Demystifying Digital PR: how to avoid mistakes and yield results


Whether you are at the beginning of your professional career or nearing the call of retirement, chances are that you have heard of Public Relations or ‘PR’ as it tends to be referred to. However, this particular piece of content is less about the mainstream PR we all know and more about the digital aspects of the space, which, suffice it to say, are a little different. For those of you who are not quite sure what digital PR is, it’s an integral part of any digital marketing strategy which focuses on increasing brand awareness. In a nutshell, it’s about getting coverage — good coverage, mind — for your brand in as many places as possible. So, just write a quick press release and send it out; done, right? Oh, if only it were that easy.

So let’s say that you have an online campaign running, but need a little help making sure people are aware of it — this, my friend, is where digital PR comes in. While incredibly similar to mainstream PR, digital PR boasts some substantial differences; differences which can make or break your brand’s online reputation. So, before we even get started on how to avoid those far-too-common mistakes, we’d better set the scene.

What exactly is digital PR?

Let’s get one thing straight: in the past, digital PR was put in the same category as link building and SEO — this is no longer the case. Though both are important factors, digital PR is first and foremost about increasing brand awareness. To put it simply, digital PR, as the name implies, is about improving not only your website’s reputation, but how your brand is perceived online, more generally.

In traditional PR, it is often said that ‘any press is good press’ — unfortunately the same cannot be said for digital PR. This is because digital PR is not only helping to improve your website in the eyes of the end user, but also in the eyes of the ever-present Google, and techniques such as spammy links and duplicate content can lead to you receiving some rather nasty penalties from the digital King. Instead, digital PR looks to focus on three areas: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. By focusing on these three areas, it helps to positively increase your online reputation through mentions, reviews, recommendations, news articles, and other credible information created about the website, which, in turn, boosts traffic to the brand’s site and increases good brand awareness.

Six common digital PR mistakes to avoid

When first starting out, implementing a digital PR strategy can be quite daunting, especially if you are used to more traditional forms of pitching. There are several new areas to explore and different approaches to take, not to mention some things that don’t work so well in traditional PR that can be great for the digital side of the trade, and vice versa. So, before starting out, here are the six most common mistakes made by first timers, and how to avoid them.

Robotic pitching

As the name suggests, this is when you take one idea, write one pitch, and send it over and over again to different publications, like a robot. There are several dangers with this; first of all, it is very likely that the journalist will not only see straight through this, but could likely work for more than one of the publications you have contacted, thus your email ends up straight in the bin. In addition to this, your pitch will lack authenticity, personalisation, and relevance to the key publications. Remember that journalists are people too, and treating them as gatekeepers, as opposed to comrades, in getting you press won’t do you any favours in the long run. Tailor each of your pitches, not only to the publication but also to the journalist in question.

Being a social media leech

Yes, digital means adopting social media platforms as enthusiastically as the next person, but it doesn’t mean latching onto every single journalist out there and constantly pitching to them at every opportunity possible. By all means approach a journalist over Twitter and email, but be aware that there is such a thing as too many follow-ups, and desperately re-tweeting everything a journalist posts is much more likely to get you a block than a conversation. Instead, if they are relevant, open up a conversation with them — like their tweets, ask them questions, comment on their articles, and build up a relationship that way. Once you’ve done this, you can use it to pitch your story ideas: trust me, they will be a lot more receptive this way.

Thinking deadlines are everything

If you are used to traditional PR methods, then I will forgive you for thinking this, as you are quite right — print deadlines are important. Luckily, that doesn’t bother us too much over here in the digital world. Digital and online publications don’t look at deadlines in quite the same way as offline publications. Online publications, while still keen to have stories in advance, are constantly uploading fresh articles and stories. If they don’t, their readers will simply go elsewhere to find engaging content. This is great news for digital PR as it opens many more doors than it closes, so if you have an article idea, then pitch it — you never know what might come of it.

Turning up your nose at influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has exploded in the past few years with brands jumping on board left, right, and centre to get exposure for their products. Influencer marketing is a huge part of digital PR, yet some brands still aren’t sure about it. Our advice would be to leave old views in the past and jump on board — and do it before your competitors. Not only is this a great way of gaining exposure, but it is also a sure-fire way to get people engaging with your brand, thus leading to a boost in awareness and sales at the same time.

Not having a clear and established set of goals

This may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but a digital PR plan can be quite tricky to put into place. The reason? Quite simply, the digital space is ever-changing, so you will need to keep updating and adapting your strategy. This might seem a bit daunting, but as long as you have a clear set of goals in mind, it won’t be too much hassle. It’s important not to try and do everything at once, but rather focus on one or two goals at a time. Here are some examples of goals you might want to achieve: awareness, fans, engagement, traffic, or email sign-ups. Once you have your goal, focus on building a PR strategy around reaching those goals.

Asking for too much too soon

Although digital is synonymous with ‘now’, as with any PR campaign, you do have to allow a certain amount of time to pass in order to see results. Just because you have set up a great Instagram campaign doesn’t mean that your sales will shoot up overnight. Rather, what you will have achieved is awareness, which, in turn, will build up trust in a brand, leading to loyalty and increased sales.

If you avoid these common pitfalls, you should be well on your way to seeing results. There are several ways you can ensure that you get the results you need, but none so important as making sure that, before you do anything, you do some audience research. You need to know your audience in and out, backwards and forwards, and just about any other way possible. Once you know this, it will not only inform the content you produce, but also which publications you pitch this content to. Keep your pitches short and simple, most journalists only read the first couple of sentences — and that’s if they get as far as opening the email. The more information you can give in the fewest words the better. And most importantly, invest time and effort into building up relationships with journalists and publications that are relevant to your brand.

Measuring results: getting it right first time

One of the great things about digital marketing, as I am sure you know, is that almost everything can be measured, and the same is true with digital PR. Granted, you can’t always know how many people have read your articles or indeed if they have sent them onto other people, but you can still measure results. This is where the great and powerful social media comes in. First of all, make sure that when you are pitching to a publication you mention that it would be great if they share the article on their social media platforms. Most of them will do this anyway, but it’s always a good idea to get a confirmation if possible. If you have a very good relationship with the journalist in question, then they might be able to give you some statistics on how the article has done. If not, then it’s up to you to do some serious digging to figure out the value of the piece.

Firstly, look on the publication’s social media platforms: have they shared your news? If so, how many times, and to how many people? Here you can start measuring the engagement of the piece. How many likes did it get? What sort of comments has it had, and how many people have shared it or tagged their friends in it? This is a great way of measuring how well that particular piece of content has done and how it has resonated with your particular audience. Use these insights to inform your strategy for next time — for example, is there a particular aspect that people are picking up on? Do they disagree with you? All of these insights are important to note down and come back to when it’s time for your next article.

Finally, always look at the publication’s readership. How many followers do they have on social media? This is a good way of reporting back on the amount of targeted individuals that particular piece of coverage has gained. In addition to this, it’s always worth having a look at the advertising rates of that particular publication too. If, for example, you have got a half page of coverage in a publication, how much would you have paid for the same space in advertising rates?

What will the future hold?

At Curated, we know as well as anyone that the digital landscape is constantly evolving, with new updates coming out every day. We are all in agreement on one thing though, and that is that digital PR is here to stay, so you might as well get ahead of the game and master it now. Content and stories, now more than ever, have to be inventive and interesting. If they aren’t, then chances are that it’s been written about before and won’t engage your audience. Now, don’t worry, traditional PR won’t die an untimely death; old ways of pitching are still just as relevant, and a good press release can go a long way. However, don’t be afraid to throw out the old and embrace the new: after all, you know what they say — never trust a digital marketer in a suit.

Thinking about implementing a digital PR strategy but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Give us a call and we’ll help you out.

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