How to Create a Digital PR Strategy for Your Small Business

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Discover the value of developing a digital PR strategy and the best practices that will help you get a good return on investment and increase your SEO visibility.

Knowing where to reach target audience members and customers has always been essential for marketers and publicists. In both cases, GPS points to the digital channels where consumers and businesses choose to search, buy and interact with brands.

In 2020, the shift to digital channels accelerated as in-store purchases and brand experiences were somewhat limited. As more and more people prefer digital channels, PR marketing strategies will increasingly need to focus on this environment.

Not sure where to start in 2021? Here are some digital PR strategies to get you started.

Overview: What is Digital PR?

Digital PR is an online marketing strategy that all types of businesses (B2B and B2C) use to improve their online presence. Internal PR and digital marketing teams, as well as digital PR agencies, network and partner with media outlets, influencers, journalists and bloggers to build this online presence.

The goal is to build this digital profile by sharing press releases online, providing high-quality backlinks and social media mentions, and improving search engine optimization (SEO) visibility.

This, in turn, generates publicity in the form of website backlinks, online posts, podcasts, social media mentions and posts, and customer reviews. By addressing SEO as well, digital PR can help improve search engine visibility and rankings.

Digital PR vs traditional PR: what’s the difference?

Traditional PR and digital PR share goals and focus on a tactical approach. The main difference between the two is in the channels they pursue to increase awareness of the company or brand and how they deliver the message to those channels.

Traditional public relations targets channels such as print publications as well as television and radio. Cover letters and press releases share news and developments with key journalists, whom you typically contact by phone or email.

Although these channels are still used in the PR industry, digital PR pursues online publications such as digital journals, podcasts and blogs created by influencers, industry leaders, journalists in line and influencers.

While the content marketing approach of digital PR and traditional PR focuses on increasing brand awareness, building credibility and adding customers, digital PR content strategies also take account of how this content can influence the SEO visibility of a website.

Achieving this requires understanding Google’s search and ranking guidelines. Typically, a digital PR agency also includes SEO experts and content marketers who know how to create search-optimized digital PR campaigns.

How a Digital PR Strategy Can Help Your SEO

A digital PR strategy can amplify the impact of your SEO strategy to increase organic rankings, increase brand awareness, and drive more website traffic.

Increase the Domain Authority (DA) of your website

Your website’s DA is scored on a 100-point logarithmic scale that predicts a website’s ranking on various search engines. The closer your DA score is to 100, the more likely your website is to get a higher search ranking.

This higher ranking then drives more high-quality web traffic to your website because your links are placed higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). The digital PR team considers this metric as part of their overall link building strategy.

Building brand awareness and authority

A digital PR program aims to post content on high authority websites. This tactic then increases backlinks to your website which can improve your site’s ranking for certain keywords. The higher your position in the SERPs, the more search traffic is likely to go to your site. In partnership with content marketing, digital PR develops and publishes relevant, quality content that builds that brand authority.

Leverage earned media coverage

Maximizing keyword visibility is important, and one way to do this is through earned coverage. Since public relations is all about getting coverage, it’s important to develop a strategy that can combine this focus with knowledge of search engine optimization best practices.

In the process of getting brand mentions, it helps shape your content around relevant phrases and links that emerge from keyword research using SEO tools. As a result, earned coverage can help maximize the value of all your blog posts, press releases, and articles that are covered or shared on your website or social media accounts.

Wordstream SEO Keyword Research.

Use SEO tools like Wordstream to do keyword research. Image source: author

7 Steps to Create a Digital PR Strategy for Your Small Business

Now that you know why working with PR professionals on a digital PR strategy is crucial for success, the next step is to understand how to develop a strategy that’s right for your small business.

1. State your goals and objectives

It’s important to know the purpose of your digital PR strategy, so list goals and objectives related to traffic, rankings, leads, and revenue. Other goals I’ve seen of organizations involved developing high-quality inbound links to their websites, building brand awareness, or diversifying their brands’ backlink profiles.

Defining these goals first will help you determine the types of campaigns and content your business needs in the future.

2. Define your target audience

These goals and objectives should then align with the different segments of your target audience. I’ve seen many companies use specific buyer personas. You may have already defined these personas within your marketing department, so be sure to share this information and assess if the demographics are fully defined for PR messaging.

3. Give your brand a voice

Determine what your brand should look like and say based on what you know about your target audience and personalities. A common tactic you typically see at this point is for marketing departments to create a list of messaging topics and themes in the brand voice. From there, you can develop these topics and themes into full-fledged content.

4. Develop your editorial calendar

Content creation is at the heart of your digital PR strategy. You also need to know when certain content will be more relevant than at other times, and not just to your own readers.

Editorial calendar for digital PR.

Use an editorial calendar template to start planning your digital PR campaign. Image source: author

This involves researching and connecting with publications, sites, and channels that may want to distribute your content at some point. Like traditional PR, digital PR must carefully consider the timing and then map out a route and timeline to contact the online outlet.

5. Generate your content offers

The next step is to work on creating content, including videos, infographics, thought leadership articles, blogs and guest blogs, white papers, research reports, and byline articles.

One of the best strategies I’ve seen is to expand on the topics and themes you’ve determined based on your audience, then optimize the final content for SEO. You want it to rank well so more people see it and you end up with more new or repeat customers.

6. Begin development of outreach and media relations

As you begin to implement these PR tactics and launch your content, it’s important to spend time building awareness in the meantime, developing relationships with the media contacts you’ve identified. Know what topics and areas bloggers and journalists are covering, comment on those types of posts, and then share valuable content and information that they will find useful.

Perhaps the best advice I’ve heard in this area is to spend time on platforms that journalists often use themselves. If you access the online services where they hang out on social media (like Twitter) and interact with them when they talk, you might get to know them over time. This will increase the chances that they will really pay attention if you eventually offer them coverage.

7. Establish an evaluation process for digital PR campaigns

Reporting and evaluation are essential to any campaign where money and time are invested. I’ve seen many organizations struggling to do this consistently. The metrics tracked can show a positive ROI or reveal where you need to make improvements. Focus on reports that look at SEO and links, brand mentions and other coverage, organic traffic, and rankings.

It’s time to focus on PR work

Despite what you may have heard, public relations is very far from dead. Driving traffic isn’t just about social shares and influencer posts. Public relations remains a highly advantageous strategy as part of your overall digital marketing program to build brand awareness, authority, and interaction with your target audience. Now is the time to go to work on your outreach efforts and be part of the conversation.

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