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Chloe Shepherd
August 1, 2018

Utility beats design: 3 lessons on building a digital PR campaign from our latest Digital Breakfast

At Melt's latest Digital Breakfast event we tackled the detailed ins and outs of digital PR: what it is, what it's not, how to turn cold, hard data into an interesting human story, how to secure those all-important links and how to measure success. If you missed out, we thought we'd bring you the highlights – and if you made it, a recap can't hurt, right? So we've refined the key lessons in three steps: development, data and outreach.

Development: Put the audience at the centre

The event was titled Link-building? Authority-building? Just call it digital PR, and we focused on how PR is a key part of digital strategy, looking at the intersection of traditional PR and modern ROI-driven SEO techniques. Melt’s self-confessed nerd-in-chief Michael Curtis argued that many brands no longer consider the customer that they are aiming content at. Brands and agencies are both guilty of producing content ‘just because’, without specifying an end goal.

Mike pointed out that “PR existed long before SEO”, and showed how the two can marry together well when done properly. The aim of traditional PR is to get a brand seen by as many eyes as possible, and that principle remains true for digital PR.

In the development stage, the objective of a digital PR strategy should be to gain popularity, not links. Search engines pick up themes and stories that are being published organically. If you set a target of ’25 follow links’ and you end up having to pay for them to reach the total, Google’s algorithms are sophisticated enough to identify this, and it will ultimately be counterproductive.

It’s essential to consider both the quality of the links you gain and how you acquire them – not all links are created equal, and the best way to secure quality ones is with quality, engaging content. That means defining a clear target audience; how can you be sure your content will be relevant and interesting if you don’t know who it’s aimed at?

Key takeaway: Defining your audience is always the essential first step to a successful digital PR campaign.

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity.

Data: Utility beats design

Once you’ve defined your target audience, it’s time to refine your story. Journalists are bombarded daily with emails from PRs and brands, so it’s hard to grab their attention. And it’s arguably even harder to stand out to consumers.

Melt’s Senior SEO Strategist, Lewis White, told us that utility beats design. In other words, when you start your content brief about the most important question is how it will be of use to the user. If you create a piece of content that looks pretty but is filled with unreliable or uninteresting information, it isn’t of use to anyone and won’t create an interesting story that will appeal to a journalist.

The key to creating a compelling story is data. There are many different ways to collate data for a campaign, whether the budget is small or large, you can create an interesting and in-depth piece of content that will be reliable to the reader.

Key takeaway: Use all the data at your disposal to create a story that will stand out to readers interested in your field; your own analytics, booking data, Google Trends, the press, consumer surveys and Freedom of Information requests are all fair game.

70% of content gets 0 backlinks. The average number of social shares for a piece of content is just four

Outreach: Produce something a journalist can’t

Editor of the Travel Magazine Sharron Livingston was the guest speaker at the event. She began the publication as a hobby 10 years ago, and it now has around 120,000 unique visitors a month and a Twitter following of 2.8 million. So she knows a thing or two about placement.

For Sharron, the best pieces of content are the ones that she can’t produce herself. As a journalist, she doesn’t have the resources to produce wide-ranging, data-led stories. As brands and agencies are experts in their fields, they’re at an advantage here: they’ve got ready-made data that allows them to produce something in-depth and unique.

Sharron emphasised that she receives a lot of listicles and bland destination content. In other words, content that can be easily produced without a PR or brand behind it. This kind of generic content is unlikely to stand out to readers, so it gets the thumbs-down from journalists.

Key takeaway: Play on your own expertise and maximise your own data – it’s valuable intellectual property – and make sure you’re pitching something that your target journalist couldn’t do on their own.

Keep an eye on our Events page for news about upcoming events; next up is a Digital Marketing Masterclass in September, following on from our first masterclass event back in May. If you’d like to be the first to know about what’s on, then get in touch.

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