Let’s rewind things to 2014…
I’d graduated with a first class honours degree from university and managed to bag myself the job of my dreams at an Oxford-based PR agency that worked with household brands. I thought it was a fluke.
Someone actually wanted to hire me to do this thing called PR, and I was ready for all of the prosecco lunches and early starts that a young hungry PR could manage, and ready to build my own little black book of journalist contacts.
After joining the agency, I did everything by the book.
Only 16 months into the role – and two promotions later – I’d secured my first front page piece of coverage in the Daily Mirror for a DIY campaign I was working on with my talented team. My boyfriend bought it for me as a keepsake from our local newsagent and my mum refused to throw it away, like it was a certificate from school. I had to go and pick the paper up from her house to include it in my presentation:
Let’s fast forward five years and I’m on stage at MozCon talking about how we can merge traditional PR with digital PR and throw some SEO in there too, in order to create campaigns that have the primary aim of increasing search visibility and rankings. Just like this one:
The campaign was based on insight that 37% of millennials book a holiday off the back of the images they see on social media, so we took to Instagram and ‘The most popular beaches according to Instagram’ was born. We secured 66 followed links within 2 weeks.
But not every campaign we launch performs that well because link building as an SEO tactic is inconsistent.
Why did this campaign perform so well?
We launched in the run up to National Beach Day in June and got ahead of other travel brands talking about beaches – all of this was an incredibly conscious decision because we knew the national, travel and lifestyle press would be talking about beaches as a topic in high summer. Leading writers would have been briefed to write about long haul holidays and specifically beaches during June, so as a brand we just had to give them content to cover. The campaign was a success because we tied it into a type of journalism called planned editorial.
Planned editorial features can be written months in advance by writers because they know within a given time frame they have to write about the topic, and they’re just waiting for the final components of their feature to be revealed so they can hit publish.
As an industry, we’re delivering inconsistent link building results because the majority of our campaigns tie into just planned editorial topics. Does this kind of graph look familiar?
We can see huge spikes in January for links and mentions but a slow decline after this point. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be missing out on link building opportunities because we’re only tying into planned editorial topics.
There are two other types of journalism that we need to be targeting for link building:
- Planned reactive editorial – features written by journalists on a topic that ties to a seasonal event or theme that we know is being covered due to time frame, but we don’t know the exact story until editors or journalists write it on the morning of their editorial meeting
- Reactive editorial – features written in the here and now that are unplanned and can’t be predicted
We need to be outreaching and launching content-driven link building campaigns that tie into all three types of writing.
We’re missing out on 66% of link building opportunities if we don’t tailor our campaigns into all three types of article, which gives way to inconsistent results. How can we promise success if we’re only creating planned editorial link building campaigns?
What’s more, if we’re missing out on 66% of link building opportunities, we’re putting our budgets at risk because there are marketing tactics out there such as Google Ads, which allow decision makers such as CMOs to put money into the tool, and ultimately see a positive impact on the bottom line as a result of their efforts. If we don’t pave the way for consistent results, we risk the results of being fired by clients.
How do you tap into all the elements?
In order to make sure we’re maximising link building opportunities and tying into all three types of writing, we have to be launching hero campaigns that tie into planned editorial and then sitting a level underneath this, we should be outreaching evergreen, attributable and newsworthy campaigns to tie into the steady drum beat of the media. That looks a little bit like this and is called the Digital PR Newsroom:
How do you set up the Digital PR Newsroom?
To implement the digital PR newsroom, you need to focus on three areas: planning, resources and people. All three allow for the perfect fusion of PR and SEO.
There are four main planning sessions you need to set up for the digital PR newsroom:
- Scrum meetings at 8:30am – these meetings allow us to review what’s trending, what’s being spoken about on Reddit and the awareness days so that we can quickly establish where the reactive editorial opportunities are for the day
- End of week reviews at 3:45pm – looking forward into the week ahead, this meeting allows us to understand and balance launches of ‘hero’ planned editorial campaigns and planned reactive campaigns so that we’re not oversaturating the press and we have all media assets ready to go
- Monthly editorial meetings – monthly meetings ensure that we are looking across a 4 week period and ensuring that we’re mapping out activity that ties into all three areas of journalistic writing
- Quarterly reviews – this meeting helps us spot trends and insights that we can take forward into the following months. One of the key trends we have found is that interactive maps deliver great ROI when it comes to link building
The meetings above are structured around a number of documents and tools:
Master media list – when we’re jumping on reactive media opportunities, we don’t have the time to prospect so we have a master media list set up that features all of the most important writers for that brand. Google’s duplicate formula is very helpful here!
- Content calendar – at Aira, we live and die by our content calendar. It maps out all of the awareness days we should be targeting for link building as well as identifying all of the days we should avoid launching campaigns
- Quarterly reviews – we’ve placed a huge importance on making sure that you’re taking time each quarter to look back and review campaigns. This success matrix allows you to understand and evaluate the campaigns you’ve launched
- Tools – we rely on Buzzsumo, Vuelio, Moz, Buzzstream and HARO to source information we need to reach out to contacts and ideate
You can find all of the resources and documents here.
Whether you have a team of 20, 10 or even 2, the digital PR newsroom can be set up as long as you define two roles: storytellers and story makers:
- Story makers – ideate, design and develop campaigns
- Storytellers – create media assets, launch campaigns and undertake reactive outreach
You can either split these roles out into team or give them to individuals. The main thing is that everyone knows exactly what they should be doing when and how, according to their role. And of course, if you’re able to do both then please get in touch because Aira is always on the hunt for storytelling and creative unicorns.
The digital PR newsroom, if implemented correctly and efficiently, does provide a solution to the ongoing challenges we face as digital PRs, SEOs and link builders. By tapping into each and every sector of journalistic writing we are opening up our chances to increase ROI for clients and deliver consistent results like this:
Success won’t happen overnight, but it will over time. This is how link building should be done in 2019. Here are my slides from MozCon in full:
Looking for some more reading?
Aira’s co-founder, Paddy Moogan, discusses (in a LOT of depth) what link building is in this post.