digital PR allows you to target the customers that you wish to reach through featuring your business on podcasts, websites and social media accounts that your customers are already interested in.
Locating the right online areas where you desire to make customers aware of your business is key. What would be the point in introducing leotards for gymnasts, for example, to people looking for football attire? It would be a waste of time, energy and money. Figure out who your target customer is, then locate the channels that are relevant to them to ensure your digital PR efforts are effective.
Digital PR, like many things, can be taken on in-house or you can outsource it to an agency. The difference when it comes to PR is that agencies will typically have good contacts in the right places, and they will understand how and when to contact those people.
Types of Digital PR Strategies
There are 101 different ways of going about your digital PR, but the strategy you use largely depends on your time, budget and creativity. If you don’t have the time or skill in-house it’s important to have the budget for a good agency who can drive the results you need.
Strong digital PR strategies are built around a core campaign idea and are backed up by additional content marketing that supports and strengthens your on-going story. Digital PR strategies typically focus on reaching out to relevant blogs, websites and social media influencers with stories that are worth sharing and offer something of value.
Common digital PR strategies include but are not limited to:
Publishing high-value articles online to gain high-quality backlinks
Writing press releases and newsworthy content to gain press features
Reaching out to bloggers for backlinks and mentions on social media
Reaching out to influencers to gain mentions on social accounts
Affiliate programs that pay bloggers who refer customers to your business on a commission
Sharing and syndicating infographics
Networking with journalists to gain backlinks
Hosting or attending offline press events or blogger events to gain online coverage
High-quality backlinks, from sites that Google deems highly relevant to your business or very well established, give your website a better status in the eyes of Google and therefore improves your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation).
You want your start-up to be at the top of the search list on Google, don’t you? Digital PR can have a dramatic effect on your website traffic, but it doesn’t always happen overnight. So, you have to be persistent and willing to fight for your start-up to be number one. You don’t want competition. You want to be the competition.
How to plan a Digital PR campaign
If you’ve decided to take on your digital PR in-house, it’s important to put together a clear plan so that you can measure its effectiveness. Once you’ve begun to take advantage of the online world to build your brand, you can analyse what is having an impact and what isn’t to avoid wasting time and money. From that point, you can then make changes where necessary to further improve performance.
Three things you need to know before you begin:
As we mentioned before, you need to have a clear idea of who your target audience is in order to succeed. If you don’t have a clear idea of who your target audience is, it will be hard to achieve good results from digital PR. It’s no good, for example, getting a link back to your website from a vegetarian blogger if you sell pork scratchings.
You can use surveys, focus groups and social media to gain an understanding of the people who may be interested in your brand. If you have been through a proper brand strategy session you should have a good idea of who these people are already.
Once you know who you’re speaking to, you need to know what you want to say.
Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think about just how many messages they are bombarded with every day. Your message needs to standout and grab their attention. If it doesn’t, publications won’t be interested in sharing your story and you’ll struggle to get top-quality coverage.
When producing content for your website, press releases and social media, you have to establish whether it is interesting enough and whether it will have an impact on guiding your business to success.
You don’t want to be like everyone else.
Your voice as an authority matters and only you as a business can ensure customers are hearing what you want them to hear or view what you want them to see. Make them want to listen, read and see what your business has to offer. You can’t sit there and expect customers to find you. You need to find them and show them that they want and need you.
You need to set goals. These goals will help you to identify the best approach to increasing awareness for your brand and driving traffic to your website. Knowing what you want to achieve allows you to see if you were successful or not. Traditional PR isn’t always that easy to track but digital PR is the opposite. Thanks to Google Analytics and other tools, you can track data that will show you how successful your digital PR campaign has been.
Always track your progress.
Why is Digital PR beneficial for your business, and especially for start-ups?
The benefits your business gains from digital PR can be direct or indirect. Remember to track all of your efforts so you know what’s working.
As a start-up business, a digital PR campaign early on can help you build your brand’s online presence at an early stage – but only if you have the right message and audience.
There are multiple benefits to a digital PR campaign, here’s what to look out for and set your goals around:
Gaining links to your website from high-authority websites will improve your Google rankings and mean you rank higher for your target keywords. The higher you are on Google, the more website traffic you’ll get.
The more links and mentions for your business there are out there the more people that will hear about you and the more people will visit your website.
Customers don’t always buy straight away, they need to become familiar with your brand before they purchase, the more you show up in the places they hangout the more aware of your brand they will become.
Publishing articles and getting mentions from authoritative figures in your industry shows that you can be trusted. Equally, producing content that other sites regularly link back to will boost Google’s trust of your website.
If your digital PR strategy is taken care of properly, your products/services should be in front of people that have an interest in what you do. The more they read about what you do the more leads you are likely to get.
If you have reached the right audience, with the right message, the leads that come to you should be ready to convert into sales.
Start-ups typically don’t have large budgets to spend on advertising, if you’ve got an exciting story digital PR is a great way to gain publicity without spending tens of thousands on ads.
How to measure the success of your Digital PR campaign
Your digital PR efforts are trackable and should be tracked so that you can assess where your time is best spent. Whilst it’s great to get into the big publications, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best ones for your business. Your strategy should be data-driven as well as creative.
Google Analytics is the best place to start. You can measure where traffic is coming from as well as where those visitors are going once they’re on your site.
Moz’s Open Site Explorer is great for checking your website’s backlinks. It’s good to keep an eye on this to know whether your campaign is driving the results you were hoping for.
Buzzsumo can be used to monitor shares of content on your site as well as mentions and shares across social media.
Figure out what it is you want to achieve with your digital PR campaign, then work out the best way to keep track of it. The benefit of using an agency is that they typically have access to the software needed to monitor and improve your campaigns over time.
Here at (hug) we take our digital PR seriously as it’s a vital part of helping our clients’ businesses to succeed. Our website, blog and social media accounts continue to bring in new clients for us. This is due to posting relevant content, knowing our target audience and setting clear goals.
There’s always something you can improve when it comes to your digital PR. Can we help you improve your results?