One of a brand’s most important marketing objectives is to increase awareness, through precise brand positioning, advertising, and reputation building. Public Relations is a key communications tactic to fulfill these goals.
In the early days of the internet, when search giants like Google and Yahoo! were nothing more than a glimmer in their founders’ eyes, traditional PR dominated as a cost-effective channel to efficiently scale brand awareness.
Traditional PR primarily focuses on gaining coverage or pickup for a company via print, broadcast, or digital channels. Traditional PR includes brand mentions in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or websites.
As the internet evolved, and subsequently, digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) became ever more important. SEO, sometimes referred to as organic search, is the practice of optimizing your web pages so they can more easily be found by search engines, and therefore, potential customers. This is commonly referred to as on-page or technical SEO.
However, off-page SEO tactics are equally as important, which primarily centers on building backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites. But link building evolved over time, and Google discouraged shady practices. The focus then turned to obtaining high quality links, predominantly from media and news outlets.
And thus, digital PR was born.
What is Digital PR?
Digital PR is basically if PR and SEO had a love child.
It is not simply the digital version of traditional public relations. While the output of a traditional PR campaign might be a press release or a pitch to a journalist, Digital PR campaigns are delivered in the form of data-informed creative assets, providing hooks that drive interest from media and influencers. These campaigns are oftentimes referred to as data stories.
Examples of digital PR campaigns include infographics, interactive maps, widgets, or an index of thought-provoking data points. Regardless of the format, the goal is the same: to deliver authoritative and relevant backlinks that ultimately work to increase a site’s domain rating and organic traffic.
sherpa˚s Travel Reopening Map (a Dune7 client)
Metrics to track for a digital PR campaign include impressions and increased brand awareness. In Digital PR, the emphasis is placed on obtaining high quality backlinks that will ultimately help to increase page rank. More on measurement and metrics below.
Most digital PR campaigns have at least the following three characteristics in common:
- Some relevant lifestyle hook that capitalizes on a current trend or story
- Data-led and backed by research
- Involves some aspect of graphic or UX design
Why digital PR?
So why should you consider investing in digital PR? We’ve summarized the top five benefits below.
1. Digital PR improves SEO and organic acquisition
This is the core of Digital PR. Seeing your brand featured in a high profile media outlet is only a means to an end. Where the end is obtaining a link back to your digital PR asset on your site. As your site obtains more relevant backlinks from high authority sites, your page rank eventually rises (assuming all other technical on-page SEO optimizations have been made).
2. Digital PR KPIs can be mapped to a commercial outcome
In the world of digital PR, KPIs are easily measurable and can be correlated to a commercial outcome e.g. an increase in revenue. Again, this assumes proper tracking and reporting is implemented and that there is nothing holding back your site technically related to on-page SEO.
Here’s a couple of metrics we use at Dune7 to measure the success of a digital PR campaign:
- Total number of links acquired
- Average domain rating of backlinks acquired (here’s how Ahrefs defines domain rating)
- Increase in referral traffic from linking sites
- Increase in revenue from organic channel (in conjunction with an SEO forecasting exercise)
3. Digital PR provides more control over brand messaging
With digital PR, you are pitching a specific creative asset and accompanying data point or hook. Unlike traditional PR, the story isn’t necessarily focused on your company or one of its executives. Instead, it revolves around a topic or trend either directly, or indirectly, related to your products or services. For the journalist or media outlet, the story becomes more about the facts driven by the data you’re presenting and less about their interpretation of your company.
In traditional PR, you pitch a journalist on a story you believe he or she might be interested in. Perhaps the journalist responds and requests more information or even an interview with a company executive. Finally, you might get pickup and coverage for your brand.
However, the exact messaging and story is not fully in your control. The outlet, whether it be a magazine or website, has creative liberty to write and publish the story as they see fit (as long as they aren’t breaking any libel laws).
4. Digital PR is more immediate
As the nature of digital PR focuses on trending and timely data, marketers can expect more immediate coverage. The story included in your pitch comes with an expiration date, and in fact, this FOMO should be leveraged when pitching your story.
When pitching traditional PR campaigns, it can sometimes take weeks, or months, to obtain targeted coverage. Oftentimes a journalist isn’t immediately writing about a topic related to your company or products or doesn’t respond to an email right away because they deem it irrelevant.
5. Digital PR campaigns can cast a wider net
Let’s say you work for a company that builds software for hotels. Sure, you can talk about your product, its features and benefits, and the time it saves your clients. Maybe you’ve recently launched a new feature that is unique to your company, and you pitch it to relevant travel and hospitality technology media outlets.
Now imagine you work for this same company. But, because you have access to transactional data, you develop a data story that shows the most popular cities people are travelling to over a holiday weekend. You create a map that visually depicts your client’s data and post it on your site.
Now, you have an asset that might be of interest to media outlets well beyond your industry’s niche publications. This data would be timely and relevant to a much broader audience and range of journalists, covering a wide array of topics.
Wrapping it up
Brands that leverage digital PR and understand how this channel is intrinsic to a sound organic marketing strategy can reap the benefits in terms of increased traffic and revenue.
Not only does digital PR grow your brand’s awareness but, over time, it can improve your organic rankings with Google. In simple terms, digital PR acts not only as a brand building tactic, but one that provides tangible SEO and acquisition benefits. Ultimately, it's the best of both worlds.