Recommendations for Digital PR Newbies

digital_growth_summit
digital_growth_summit
Kate Lobel
By Kate Lobel

Tips From the 2016 Digital Growth Summit

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Choosing where to invest your time might be one of the toughest everyday decisions we have to make. On Friday, May 6th we made one of the best time investments in a while – attending the Digital Growth Summit hosted at the Microsoft headquarters in Los Angeles.

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a panelist for the Digital Outreach discussion. Kicking off the conference, I was asked the usual PR questions: “How do you break through the noise?” or “What are some of the helpful tools you use to reach media.” I came in hot. I had a few traditional answers up my sleeve, but I wanted to make one thing clear: I don’t do traditional PR and my strategy looks completely different from what you’re are probably expecting. Let me dive deeper into some of the questions I was asked and how I answered them a bit differently than anyone expected.

What are some best practices when it comes to jump-starting a public relations campaign?

The first thing you want to do when jump-starting an online public relations campaign is to identify your client’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Lately, I’ve discovered many clients aren’t strictly looking for brand awareness. They may have heard through the grapevine that Power Digital doesn’t strictly offer brand awareness as a part of their PR services, but also offers a comprehensive strategy utilizing the PR channel to elevate all of the other digital channels. For instance, digital public relations not only builds impressions, but also can be tied to revenue while aligning the outreach strategy to the SEO, Content and Social strategy as well.

What are some tools digital PR pros are using to reach and activate media as well as consumers?

If you are working in an integrated/multi-channel agency, I recommend utilizing the tools you have at your fingertips. I use seoClarity to identify the search volume behind specific questions people are asking about in a particular industry. I use this information to write a pitch answering those questions. This information also comes in handy when pitching to editors. It makes a huge difference if I’m able to state that we see that Question X has been searched Y number of times but a clear answer currently isn’t available online.

Another awesome tool is MOZ Open Site explorer. Using this tool, you can pull backlink profiles for your brand and even more importantly, your brand’s competitors. This way you can extract the data and highlight the major wins your competitors have seen in the past and capitalize on those successes. For instance, if there is an article that lives on an outlet with a substantial domain authority and is relevant and written by an editor that covers your beat, that’s an opportunity to mimic and leverage.

Many marketers wonder what tools are critical to use in order to see a successful campaign. As mentioned earlier, MOZ is extremely helpful when building a competitor link analysis and highlighting your competition’s wins to see if you can then capitalize on them. One of the main areas of opportunity here is to not only identify the opportunities that have high impressions, but also opportunities online where the page metrics, including the domain authority and page authority, are high. These metrics are critical when deciding whether a placement is helping move the needle from an SEO perspective, not just a brand awareness perspective. It’s critical that a digital PR campaign contain both elements (PR & SEO… my two favorite acronyms). Otherwise, the full value isn’t completely added to the overall marketing campaign and efforts might be lost.

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Given that 90% of news releases generated by PR pros are text-only, what is the role of imagery and multimedia in PR moving forward?

Images and multimedia are a huge game-changer in PR. I cannot stress this enough. Having this type of creative in your material encourages engagement. At Power Digital, we utilize not only our in-house creative to craft custom images for our outreach material, but we also work with partners like Boombox and other innovative platforms that help us create engaging content such as quizzes, polls or infographics. For example, we represent Pala Online Casino and we are currently pushing the online casino outlets. In order to get media attention from lifestyle outlets which were the type of outlets our client was aiming to reach, we decided to create an interactive quiz. We called it the “Is It Legal” quiz.” In the quiz, we question participants whether or not they think burning a flag is legal in the US or whether counting cards is legal in the US. We plugged our client’s name throughout the quiz, strategically placing it when asking questions such as “is it legal to gamble online in all 50 states,” or “is it legal to count cards in all 50 states.” We have pitched this quiz to many lifestyle outlets and have seen an 80% response rate, which most PR pros would agree is a very high return!

How do digital PR pros track success?

Google Analytics adds visibility and measurability to a PR campaign. Having a traditional background, I never thought to report to a client past the UVM (unique visitors per month), type of placement, or whether there was a link or a picture included. Now, I’m looking for the direct ROI I’m providing to the client. In Google Analytics, I am able to track the exact number of page sessions I brought to the website, how many of those sessions were new sessions, how long those customers stayed on the site because of my placement, if they bounced around, and, finally, if the customer ultimately converted. For example, I recently got a placement on VICE featuring the NewSchool of Architecture & Design. We were able to identify that we drove 5,000 new site visits and converted twelve sessions. We were even able to take it one step further and identify that, of those twelve sessions, three of them filled out an application, were accepted into the school, and are now paying tuition. Because of that VICE hit, we were able to generate the client almost $90K in ROI. I’ve never been able to track successes like this before I dove into Google Analytics and understood the power of the data it provides.

What brands are doing online PR right?

Bob’s Red Mill is an awesome example of a brand doing online PR right. Why? Because the brand utilizes an integrated strategy where all wins are highlighted across as many channels as possible including: SEO, social, content and even PPC ads in their “brand extensions.” They are not only focused on positioning their products well in the marketplace, but also investing heavily in integrating their PR processes with the overall SEO strategy. This means identifying which category pages the links should be pointing to (should they be transactional pages or should they actually be a page where the SEO team is trying to rank for a keyword that is ripe to be on page 1, but just needs some extra love?). Another way Bob’s Red Mill is creating a perfect union betweenSEO and PR is by identifying those keywords of interest and including those keywords in the anchor text of the hyperlink the placement. That way, when Google crawls the site, those keywords will receive the extra attention they need to take that keyword to page one or higher in the rankings and ultimately provide that much more ROI for the client.

To have a successful digital PR strategy you have to think ahead. The future of PR is data-driven. Marketing Directors are becoming younger and younger and are looking for more tangible numbers. PR will only thrive if we are able to attribute our wins directly to dollars. The future of PR is also leaning completely away from print and even broadcast a bit, and more heavily on online coverage and social media mentions. As a PR fanatic myself, it’s hard not being thechannel that converts the quickest or the most efficiently. With this in mind, for a PR campaign to be sold to the client successfully and accurately it needs to be demonstrated as a channel that also assists. PR will be the backbone carrying along many of the other digital channels, especially for SEO.

Within organic search there is organic traffic and direct traffic. As a channel primarily focused on building brand awareness, we increase those numbers tremendously. The future of PR is dependent on marketers’ ability to identify the PR channel as a complementary channel and identifying how to best utilize it to help propel all of your other digital marketing efforts. This all starts with discovering a client’s main KPIs and giving the gas to the other machines so they can run as optimally as possible.

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Ultimately, the goal is for publicists to begin to look through a more digital lens and start identifying the areas of opportunity outside of impressions. My goal is to pave the road as I continue to utilize MOZ, Google Analytics and SEOclarity to determine my overall strategy.

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Kate is the director of Public Relations at Power Digital Marketing with an extenisve background in traditional media relations and digital marketing with the goal of bridging the gap between brand awareness and ROI.