A 10 step online PR process to prepare and initiate the perfect Digital PR campaign
The C word, you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the word that can put you in the good books with Google and holds the key to adding value to your clients website. We’ve all heard time and time again that this is the key to gaining success in the world of digital marketing. That’s true, but don’t for a minute think that this creation of content is the end of the road. Contrary to Kevin Costner and his 'Field of Dreams' movie quote, if you build it, they may or may not come.
So! What do we have to do to get our beautiful creations out there? Whether they are artistic infographics or feature length articles, you can guarantee that somebody, somewhere wants them to share with their audience. Our job is to find those people and give it to them!
Of course placing our content (that’s the word by the way) on any old site just isn’t going to cut it anymore. With Google’s increasing infatuation with relevance and the fierce competition ever present in the world of marketing, only the best will do.
To guarantee we’re getting our stuff in front of the right people, we created a step-by-step process that combined our knowledge of traditional PR and digital understanding, which helps break down our objectives and ensures a successful campaign.
1. Understanding content goals
Before we start any Digital PR campaign we need to understand what the piece is trying to achieve. Our team thoroughly absorbs the content, making sure that we are fully acquainted with what we’re being asked to pitch.
For example, if it’s a feature article we are being asked to outreach, we must know: What the article is about, what it’s trying to achieve and who would most enjoy its message? We must be prepared to answer questions about any aspect included within. If there’s anything we don’t understand we should speak with whoever created the piece.
Once we have understood the content fully, we sit down as a group to discuss which audience niches we should focus our attention on. We normally aim to identify three different niches we think the content might be relevant to.
If multiple people are outreaching the same campaign then we divide the niches between us, making sure we keep track of who has been contacted and whom we are yet to reach using our CRM system. This is to avoid getting in touch with same contact multiple times, this can come off sloppy and unprofessional. If only one person is outreaching then they should reach out to all the niches identified.
As an example, we recently placed a feature article entitled 'Should older motorists retake their driving test'. During the brainstorming process we identified the following niches that would have interest in such a topic…
3. Selling point and exclusives
Once we have identified our three different niches we need to think about how we’re going to pitch the content to the editorial teams. The most important question to ask is 'Why would an editor want to host this on their site'?
Editors are always looking for exclusives and we can give this to them! Whether it’s because of exclusive statistics a feature article holds, or because we have some interactive content that none of their competitors have access to. This is our selling point and should be included in the pitch.
Editors are extremely busy so the first email needs to get their attention. The initial pitch email should include as much detail on the content as possible, while still being fairly succinct. It needs to make the content as desirable to them as possible.
Pitches feature a run down of the main points involved in the piece, a few choice statistics and references to previous articles in their publication to add a personalised edge.
Here is an example of a pitch that led to a placement on Auto Express…
I hope you’re well,
I've just been reading the Britain's Best Car Issue of Auto Express. It’s an absolute monster! Kudos on turning it around in a week!
I'm writing to you because we’ve just finished work on a feature article that I think you might be interested in hosting in the magazine or online?
It’s all about the science of Road Rage; the causes of it, why people get it and how you can prevent it.
We wanted to find more out about the phenomenon so we got in touch with Dr. Lisa Dorn who is a reader in 'driver behaviour' at Cranford University in Bedford.
In an exclusive interview the psychologist, who appeared on BBC’s Road Rage School back in 2005, explains what it is about getting behind the wheel that gets peoples motor running (excuse the pun).
The feature also includes statistics provided by a brand new study about the number of young drivers on Britain’s roads who consider themselves a "road rager”. This is part of a campaign promoted under the hashtag #roadrage which launched today.
You can read more about the statistics by clicking here http://www.ingenie.com/roadrage
I've attached the feature so you can have a read!”
This led to the following article being published - http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/87977/road-rage-the-science-behind-it
5. Influencer identification
Of course, before we can send out a pitch we need to find out exactly who we will be sending it to. To do this we need to expand on our list of sites already thought of in persona creation.
It’s a good idea to get a list of around 20 publications/websites/blogs you would be happy for the feature to appear on. To find these websites we can use several tools that are at our disposal.
- Vocus: This is our primary source of data. It has a vast array of publications that have all agreed to have their details included, thus we know are open to press releases & pitches. Simply search for the niche you’re targeting and a list of sites will pop up along with relevant contacts. It also includes article topics publications are interesting in hosting, so we can tailor some content specifically for them.
- LinkedIn: If you would like to connect in a more personal manner LinkedIn is a good place to start. Although it is a closed network, which limits the overall number of people you’re able to contact directly, sending a message this way is almost always read. A good introduction, and a quick pitch could lead to a great business relationship!
- Buzzsumo: This a great tool for finding popular content that feature particular keywords. It also lists the amount of social shares it receives. If a publication has produced a piece of content containing something we are working on, and it was popular…perhaps they’d like another?
- Followerwonk: A great tool for finding contacts who are active on Twitter. Followerwonk allows you to search for keywords that are included in a person’s Twitter bio. For example if we want to find a motoring journalist, type in motoring journalist! And, provided they have included that in their bio (which they normally do), several will appear. This can also be used for finding out more about an individual’s likes and dislikes.
- Majestic SEO: Predominately an SEO tool, it can also be used for finding contacts by using the “backlinks” function. Simply enter a competitor’s web address into the search bar, click on backlinks and have a look and see who has linked to them previously. We can then take this data, and with the knowledge that they are not averse to linking to these type of sites, pitch them our superior content!
- Freshweb Explorer: A great way to break the ice with a new publication. Search for the client’s web address and it will bring up any mentions of them on the web for the last 7 days. If there is an unlinked mention, we can approach these sites and ask for a link.Once we have established a contact who is helpful, we can then pitch them some more of our content!
- #JournoRequest: The easiest way of getting content placed. If a journalist is crying out for content then the least we can do is give them some! Sending a useful email in response to a request will grant you an immediate relationship with that journalist as a provider of helpful information!
First impressions are always important. It’s well documented that cold calling immediately is more likely to damage relationships, so we tend to email the contact first. This not only gives us something to discuss on the call, but also gives them the chance to actually look at what we are pitching them
Unfortunately, it’s usually not always as simple as sending an email and getting a placement. Phoning journalists is a sure fire way of getting their attention.
When phoning a journalist there are a few key things to remember…
- Deadlines: It is always worth asking if a journalist is on deadline. If they are, they will appreciate you understanding now is not a great time to talk and more often than not will arrange a callback.
- The time of day: In our experience journalists are the most receptive from 10:30 – 11:30 so try to schedule a call for around this time.
- Script: We all get tongue tied some times, so jot down a brief script before calling to help stop mind blocks from stunting a conversation!
8. Email Follow Up
After a call it’s always worth sending an email to the journalist thanking them for their time and recapping what has been talked about. This may not be read right away, but will definitely keep us in their mind for longer and ensure our conversation isn’t forgotten about.
9. The Publication Agreement
The most important thing is to get the content on the site. Everything is secondary to that. As long as the client’s name is mentioned in the piece, there is value, so don’t worry if secondary objectives (links to website) have not been fulfilled right away.
Once it is online we can ask amendments. Of course if a site is adamant against making these changes, don’t push the issue. It’s not worth ruining a relationship over!
Whenever a journalist has placed a piece of content for us it is always worth sending an email to them thanking them. After this, ask them whether they’d be interested in anything else we might have?
Strike whilst the iron is hot! They’re happy, we’re happy, so what better time to enquire!
Thanks to Alex Jones for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Alex is a Digital PR Executive for Zazzle Media with a passion for getting the right content on the right sites. Trained in journalism, he knows exactly what journalists are looking for to make a story. You can connect with Alex on LinkedIn or Twitter @Alex_Jonze.