For as long as search engines have been around, they’ve used links as a means of measuring the influence and authority of the online content they index. Links are literally what hold the internet together – without them, there’d be no “Web” in “World-Wide Web”.

But while links were once a key guiding signal for search algorithms, their value has lessened over time  thanks to link farms, private blog networks and pay-per-link schemes.

Websites today need the most relevant links to and from the highest-quality content and most authoritative sources if they want to see any uplift in their organic visibility. While basic maintenance and technical best practice still have their place, old approaches to content-led “link building” have given way to digital PR and performance content.

In this article, we’ll explore what this Digital PR approach looks like in action and explain how it all works.

But first, what is Digital PR?

Think of digital PR as the perfect storm for quality backlinks and massive earned awareness. The way we do it, it involves:

  • Developing a concept for your performance content
  • A well-connected PR team sourcing connections and opportunities for publication
  • Targeted and well-executed outreach
  • A search and performance-focused strategy that aims for – and has the best chance at achieving – ground-breaking results.

In the following sections, we’ll unpack each of these key areas and explain how and why they should be carried out.

1.      Develop a concept

In creative ideation, we always need there to be some method to the madness. You’ll definitely need to approach your concepts a little laterally, but it’s also essential they’ll be suited to achieve the specific business objectives you need from them.

When brainstorming ideas for a digital PR campaign, every idea must pass a battery of tests before being taken to the next step. We won’t go too deep into the details of what the tests are, but in general we only put trust in our ideas if they meet the following requirements:

Does the concept have wow factor?

People need to have an emotional response to your concept. It doesn’t really matter if the response is anger, happiness, excitement, humour or revulsion. As long as it’s something that you planned and it doesn’t harm your brand, it’ll work for your content.

Is it easy to grasp from the title alone?

‘Clickbait’ might be considered a dark art in digital marketing, but the truth is that it works.

This doesn’t mean you can whack a catchy title on some dodgy content and expect to reap the benefits. It simply means that if you’ve gone to the effort of developing great content, your headline needs to do it justice.

Normally, that headline will give you a glimpse into the emotions you can expect while reading the piece. Or, at the very least, make it clear what the reader can expect.

Can you back up what you’re saying?

For journalists to retell a story on your behalf, your content needs to hold a certain standard of authority. So if your idea can be powered by trusted data or a credible reference, you’ve just greatly improved your chances of it being re-broadcasted by the media.

Have you considered SEO hygiene?

If your idea is something that literally no one is searching for, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad idea. But if you can develop a concept that fits cleanly into some heavily searched (and relevant) terms, and there’s an opportunity to rank highly for those terms, you can potentially draw a sizeable organic audience to your website.

2. Collaborate with Journalists

PR agencies like our sister agency Haystac have an uncanny ability to form connections in the world of journalism. So instead of an SEO manager sending outreach emails to bulk lists of total randoms and hoping their piece is picked up, it’s better if a well-honed PR expert can target their most relevant connections in the media, to ensure your piece has the best chance of receiving exposure.

Another important tip is to ensure your concepts will have traction before creative production has begun. If your concept is going to be dead in the water to begin with, why even bother in the first place?

3. Targeted outreach

With the advice of journalists and solid, media-worthy idea, it’s time to produce your research, press release, infographic or video and send it out to your media contacts (who are already primed and looking forward to receiving it).

If you’ve planned well prior to this point, this should be the easiest part of the process. The idea should get picked up and published without much interruption or trouble.

4. Results!

For Cover-More Travel Insurance, our Brisbane team worked with PR partners Haystac to create an in-depth content piece detailing the Travel Insurance Trends of 2018 – including a long form blog post, a shorter blog post, and two infographics.

The concept was simple, and the content behind the headline could be easily understood at a glance. All of the data used in the piece was sourced first-hand from Cover-More. And, most importantly, the creative execution was tailored to create an emotional response – one of humour.

Once the copy and graphics had been created, Haystac reached out to the media to pitch the story. What followed was a true reflection of what digital PR can achieve when the idea has been created precisely for the purpose of getting media traction.

The Cover-More piece achieved:

  • A news article on news.com.au, including both a backlink (with a DA of 92) and a unique audience of 100,000 over 3 days
  • Coverage on nzherald.co.nz, with a DA 91 backlink and a 72,800-strong unique audience in 3 days
  • Several other backlinks from sites with a DA over 50, and brand exposure to an audience over 6 million people globally.

As mentions of this piece continue to pop up online, the SEO team are continuing their standard process of chasing down the publishers and requesting links where necessary (according to the Creative Commons licencing of the assets we created).

Key takeaways

The days of expecting results from thin, me-too content sent to random prospecting lists are behind us. Ideas need to be solid and media-worthy, and where possible they should be sense-checked with PR consultants or journalists before they go to production. Only then will you have the best chance at achieving the sorts of results that make it all worthwhile.

Speak to iProspect’s content team to find out more about digital PR and what it could do for your brand.

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Jonathon Bullock

Jonathon is a Senior Content Executive at iProspect Brisbane by day, and as a Sessional Academic at QUT's Business School by night. He enjoys cricket, rugby league, and sleeping.