Online PR, also known as digital PR, is a link-building tactic that involves creating a story or piece of creative content, and distributing it to target media to secure coverage that includes backlinks to a client’s website, thereby improving SEO and overall search rankings on Google.
Essentially, a digital PR’s goal is to build a range of quality links on relevant, high authority publications that mean something to the client – whilst simultaneously aiming to enhance the client’s reputation and increase brand awareness.
Online PR vs traditional PR
To really understand what online PR is, it’s important to be able to distinguish between traditional and digital PR.
Traditional PR is focused on creating brand awareness for clients through stories and press releases (mostly intended for print, radio or television coverage), event coordination, and crisis management.
PRs working at traditional firms are likely to have a ‘little black book’ of media contacts that they regularly phone, and wine and dine (think Samantha, Sex in the City).
Measurement in traditional PR can often take longer than in digital PR as print publications often require long lead times, and exact metrics on audience reach can be hard to track. For example reach on broadcast and print outlets are estimations based on potential audiences or readers of the publication, but actual figures on how many people have seen the placement can be hard to achieve. Alongside this, traditional PRs will be looking at how their client has been portrayed in a feature, or how many times the brand is mentioned throughout the placement.
The key difference between traditional and online PR is the measurement of the two strategies.
Both types of public relations have the same aim at their core – to build brand awareness and create a positive story on behalf of the client, to help them engage with the most relevant audiences. The process of securing in online PR is largely the same as in traditional PR too – online PRs create digital content such as infographics, surveys or interactive content, before pitching the press releases and stories of this content to targeted journalists, with the goal of securing coverage and links on relevant (online) publications.
Once coverage has been secured, digital PRs are able to use much more precise metrics than traditional PRs. Different ways to measure the success of an online PR campaign include:
- Brand awareness
- Website traffic
- Search rankings
You can use a range of online tools including Buzzsumo, Google Analytics and Majestic to measure the amount of links, social shares and traffic your campaign has generated. This means you have lots of different tangible ways to work out which online PR campaigns have worked better than others.
How to create a strong online PR strategy
So, you’ve decided to run an online PR campaign for your business. To ensure that the campaign is a success, it’s important to have an effective digital PR strategy.
As with any marketing or PR strategy, it’s best to start with the goals of the campaign you’re planning to run. In an online PR context, you need to work out the goals and aims of your content campaign and ensure that these complement the overall business goals of your client.
Here are some things to think about before you even come up with an idea for a campaign:
- What does your business or client want to be known for? What are the values and points of expertise of the business? Which topics do they want to steer clear of?
- What sort of topics and content are your target audience likely to be interested in?
- What objectives do your business or client want to achieve from this digital PR campaign? Do they want to boost traffic or conversions to a particular part of the site or business? Do they want to boost brand awareness or social following?
Once you have these objectives written down, you can begin to plan and schedule for your online PR campaign. Work out who you will need approvals from and when, and work this into your schedule, allowing sufficient time for ideation and research, content creation and review, and outreach and promotion.
When your schedule is in place, you can move on to the fun part – ideation! Ideation is the process of coming up with ideas for your digital PR campaign and content, and can take time – link-worthy content doesn’t just fall out of the sky!
To ensure you’re coming up with content journalists are going to want to feature, make sure these three aspects are covered:
- A strong data set to underpin the idea and give the campaign credibility
- An eye-grabbing visual execution for the campaign, that is easily digestible and clear to read the story
- Create a strong, unique hook that journalists can’t resist covering, and that is relevant and appealing to your target audiences
If you have these three points covered within your idea, then you can be assured that you have a well-rounded content campaign for link building. Ideation is undoubtedly tricky though – if you get stuck, why not take a read of senior content strategist Lucy’s top ideation tips for link building.
Once your ideas have been signed off you can get into content creation. Whether you’re designing your campaign in-house, or with a designer, implement a thorough QA process in place to ensure you’re producing content of the highest quality possible.
Finally, you can begin outreaching and promoting your online PR campaign to a list of targeted journalists, and hopefully see those links start to come through. When the links and coverage do start trickling in, you can measure the results and track them, using tools such as those mentioned above. Remain patient and persistent though – not all campaigns blow up overnight.
In conclusion, the goal of a digital PR campaign is to produce story or content ideas that are likely to attract high quality backlinks and coverage, using a thorough idea-generation and validation process.
The core aims of online PR are not all that dissimilar to traditional PR – both are trying to build brand awareness and engage with the most relevant audiences possible to aid specific business goals.
When implemented effectively, digital PR campaigns can improve brand awareness, search rankings and sales, and ultimately help grow a business.