8 Digital PR lessons for the year ahead

Almost every business can benefit from media coverage – but many either don’t know where to start or seriously underestimate the time and effort needed to win over editors and secure precious digital column inches.

Whether you’re a small local cake business in Edinburgh, an entrepreneur with a cutting-edge crowdfunding idea in the East Midlands or a growing financial business making waves in the City of London, having a consistent approach to digital PR can pay dividends through the year.

So, where do you start? What does it take to get your brand in front of journalists, bloggers and editors and how do you start off on the right foot, right now? Read on to learn 8 digital marketing lessons to serve your online PR efforts well over the next 12 months.

Why spend time on PR at all in 2018?

First things first, why are you interested in building media coverage for your brand? One of the prime motivating factors is likely to be that your competitors appear in trade magazines and national press from time to time, while your own brand seems to be overlooked.

Achieving media coverage has many more benefits than simply being able to say you were featured in a particular newspaper or magazine;

Earned media coverage is more valuable than bought: A 2017 study by Trinity Mirror and Ipos Connect concluded that almost half (42%) of consumers distrust direct from brand information and 69% distrust advertising. A positive piece of media coverage however can help to build authority and credibility.

A media feature provides great traffic-boosting benefits: If you’re investing any budget at all in a search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign, content marketing or paid search – in fact any form of online or offline marketing – it’s probably because you want to drive more traffic to your website. Getting your business name on to a major media website or into the pages of a newspaper or magazine amplifies these efforts by putting your brand in front of thousands or millions of readers.

If your online PR efforts result in a mention in a trade or consumer publication, you can expect even more targeted traffic to your site – which could lead to more leads, sales or subscriptions.

Media coverage imparts authority and credibility: How often have you visited a website or considered a product or service, only to be impressed by the ‘as seen in…’ roll of honour? Being able to say that your product, service or company has been featured in top-tier or industry publications adds authority and credibility and can impress shoppers enough to add to basket.

It’s great for building a buzz: There’s a reason brands like Apple invest such big chunks of budget into public relations and media relationship building; it’s an ultra-effective way of building buzz. While your own new product launch may not generate as much international press coverage as a new iPhone announcement for example, it can get the word out quickly and effectively about your new product or service and generate a profitable buzz.

A case in point can be found in our own campaign archives. Dakota Digital was commissioned to write a press release to announce the launch of a crowdfunding campaign for Wireless Armour. This new brand wanted a PR release to send to UK and US media with details of their product and the fact they were crowdfunding to finance its creation. Our single press release generated over 240 pieces of media coverage, saw the campaign covered by the likes of TIME magazine, Sky News and the Discovery Channel and racked up an impressive $4.2 million worth of media coverage, all for the cost of one PR release (you can read our full PR case study here).

Learning the digital PR lessons

Of course, the only way you can tap into these benefits is with a sustained, realistic and effective approach to digital PR. To help you get off on the right foot, learn these eight digital PR lessons for 2018.

  1. 1

    Digital PR needs to be consistent

    Although it is certainly possible to achieve media coverage from a single campaign, it’s not always the case. Consistency should be your mantra – with regular, timely and on-topic media releases, journalist outreach and public relations activity. You wouldn’t only make one call to a sales prospect, so why only send one press release out? Regular, consistent sends mean you’re giving yourself multiple shots at media coverage, rather than pinning all of your hopes on a single press release every six months or so.

    If you aren’t regularly providing news and giving journalists reasons to talk about you, you can bet your competitors are. By sticking to a frequent schedule, you’re also investing more in building relationships, giving journalists and bloggers a variety of angles to consider and ensuring you’re front of mind when a relevant story crops up, rather than a one-and-done never heard from again brand.

  2. 2

    Understand the role of the journalist

    All too often, companies are guilty of putting out press releases or building digital PR campaigns around a sales message or approaching the journalist with information better suited to the end consumer. The journalist is not your customer. Their role is to seek out and filter through news that will interest, educate or inform their readers. They aren’t selling a product and they aren’t buying.

    Understand the role of a journalist and approach them with a correctly structured pitch and news release that facilitates their role. Keep the sales messages, two-for-one offers and direct calls to action (such as buy now) for your ads, product descriptions, leaflets, social media channels and website landing pages – anywhere but in your communication with media professionals.

  3. 3

    Focus on a story

    Similarly to lesson two, focus your digital PR efforts on a story. Approaching digital PR simply as a means of building links or because you want media outlets to feature you won’t cut it in 2018. To generate media coverage, and access those other benefits, you need a story. Media outreach and digital press releases are a vehicle to tell your news to journalists, editors and bloggers. The foundation of that is having a story to tell.

  4. 4

    Be creative

    If you just read lesson three and came to the realisation that nothing newsworthy is going on right now, don’t despair. There is always a news story to tell, you just have to be creative about finding it. The reality is that you may only have one or two truly ‘hold the front page’ events happening each year. So, what do you do in the interim? The answer lies in planning and creativity.

    With a little forethought and imagination, it’s possible to generate your own news stories. You could take a poll of your clients to generate unique data and comment on the findings. You could survey your customers and ask for their predictions then create an industry trends piece. You could comment on a piece of legislation, react to a news story or repurpose a wider event with a fresh new spin. Why not create an infographic or a new case study? You could even look to your suppliers, raw materials or internal processes for inspiration.

  5. 5

    Do your research

    If you really want to create a strong digital PR campaign, you’ll need to do your research. The modern media landscape is incredibly competitive and to stand out, you’ll need a fresh perspective or a unique story. Before you approach a journalist or media outlet, do your research and see what’s been covered previously. This is a technique we use at Dakota Digital frequently. There’s little point in sending a press release to a journalist who’s just covered the exact same thing but there is value in reaching out to a specific reporter who covered a similar story a few months ago, if your own update builds on that piece.

    Earlier this year, we created a PR for an adult product. In addition to using our media database to build targeted outreach lists, we also conducted manual research. Our Nottingham-based digital PR team looked at older news stories to find journalists in national newspapers who’d written about similar subjects recently and found several who’d covered an app launch last September. We reached out to each journalist, referencing their older post, and highlighting how our own client’s news was a new development to that same story.

    As a result of this research, we generated three national newspaper articles with several journalists also indicating a desire to visit our client’s store, film video content and take photos.

  6. 6

    Be specific

    While some of your digital PR actions will have a national or even international appeal, 2018 is all about being specific. Focus on particular niches or interest categories relevant to your business and build your digital PR campaigns around those areas. You don’t need to target every possible end user or topic with every press release – and in fact most of the time you’d be better served by homing in on one industry or sector.

    If you are a software company which has built an invoicing tool for example, you could feasibly create a PR about your solution and send to every media outlet relevant to each type of business using your tool, from caterers to electricians, freelancers to accountants and architects to marketing agencies.

    The problem here is that your news becomes too general – a journalist at Marketing Week might not get any useable info from that generic release, while a reporter at Design and Build Magazine could well be left wondering what difference that tool makes to their readers. Without concrete information relevant to their specific audience, it’s hard for journalists to connect the dots and see your news as news.

    A better, more fruitful approach would be to focus on a single sector such as freelancers. Create a PR which specifically addresses how the tool can transform invoice management for freelancers and then send to relevant media. By focusing on one customer type, you can create very targeted, relevant and specific news which is precisely tailored to media outlets serving that audience. This approach makes online media coverage much more likely.

  7. 7

    Know when to follow up

    Not every press release will need a flurry of phone calls to all media recipients immediately after you hit send. Some journalists will act on your news of their own accord if they plan to feature it – it is after all their job to look out for stories of interest to their readers. There are cases when you should follow up a news release however and knowing when and how to approach this is key to nurturing good relationships with your media contacts.

    Generally, we advocate for leaving a day or two after the send before following up. Most journalists are busy and you need to give them time to read your news before you call. Picking up the phone 10 minutes after you send the email is almost certain to annoy. A call or day or so later however can be helpful -especially if you have additional information to share or a breaking news story emerges which ties in with your own release.

  8. 8

    Don’t get disheartened if coverage isn’t immediate

    Competition for digital PR coverage is intense and there are only so many media pages to go around. Resilience, strategy and consistency win the race when it comes to generating media coverage – coverage can be instant and come within a few hours of your notification to press but this is rarely the case. It’s not at all uncommon for journalists to file your news to come back to later and we’ll often get press responses two or three months after a PR has first been issued. As with anything, generating worthwhile coverage can take time so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a slew of journalist calls within 24 hours.

Need help with your digital PR and media coverage efforts? Contact our award-winning team to find out more about our press release creation and media distribution services.

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