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Unlocking the Power of Digital PR: Strategies for Success Part 2

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Curious about digital PR? You’re in the right place as we continue our deep dive into the world of online PR management. In this two part series we hope to bring you complete clarity on what digital PR involves, how it works and how it can benefit your business. If you haven’t read the first instalment, you’ll probably want to check that out first. 

For those who have read part one, you’ll remember we covered the fundamental aspects of mastering digital PR and harnessing its many benefits. We included an easy-digest overview of what digital PR actually is, how it works and how it supports business growth and awareness. 

In this article we’ll be covering:

  • Building media relationships: Discover the art of nurturing relationships with journalists and influencers in the digital sphere. 
  • Leveraging social media platforms: Understand exactly what you should and shouldn’t be doing on social to enhance engagement and increase brand awareness.
  • Harnessing the power of digital storytelling: Why storytelling in digital PR is important and why it’s closely connected with linkbuilding and SEO.
  • Measuring digital PR success: Powerful and practical ways to keep track of your progress so you can make the necessary changes to your strategy for impactful and sustainable results.

Ready? Let’s get stuck in! 

Building Media Relationships

You’re probably familiar with the old saying: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – and this phrase is all the more relevant in the PR space. Knowledge and expertise are essential, of course – but the best PR management has always been based on a strong, carefully nurtured network of media connections. And digital PR is no different. Media relationships are crucial to its success, as we’ll explore.

Building this kind of network is a specialist skill that takes time and consistency, making it particularly difficult to DIY. It can be done, however, and below we’ve included some basic tips to consider when formulating media relationships for your business.  

Firstly, though, why are media relationships so crucial for the success of digital PR?

Media relationships form one of the fundamental elements that sets digital PR apart from digital marketing. Digital marketing is still waking up to the type of outreach and community building that delivers a real, tangible business impact – but these are part and parcel of any PR specialist’s skillset. 

As information is now shared rapidly through many different channels, cultivating and maintaining strong media relationships is essential if you want to successfully navigate the complex and dynamic landscape of online PR. Amongst other things, it provides:

  • Valuable promotional power and opportunities 
  • Trust and credibility through your brand being associated with influential figures 
  • Positive story and product placements to improve reputation and reach
  • Message amplification 
  • Crisis support and remedial action 

Tip 1: How to identify and target the right media outlets and journalists for your industry

This is tricky to condense into a single paragraph because, as you can imagine, it takes years of experience and industry knowledge to develop a successful outreach strategy. But if you’re developing your approach to digital PR, start by considering where your target audience may be. What websites are they visiting? What podcasts are they listening to? What publications are they reading? This gives you a clear list of outlets, journalists and influencers to target. 

Top 2: Practical ways to approach and pitch your stories to the media

Once you’ve got a list of publications and influencers to target, you need a strategy for approaching them. Remember – to successfully pitch a story, you have to stand out from the noise. And by ‘noise’, we mean the hundreds (if not thousands) of submissions they receive every single day. 

This is a specialist skill of PR pros – condensing a message without omitting key information. You need to:

  1. Capture the attention of the journalist within a few seconds
  2. Give them a ‘story’ and ‘news’ that will grab the attention of their reader
  3. Ensure a published article will bring you the awareness you want for your brand

Keep submissions short, sweet, snappy and laser-focused on key messages that will interest both the person you are contacting and their audience. 

Top 3: How to maintain and sustain long-term media relationships

Securing and sustaining long-term media relationships takes a lot of work – but it’s far easier than building new relationships whenever you want exposure. It’s a job in itself, which is why specialist PR agencies like Smoking Gun and in-house PR departments exist. 

Getting introductions to journalists, media professionals and influencers takes time. And it requires genuine effort to build authentic relationships. 

This is why once you build a relationship you want to look after it. So be sure to keep in touch with your contacts and work together to develop mutually beneficial propositions instead of submitting pieces every once in a while in hopes they’ll be picked up.

Ensure your articles align with what they want to promote and what their audience wants to consume. Spamming a contact with every article you publish is a surefire way to find yourself on their ‘ignore’ list. 

Also, try to understand their editorial calendar and lead times for the next few months. If you see an opportunity coming down the line, prepare for it well in advance. 

Get an idea of what their processes are. Do they need video with each article? If they do, what format should it be in? Should articles be submitted by a specific date? Even knowing if they use Microsoft or Apple software can help ensure you submit everything in a format they can easily access.

Fundamentally, journalists are busy and you want to make their life as easy as possible. You want to become their ‘go-to’ who gives them what they need, how they need it, and when they need it. If you do it right, these individuals will soon be coming to you to plug a gap when someone else has let them down.

Leveraging Social Media Platforms

Social media offers many benefits for brand awareness and the promotion of your products or services – but it can also be a powerful tool in your digital PR arsenal.

All businesses are now aware of how crucial it is to build a solid presence on key social media platforms – but knowing which ones to focus on and understanding how to leverage those platforms is tricky. Many are still bewildered by what to post, when to post and what channels to use. With so many social networks to choose from, it can be confusing to know what the best approach is when it comes to increasing brand visibility. 

Which social media platforms are most effective for digital PR campaigns? 

That depends on where your target audience is, so it’s worth investing the time up-front to understand this in detail – and make no presumptions. There may be no silver bullet for your campaign and often it’s about finding the combination of platforms. 

A social platform will only be as effective as it is relevant. If you’re on the wrong platform, even the most killer campaign won’t produce the desired results. 

What strategies can you employ to engage with your audience on social media?

Again, any social media strategy must be tailored to your target audience and campaign objectives to produce impactful results. But there are some digital PR strategies you can use to maximise reach and engagement. These include;

  • Influencer collaborations
  • User Generated Content (UGC) 
  • Cross-promotions between like-minded brands
  • Trend-led content
  • Sharing exclusive content such as ‘behind the scenes’ videos
  • Surveys and feedback requests to gather information 
  • Competitions and giveaways

How can you use social media to amplify your PR messages and reach a wider audience?

Using the techniques above is all very well and good – but to successfully use social media to amplify PR messages, it’s essential to ensure your messaging is compelling and clear. Strategy should underpin everything you do, so be sure to drill down on key aspects such as tone of voice, brand consistency, storytelling (more on this next), engagement and interactivity for best results. 

What are some best practices for crisis management on social media in the context of digital PR? 

Like online reputation management, crisis management is another specific area of digital PR in which some companies specialise. In a crisis, social media can be a faithful friend or a fearful foe – offering an opportunity to either downplay or amplify any negative messaging around a brand. 

‘Going viral’ is the dream of many businesses – but if you go viral for the wrong reasons, a robust crisis management strategy must be in place. This requires a multi-faceted approach, including establishing a narrative, consistent and considered messaging designed to diffuse the situation, monitoring social platforms and responding in real-time transparently and tactfully. 

Hopefully, this is something you’ll never need – but you can learn more about the specifics of crisis management and our approach here

Harnessing the Power of Digital Storytelling

One crucial aspect of digital PR is the ability to craft compelling narratives that resonate with your target audience. Storytelling has a vital role to play when sharing your brand online. 

What is digital storytelling, and why is it important in digital PR?

Digital storytelling is necessary – full stop. It’s essential across all types of marketing, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to digital PR. Stories help us establish an emotional connection with brands – they help us resonate with and relate to what they offer. Structuring stories around a brand can enable your target audience to better understand who you are and what you do in a way that really speaks to them and makes a lasting impression.

How can you create and structure engaging stories that align with your brand message?

We’ll be honest – there’s no ‘easy way’ to create engaging stories for your brand. This is another specialist skill. But start by identifying your brand’s core values and consider how you can best communicate those to your desired audience. Knowing your audience inside-out is key – understanding their likes, dislikes, pain points and what excites them the most. Remember to stay authentic, relatable and true to your core values. 

What elements can enhance your digital storytelling efforts?

We’ve now got a multitude of content formats available to us that enable the creation of some fascinating and immersive visual impressions of a brand. Video, animations, images – these can all be used to get your brand out there in the best way possible. 

At Smoking Gun, we often create entertaining or educational interactive content to sit on a campaign landing page that builds on our story – giving online writers a reason to include a backlink in their coverage. 

How do you measure the impact and success of your digital storytelling campaigns?

As we’ll cover in more detail below, measurability is vital when it comes to successful digital PR management. Understanding the impact and success of your digital storytelling campaigns will depend on what platforms they are shared across, who you are targeting and what metrics are set to define your results. 

Different tools are available that help you monitor and analyse your campaigns (check our list below for more on this). Storytelling also ties into your SEO efforts – as linkbuilding is made all the more powerful when accompanied by effective storytelling techniques. 

Measuring Digital PR Success

Metrics that matter are often the missing link when it comes to proving marketing success. Without setting up systems to gather adequate data from your campaigns, it’s impossible to know what’s working and what’s not. This, in turn, hinders your ability to maximise returns on any marketing spend. The same is true of digital PR, of course – and there are various metrics we can use to assess the effectiveness of your efforts.

What key performance indicators (KPIs) should you track to measure PR success?

To make something measurable, you first have to understand exactly what you set out to achieve. KPIs are larger objectives broken into smaller, more manageable goals which can be achieved incrementally to help you accomplish a broader aim.

The exact KPIs you use (and the tools you employ to track them) will differ slightly from any other business – they can even vary between different campaigns and projects. Your goals and strategies will also naturally change over time, even if the overarching objective remains the same. 

KPIs are such an important consideration that we have an entire service dedicated to picking, tracking, and monitoring them. If this is something you’re interested in, we’d recommend you visit our Measurement & Evaluation page, as it’s an entire topic all on it’s own.

How can you use analytics tools to assess the impact of your PR campaigns?

Analytics tools are essential if you want to be really clear on how well your PR campaigns are performing. There are many different tools to choose from, though – so it can be overwhelming if you’re new to the world of marketing metrics. 

Stay focused and select analytics based on the channels you’re currently monitoring. 

Some of the most popular and well-known tools which lend themselves to helping you keep on track with PR KPIs:

  • Google Analytics: To monitor web traffic and determine where it’s coming from, which is particularly useful after a specific event or campaign. It also allows you to track customer journeys on your site 
  • SEMRush: To view rankings and relevancy compared with competitors 
  • Market research/sentiment: Get a clear perspective on how your target audience views your brand through surveys, polls, formal research and mystery shopping

There are also some all-in-one, fully integrated platforms that we use, and you’ll benefit from when working with our team. 

What are some benchmarks and industry standards for PR measurement?

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when outlining industry standards for PR measurements. Benchmarks vary wildly across different continents, regions, industries, and even company sizes. What works well for your business might not be appropriate for another. 

Benchmarking against competitors can also put a psychological glass ceiling on performance. If your biggest competitor gets X amount of exposure, you’ll only aim for the same or slightly better. That means your success is linked with theirs. However, if you benchmark against your performance, you’re more likely to always try to improve things, meaning there’s no limit to how far you can go.

But even though there’s no ‘Holy Grail’ of metrics to benchmark against, there is a best practice approach to measuring PR value. At Smoking Gun, we’ve adopted the AMEC framework as we believe that all PR should focus on measurable objectives and impacting business goals. That means we’re not task focused but results focused. Every campaign we run has a clear purpose by which we can judge its success. 

How to adjust and optimise your PR strategy based on performance data

Performance data is there for a reason – it lets us know precisely how the current strategy is performing so we can test and refine. If something’s not working as well as expected, that’s fine – because we’re aware of it and we can tweak accordingly. In the same way, the data we collect through digital PR management allows us to identify where we’re seeing good results and amplify those strategies to ensure even better exposure and engagement. 

The key to nailing this process lies in gathering appropriate analytics (as outlined above), then interpreting that data and converting it into a new direction to move forward with. Digital PR is fast-moving and ever-evolving in various ways – both in terms of the rapid development of technology and new tools being made available to us. And that’s before we even consider the natural shifts within consumer behaviours, markets and the business itself.

And really that’s what great PR is all about – managing all the moving parts, responding and strategically sharing your brand with the right people in the right way using the tools that work best for your business. 

In need of expert digital PR support? Contact our award-winning team today

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