Once upon a time there was a brand whose marketing manager said ‘we don’t need SEO – it’s just a load of keywords!’ Although I won’t name the brand, I can tell you that the story didn’t have a happy ending.
While we agree that SEO is, in part, about the keywords and phrases, these days, it’s much more than that. In particular, the key to success for a brand lies in the perfect partnership – SEO and PR.
When you think about PR, there’s a good chance that the image which springs to mind is that of an expensive agency full of shiny people who use terminology like ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘lots of moving parts’.
In reality, public relations is a lot more simple than that – trust me. Boiled down to its basics, PR is about letting people know about your brand. Sound familiar?
That’s because it is – because SEO is, of course, about the exact same thing. You can, of course, still hire that agency if that floats your boat but, you really don’t need to. In this article, I am going to take you through everything you need to know about the superpowers of an SEO / PR combo – how to use them, how to separate them and, how to combine them for the ultimate world-beating campaigning.
The building blocks
The first thing to get your head around is the fact that you shouldn’t generally expect super-fast results from your SEO / PR strategy. As the title of this article says, I am talking about marathon not a sprint. In that spirit, your strategy may well take in this week and this month but, it will also take in the entire year – which requires a degree of planning.
The second thing to think about is the fact that, before you even think about trying to grab headlines, you need to make sure that your house-keeping is in order. For this, your first port of call is your website. Before you contact a single journalist or editor, it’s important to make sure that your site looks great and is in perfect working order as nothing puts the media off faster than a dodgy website.
This will include making sure that all of your landing pages are focused, fabulous and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Your second task will be to take a long hard look at your brand’s reputation.
Although you may feel like you’re doing great, you need to drill a little deeper to make sure as, any self-respecting publication will check you out before agreeing to any coverage. As well as gathering together your product or brand reviews (and make sure that your reviews are good ‘uns), it’s a good idea to use a sentiment analysis tool to get an overview of how your business is perceived by the public – and also to fix any issues before starting with your digital PR.
Once you’re happy that all things are in tip-top condition, it’s time to get started with your SEO / digital PR campaigning. So, how does it work? We’ll start with those all important links:
We all know that building links is an integral part of any SEO strategy – without them, your brand lacks credibility and, more importantly, traffic. For this reason, adding strong media relationships to your digital PR strategy is vital.
Part of your weekly activity should involve working on those relationships; even if it’s just a quick like or comment on social media. You’ll also want to avoid having to do any link building during major holidays – which is where your planning comes in. For example, coming up to the Christmas holiday, make sure that you have all your link building in place by the middle of November at least, leaving you free for other activities.
If you generate the kind of content which is like catnip to journalists then link building with digital PR is easy peasy – particularly if you’ve been working on those media relationships. In this instance, you’ll be making the most of those relationships by regularly sending your contacts targeted content which they won’t be able to turn down.
In 2020, media and journalists will welcome this as many are often pushed for time and, so, being handed great content on a plate is often a godsend to those with tight deadlines. You can also appeal to the journalist’s ego by asking them to write a forward to your content – which will also help to keep them invested in the piece. You can also try building Q&As to be distributed to your media contacts in a bid to grab some valuable links. If your content isn’t your strong point then you can look at lots of other ways to build links by buying or acquiring broken links.
Finally, one more strategy that I rarely hear about is building through already established relationships with people that are somehow connected with your brand. Among such contacts might be any user of your current partners’ or clients’ brands, your email subscribers, and even users who are following your brand on Twitter. As you can imagine, such contacts are much more responsive and, as a result, the chances of getting a link from them are quite high. Some time ago, my good friend Alex Tachalova wrote an in-depth guide in which she shared how exactly you can find and reach out to such users, and it’s still extremely useful advice today.
Link building is so valuable that I’ve written entire articles about it in the past – and will no doubt be writing more. Before you get too carried away though, my golden rule with link building is ‘less is more’ – think quality over quantity to avoid getting in Google’s bad books.
As I’ve said, great, well-written, news-worthy content is the holy grail when it comes to creating a great marriage between SEO and digital PR, however, it’s not the only way. There are plenty of ways of grabbing a bit of coverage for your brand – and a lot of them are easier than you may think:
Think local – wherever your brand is based, there’s a good chance that there’s a local newspaper which covers the area. OK, so many of these are filled with scintillating pieces about the local garden centre and changes to bin collection days but, they may just work for your brand.
Check out local publications to see if they’re in the habit of running pieces on local success stories. If so, hit them up with a pitch about your brand and how it benefits the local community.
If you have a physical store or office, you can even think about inviting a local journalist to your business for a ‘day in the life’ kind of article. You should be able to find names and contact details for local journalists fairly easily but, if you need a hand, Press Gazette is a great resource for finding journalists within particular genres.
Case studies – Whatever business you’re in, you’re not only a thought leader in your industry but, you’ll probably also have some success stories. A case study is a great way of showcasing your talents whilst showing how you addressed customer pain points and, ‘turned that frown upside down’. We’ll let you into a secret – journalists and editors love a case study and, a well written and well thought out one has a good chance of publication and ticks a lot of boxes in terms of both PR and SEO.
Seasonal content – These days, more and more journalists are freelancers; which means that time – and time off are short. One sure fire way to get into a freelance journalist’s good books is to supply them with great seasonal content a few weeks ahead of a big holiday. This will allow them to schedule content in advance and, therefore, schedule a little down time for themselves – something they’ll remember you for when you’re next after a favour.
Image galleries – If you’ve done any kind of PR before now, it’s probably been comprised of a press release which includes one or two images. Whilst this is OK, a lack of image choice may actually put off busy journalists who may decide that your article isn’t worth the time they’ll need to invest in sourcing more pictures. When approaching a journalist or editor with your content, include a gallery of images to give them plenty of options. You can usually find plenty of royalty free images online and, if it’s appropriate to your article, you can even take your own for a more unique approach.
Media alerts – If you can build a piece of content around a topical news story, you’re in a good place in terms of securing press coverage. Now, at this point, you’ll probably be tempted to put together a press release and whizz it out to your entire address book. Although this may gain you the odd mention, it’s by no means the most effective way. When a journalist receives a press release, there are usually protocols and a chain of command to be followed in order for publication to be secured. On the other hand, a short media alert usually allows a journalist carte blanche when it comes to getting a news item online quickly.
Spoof content – a bit of a cheeky one but, it works. One company which excels with this is children’s toy manufacturer, Lego. In 2014, Lego paid homage to one of the world’s most popular festivals by building a Lego Glastonbury. By tag-teaming coverage of the festival, Lego increased its profile and, therefore, its sales.
Bag yourself an expert
Whilst your feature, article or blog is no doubt fabulous and is built on solid research with lots of facts and figures, this may not be enough to impress a seasoned media veteran.
One thing that journalists love is an expert’s point of view and, one thing experts love is telling you about their expertise. You can give your content instant kudos by including a quote from an expert on the subject – and it’s really not that hard to do.
Say you’ve written a piece on the pros and cons of working from home and you want to make it a little sexier. Head over to Google and look up work psychologists.
Pick a couple and give them a call or drop them an email to explain what your article is about and ask them for an opinion – and then ask for permission to name them in the article. It’s that simple. Seriously, you’d be surprised by how many professionals are more than willing to chat about their chosen subject – and be quoted.
Now that we’ve given you an idea of the kind of content that you can generate for your SEO / digital PR, we’re going to have a look at how to make the most of it.
In 2020, its impossible to overstate the power of social media in all aspects of your business – and that includes your SEO / digital campaign. Social media for your brand is a many faceted thing and, we’ll start with your brand’s own platforms says Lucas Piotrkowski from Upmenu.com
Firstly, you should be updating your social media regularly with news, titbits, advice and links to any blogs or content that you may have. As a rule of thumb, social media pages should be updated two or three times a week and, should include anything new and exciting that may be going on with your business.
As your digital PR develops, this will include any coverage that you manage to secure in the media. As you build up your media portfolio, you’ll start to earn the right to refer back to the publication’s links in your regular social media posting.
Secondly, you’ll want to check out the social media channels of the publications that you are targeting – this bit is important so, pay attention. If you’re looking to publish in a certain newspaper, magazine or ezine, it’s almost certain that the publication will have a Facebook page.
Take the time to sift through the content featured on their page and make a note of any themes and popular features. This will give you a good idea of the kind of content that the publication – and its readers – favour. You can then use this as a template when creating targeted content.
Start by contacting the journalist or editor saying, ‘Hey, I saw your feature and I have a great piece that I think you’ll be really interested in’. Not only does this show that you’re in tune with the kind of content they’re after but, naming a previous article shows that you’ve done your homework rather than just going with a scattergun approach.
Once you’ve got into the groove of digital PR through social media, you’ll be able to identify particular contributors on a publication’s page and you’ll have a profile of the kind of features and content that will pique their interest. You’ll then keep on keeping on with your relationship building so that, in time, when you approach a particular media professional with new content, they’ll automatically be more inclined to give it a hard tick.
The physical stunt
This one is usually limited to local press but, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that you’ll get lucky and score some national – and even international – coverage. This method is as simple as it is effective and can very quickly take your business to the next level in terms of media coverage.
The physical stunt involves using offline methods in order to get some online action. For example, your brand specialises in wedding make up and hairdressing. You may decide to hire a model for the day, dress her in bridal gear and take a spot in the town center offering free make-up trials for brides to be. In this instance you would, of course, alert local media beforehand as well as advertising the event on your social media platforms with a hashtag or two.
The invaluable part of this comes in the form of members of the public whipping their phones out, taking pictures and sharing them on social media – preferably with your hashtag. If your brand has a distinctive logo, try bringing this into your physical stunt to instantly make it more memorable.
This method was used to brilliant effect in 2015 by lager giant Carlsberg who erected what appeared, at first glance, to be an ordinary billboard advertisement in London’s Shoreditch. On closer inspection, however, delighted passers by discovered that the poster featured a tap which dispensed free beer to the public.
Whilst you may not have the kind of budget that Carlsberg enjoys, a small investment can go a long way when it comes to grabbing headlines through physical promotions.
A good influence
This is no doubt one you’ve come across before – and, that’s because it works. Having said that, don’t, for a moment, think it will be easy. Getting an influencer on board with your brand is a way to almost guarantee success for your business. Although influencer marketing has been the subject of some negative media attention in the last couple of years, that hasn’t been enough for the world to fall out of love with the idea.
This method generally pays for itself and, once you have an influencer on board, the rest tends to take care of itself. In exchange for a fee or free products, a celebrity or well known person will sing the praises of your brand on their own social media channels as well as allowing their name and likeness to be used on yours. Needless to say, this gives your brand access to thousands – sometimes millions – of potential new customers.
Although it’s quite hard to get an influencer on board, it’s certainly not impossible. Choose a few candidates and then start engaging with them on social media. Once you’ve built up a rapport, you can then introduce yourself more formally and approach the idea of a collaboration.
Good works make good sense
A really popular – and really effective method of digital PR is to partner up with a charity. Most charitable organisations welcome any publicity that they can get their hands on and, so, collaborating with a local or national charity is a win-win for both parties. This will, of course, involve championing the charity on your website and social media channels as well as committing to helping out in other ways.
The great thing here is that it works both ways – while you’re promoting the charity, the charity is also promoting you as a valued supporter / sponsor. Not only does this mean that your brand will gain more valuable coverage but, the reputation of your business will be enhanced by your association with a good cause.
You can get started with this by simply contacting the head office of your chosen charities and highlighting the mutual benefits of a collaboration. Although this is a really great way to enhance your SEO and digital PR, you will need to make sure that your brand is squeaky clean as most charities won’t risk their own reputation by associating with a less than reputable business.
Lots of well known brands employ this method including vehicle brand Landrover who has supported the British Red Cross since 1954.
The colour of success
If you take a look at the promotion for things like movies, festivals and concerts, you’ll notice that they often have a very strong colour theme. You can use this to your advantage by identifying a major event and piggybacking its success by emulating the colours used in its advertising and branding. Underhand? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.
Getting started on your SEO / digital PR journey is a little like opening Pandora’s box. The moment that you start thinking about your entire strategy in terms of PR, you’ll start to spot opportunities everywhere you look. Get hold of a national and international events calendar and plan your strategy around particular events.
Take a look at what’s going on in your local area and figure out how you can get involved. Keep an eye on the news – not just the big stories but the little ones too and see if there’s any crossover with your brand which will allow you to pitch some related content.
Digital PR is all about observing what’s going on around you and targeting your marketing accordingly. Digital PR requires adopting an entirely different mindset to the run of the mill marketing campaigns you may have been running in the past but, its a mindset which will set your brand in good stead for many years to come.