Like pretty much everything else, public relations has had to evolve for the digital era. Enter Digital PR.
In the past, when it came to promoting your business, print ruled. If you were a local business owner looking to advertise, you’d take out an ad in your local newspaper. If you wanted to raise your profile, you’d look to be featured in a magazine or newspaper. Broadcast was in the mix too, and local radio, TV advertising and news coverage would be part of your marketing strategy.
To promote their clients, public relations executives spent their time building relationships with journalists and chasing down press release coverage and interviews.
The value of their work was measured according to how much the coverage they secured would be worth as a paid-for ad (the traditional means of measuring PR’s ‘worth’).
It was thus so until around the early 2000s and the dawn of the digital era – the true digital boom time when the internet spread to the masses and began to change the way we do things forever. Enter social media – and the Big Daddy of them all, Facebook – and it was game over for PR as we knew it.
Like every business, service and sector, PR had to change, and fast. Value began to be measured in reach, search engine rankings, followers and likes.
Newspapers were no longer the only way to get your voice heard, and journalists were no longer the gatekeepers. Businesses could publish their own news on blogs and reach out directly to customers via social media.
The (Near) Death Of Print…
Print publications have taken a pretty big hit from all of this, with ad revenue nose diving. Many small local and even national newspapers have sunk without a trace. Many have become online only (such as The Independent), submitting to the power of the internet and the huge exodus of readers who no longer pick up a print edition.
Newspapers soldier on and have not died out completely (yet) we’re happy to report, but they’re operating in a vastly changed and hugely challenging landscape.
What does all this mean?
The focus has shifted dramatically towards digital. Traditional PR, while it still has a role in marketing strategies, has a new online ally – Digital PR.
So what is digital PR, and why do you need it for your business?
What Is Digital PR?
In short, Digital PR is the process of creating and distributing high quality content online, with the aim of growing the reputation of your business and boosting your SEO.
In today’s digital world the core activities and goals of PR remain the same – to positively promote the products or services of a business or organisation to its target audience.
However, the method of delivering these messages has changed. Target audiences are no longer consuming offline content in the huge numbers they used to.
Why should this concern you? A business’ customers are now overwhelmingly online – they’re getting their news online, talking about brands on social media, searching for product reviews and shopping online.
If a business is neglecting its digital reputation, it is missing opportunities.
It’s all right there for the taking – the opportunity to grow your brand, to connect with your audience, to build your reputation and customer base and most importantly, to boost your bottom line.
In addition, your customers are talking about you online, and if you don’t listen you could be vulnerable to complaints or negative reviews that spread through the web and start damaging your reputation.
Basically, your online reputation is just as important as your offline one.
What’s more, a Digital PR strategy can directly increase leads by putting your brand in front of your target customers, then drawing them back to your website and into your sales funnel.
Done properly, Digital PR will:
- Improve your website’s search engine ranking for target keywords
- Drive more traffic to your website
- Build brand awareness and trust
- Increase leads and sales
How Does Digital PR Work?
Just like traditional PR, the aim of Digital PR is to build your business’ reputation by creating interesting, high quality content to grab a journalist’s attention and gain media coverage. However, there is an important distinction.
Digital PR also aims to boost your business’ SEO.
The content produced under a Digital PR strategy could be anything from a guest blog, a news piece, an in-depth feature article, a video, an infographic, a ‘How To’ guide or other content interesting enough for a website to publish.
You could spend days working on a piece of content, but if it doesn’t get published, you’re wasting your time.
To give your content the best chance possible, it has to be interesting (to the target audience), timely (taking advantage of trending topics or events), ‘news-worthy’ or relevant (providing useful information for your target audience).
Digital PR mainly boosts SEO by gaining backlinks to your business’ website, social media mentions, and positive online reviews.
All of these things are important because they tell Google that your website is genuine enough that other websites make reference to it. It tells the search engine gods that what your business is saying/creating/selling is high quality and of interest to a large number of people.
Google then rewards you with a higher results page ranking.
I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you that high ranking = good for business.
Get Optimising For Keywords…
If you want your content to get in front of your target audience, it has to be optimised for relevant keywords.
Using the right keywords throughout your content ensures that when your target audience is searching online, they actually find it.
For example, if you run a health food company, your target audience is those interested in healthy living. You would then do your keyword research and produce content around searched-for terms and phrases in this area eg superfoods. When your target audience is searching online using these keywords, your content pops up.
Your content then leads them back to your website, and voila, their journey to becoming your customer begins.
Keywords help Google determine which web pages are most relevant to the word or phrase being searched for. If you ignore keywords, even if your content is published, it could be left festering away on page 10 of Google, never to be seen by your target audience.
Build Those Backlinks…
Now for some tech stuff; bear with us. Backlinks are very, very important when it comes to your SEO. Backlinks, or links to your website that are carried on other websites, add authenticity to your website.
And we’re not just talking any old websites. You want to get backlinks on well established, respected sites that have a high domain authority (a search engine ranking score). Getting backlinks on very new, very old or slightly dodgy sites could actually harm your SEO.
You need to choose websites whose target audience aligns with your own. For example, if you run a hairdressing business and you want to share some content you’ve created around the latest styling trends, you probably wouldn’t approach a fishing news website.
It sounds obvious, but you have to do your homework here to make sure your content will reach the right people, and that it stands a reasonable chance of being picked up by the relevant journalists and editors.
Google also penalises websites that have a tonne of irrelevant backlinks. Think about it, Google’s aim is to provide the most relevant and useful results for your online searches. If it didn’t you would quickly switch to using a rival search engine. Google needs to determine how genuine a website is and how useful a piece of content is to decide where to place it in search results.
If your website has backlinks on a number of questionable websites that have no relevance to your core business, the red flags go up and your ranking goes down.
Having credible backlinks also makes your web pages more visible for Google. If it can’t find you, it can’t present you in search results.
Social Media and Online Reviews…
We all know about the power of social media and reviews in building (or breaking) a brand. No Digital PR strategy would be complete without them.
Think of your business’ social media channels as another way of getting a foothold online. It offers the chance to communicate directly to your customers, gain mentions, share your content to a wider audience and boost your profile.
It’s unclear how much notice Google takes of your social media when deciding where to place your website or content in its results pages. There’s no guarantee that every post you put onto Facebook is going to send you shooting to the top of page one.
In fact, your social posts probably won’t have any affect directly on your website’s ranking at all.
That’s not to say that your social media activity has no SEO value.
There are myriad ways social pages can indirectly help build your SEO presence, and their influence with Google is growing. How many times have you searched for a particular business and found their Facebook page in the top results? Or searched on a topic and been directed to an article published on LinkedIn?
If a particular blog post gets a lot of likes on social media, this tells Google that it’s a quality bit of content, and your blog may well rank higher as a result.
And don’t forget, the point of SEO is to help people to find your website. If you can direct people to your website (and your sales funnel) via social media, then happy days.
Bottom line – social media is a crucial piece of your business’s online presence.
That being said, you shouldn’t just ‘do’ social media for the sake of it. You need to have a very clear goal, choose the right platform and be consistent. As with anything in life, the more you put in, the more you will get out.
Here’s some quick dos and don’ts:
- Do use it to give your brand some personality
- Don’t just see it as a sales platform
- Don’t post every now and then when you have something to promote
- Do post frequently and use it to share your blogs, videos and any other content
- Do use it to directly interact with your customers, eg via Facebook Live
Gaining online reviews is another key part of a Digital PR strategy. Reviews definitely do help your SEO efforts, particularly local SEO. The more of them, and the more positive, the better. It sends a strong signal to the search engine gods that you are a trusted, genuine source and you will be looked upon much more favourably in search result rankings.
Aside from the SEO benefits, reviews are one of the most potent forms of ‘social proof’. People are more likely to be swayed by the opinions of other people than by any sales pitch. Good old word of mouth is still the most powerful sales tactic of them all.
There are many review sites but some of the most used are Google reviews (these pop up on the right hand side of search results pages when looking for a local business), Yelp and Facebook reviews, which often appear on Google local results.
Getting people to leave you a review, even if they were happy with your product or service, is another matter. There are many tactics you can use, starting with a simple ask.
Once you have your hopefully glowing reviews coming in, you can leverage these across your channels, ie on your website and social media.
Working With Bloggers And Influencers…
Bloggers play a big role in Digital PR, so don’t underestimate their importance. Blogs have become a legitimate and respected source of content over the past decade or so. Some of the top blogs have huge followings and it’s this that Digital PR tries to tap into.
Guest blogging is a fantastic way of increasing your brand’s reach and generating those all-important backlinks.
First, you’ll need to identify bloggers that write about the topics your business is related to, and those that have a big enough following of the right kind of people – your target customer.
Once you know which bloggers you’d like to work with, you’ll need to start building relationships with them. It helps to offer a guest blog with a high value to their readers. If you want them to endorse a product, send them a sample.
It might not happen overnight, but building a positive relationship with an influential blogger can do wonders for your brand awareness, and your SEO.
Developing partnerships with social media influencers is another effective way of boosting your profile and SEO.
Again, be sure to do your homework and find the influencer who fits well with your business and your aims.
This doesn’t mean just going for the Instagrammer with the largest following or the most-talked-about celebrity. It could be a micro-influencer – someone influential in a very niche field.
Getting the right influencer to endorse your business or share your content on their social media channels will amplify your message to a huge degree.
Why Do I Need Digital PR?
If you want to drive online leads and grow your digital reputation, you need to sit up and take notice of Digital PR.
To boost your website’s ranking and domain authority, you absolutely must have backlinks, and an effective Digital PR strategy is the way to get them. Remember, if no-one can find your website or content, there’s little point having them. You have to play the Google game – get those backlinks and get found.
Posting on your own social media and blog can only get you so far when it comes to building brand awareness, no matter how optimised your website is. Digital PR can drastically widen your reach, giving your target audience more and more ways to find your content and your business.
So what about poor-old traditional PR? Has it been completely usurped by this glamorous new arrival? Those of us that started out in print journalism and traditional PR many years ago (like yours truly) still have a misty-eyed connection to it.
Print still very much carries authenticity, trust, value, and prestige. The key, in any marketing activity, is to know exactly what you want to achieve at the outset. If you’re all about brand awareness, you should be hitting up traditional and Digital PR. If you’re focusing on your sales funnel, go Digital PR all the way.
It’s about finding that balance between your online and offline activities. That sweet spot that brings you the optimum results you’re looking for.
Digital PR is not easy to do. It brings together the worlds of SEO, social media and content marketing, so you need to not only be a good writer, you also need to have an understanding of how search engines and web pages work. Really, you should probably just hire some experts. Book a free consultation with Acrylic today and we’ll have a good chat about your business goals, how PR can help you achieve them, and put together a bespoke plan of action – no obligation, no charge, we promise…
Our Head of Marketing, Hazel Butler, is an award-winning author, copywriter, and editor. Part ghostwriter, part blogger, part videographer, and part strategist, when she’s not endlessly penning content for our clients Hazel’s happily concocting the perfect marketing plans to propel their businesses forward.
Get to know her...
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