As time passes, it is becoming clear that purely traditional PR is a thing of the past. If you aren’t in the digital landscape, you might just get left behind. Very few businesses these days are purely brick and mortar (64% of small businesses alone have a web presence) and competition is fierce on the internet. To build a brand and to increase visibility, your PR campaigns have to go digital.
SEO for Public Relations
PR strategists in this day and age have to pay attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) if they want their clients to compete in the digital space. Google, the number one search engine (88% of searches are done on Google), dictates which businesses get seen, and which don’t. But how do you compete in this rapidly changing landscape? The answer: Backlinks.
Moz evaluated Google’s algorithm and surmised that more than 50% of its ranking factors are outside of a business’s web page (also known as “off-page SEO.” Meaning that a website can’t rank without other trustworthy pages pointing to it in some way. These can be signals from social media channels, reviews, and brand mentions, but primarily, Google’s algorithm values backlinks (links pointing to your client’s site).
The most important thing you can do for your client’s website presence is to improve their organic visibility and website traffic. And to do that, you need links.
So how do you get these links? The simple answer is: lots of ways. There are practically as many link building strategies as people running them, but some are more effective than others.
Content promotion is the strategy of creating great content and promoting it widely to media outlets for the sole purpose of SEO. It always begins with a great idea – relevant to your brand, potentially seasonally relevant – something that people will want to write about. Ideally, you’ll need a complete team to make your idea come to fruition: copywriters, content strategists, SEO specialists, designers, developers, and a PR team to eventually promote it.
Targeted Media Lists
Successful content promotion always starts with a great brainstorm session. Get some great ideas down, flesh them out, make a copy brief, complete with media targets, goals, and KPIs for your campaign. When it comes to media targets, ask yourself, “who is going to care about this?” Pinpoint specific outlets and their journalists and editors. Do your research. Identify your target audience and build robust media lists.
There are lots of tools on the internet to build these lists. Prowly has a great service – there is also Muck Rack (which is ridiculously expensive but very up to date) and many others. Hand-prospecting can be effective, but tedious and time-consuming, so depending on the time you have available for building media lists, using a tool may be the most effective use of your time.
Having a good email delivery system is pretty essential with this task if you don’t want to spend hours upon hours sending out individual emails. Buzzstream can be priceless if you have a big team and are interested in sending scheduled follow-ups, but PR tools like Prowly can be great email tools for smaller teams and media lists. These tools will allow you to schedule hundreds or thousands of emails at once instead of sending each email separately, saving you loads of precious time.
Timing and Relevance
Over the years I’ve read a lot of reports and studies on the ideal cadence for email correspondence around content promotion. I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has a system. I only do one follow-up email, a week later, and they only get sent to people who do not respond. I never send pitches on a Monday or Friday (unless it’s to a weekend editor) and I try to have my pitches all go out between 5:00 – 8:00 am on the day of delivery.
This is not an exact science. I’ve read reports that claim that Monday is the day. The worst campaign I ever launched just so happened to be pitched on a Monday. My theory is that inboxes are full the first morning of the workweek and it takes a day to wade through it. Emails get lost Monday morning. Almost without exception, we start our outreach on a Tuesday.
Relevance is also highly important to getting media attention. If applicable, center your pitch around relevant holidays and events. Send pitches a few weeks before these events as journalists are looking for content around them.
I could write an entire article on the perfect pitch. Your pitch will be what convinces (or fails to convince) reporters to cover your piece, so getting it right can make or break your campaign.
Spend the most time on your subject line. Make the pitch concise, interesting, and actionable. Only include one CTA. Write a follow-up and have that follow-up add value, not harp on the same thing your original message says. Know your audience and show them why your piece is relevant to them.
Pitch-writing is an art form. Don’t work alone—get fresh eyes on your pitches and ask for input from others so you know you’re covering all your bases.
There are few things more rewarding than watching links roll in from a successful campaign. But often you have to look for coverage. Set up Google Alerts for your keywords and your brand.
There are lots of great tools to monitor coverage as well. My favorite is Buzzsumo – you can set up alerts for your domain and any (well, many) backlinks that come in will be reported there. Mention is also a tool I use to monitor social media interest. Meltwater is another monitoring tool with a focus primarily on video coverage, which is very valuable as well.
There are several metrics that you’ll want to report on. The biggest hurdle with reporting is time. Often your client wants to hear right away what the results of your campaign were. This is problematic because a great content promotion campaign done for SEO purposes takes time to show its effect on the domain.
Ideally, you won’t present your report for eight to twelve weeks after your campaign. If you have to, opt for a preliminary report at four weeks, and a final report at twelve. Here are the metrics you’ll want to report on:
- Total number of backlinks
- Total number of referring domains
- Average domain authority of links earned
- Any brand mentions or video coverage without a link (go after these with a nice follow-up email kindly requesting a link be added)
- Increase in organic search traffic period over period
- Referral traffic from links earned
- Any increase in domain authority
- Conversions, and assisted conversions
You Win Some, You Lose Some
It is important to set expectations with your client right off the bat. Let them know that media storms occur, and even the best campaigns fall flat with the media occasionally. Yes, great skill and a honed craft help moderate this ebb and flow, but it is natural to have some home runs and some duds if you do this long enough. Aim for 15-20 links per campaign, knowing that some will get a hundred, and some will get six. Clients who are completely risk-averse are probably not a good match for this strategy.
There are many ways to breathe life into a failing campaign. Revisit your pitches, your subject lines, use tools to track your open and click-through rates, revise your design, change your timing—just don’t give up!
A Steady Pace Wins the Race
There is no doubt in my mind that you can succeed with content promotion. The trick to doing so is to keep at it. Regular content promotion will move the needle. Celebrate your wins, get back on that horse when you fall, and keep moving forward. Over time, content promotion will deliver. It just takes many factors and a lot of skill.