Often startups and SMEs do not have the financial or human resources to invest in PR efforts. However, in a digital space saturated with information, it is vital to create trust and establish and nurture relationships.
If you find yourself in this situation, you can still connect with industry leaders and boost your brand’s image by learning some simple DIY digital PR methods. They’re free and you can implement them in-house without hiring outside professionals.
So, what is digital PR, why do you need it, and how can you do it?
(If you already know the answer to the first 2 questions, jump to the 5 Easy Steps to Start Your Own PR Campaign directly.)
P to the R + Digital
PR is an abbreviation for public relations. PR is about relationships — building, nurturing, and expanding them. PR is not only about reputation management, but rather about establishing trust in your brand, company, campaign, and yourself as a representative of a bigger entity.
Digital PR, as Carrie Morgan notes, combines a variety of approaches to get a newsworthy story to the right audience: building and nurturing media relationships, content marketing, keyword optimized content and social media marketing.
Digital PR Is About Stories
At the core of any good news should be a good story. This is no surprise. It should be well told, from a trustworthy source, relevant and timely, accurate and it should spark an emotion.
This much we know from Coca Cola’s former Global Group director of Digital Communications and Social Media, Ashley Brown:
As Brown says, “We have to talk about what people want to talk about.” No wonder Coca Cola is a pillar of great marketing today.
Public relations is no longer simply about crafting well written press releases, distributed by PR professionals and agencies.
Digital PR is now all about packaging up an announcement as a compelling story. It has become a matter of cross promotion to get your newsworthy content to the people you would like to read it. We’ve entered into the age of Digital PR, where anyone can be the provider and creator of news and stories, and there’s no going back.
When Should You Do Digital PR?
The answer is “at any time,” as long as your resources allow it. Reputation and trust, as well as relationships with relevant stakeholders, are built over time.
If you have limited time, people and finances, be creative, focus your efforts and build a strategy, so that you can be consistent, timely and relevant in your PR activities.
“With PR evolving into a digital format your creativity and thinking outside the box needs to be on high frequency .” – Lauren Chambers | Founder of Sisco Management
You can set different objectives for your Digital PR efforts. These could range from media coverage and link building via guest blogging to acquiring product reviews. Anything you do to get online coverage for your brand that creates trust can be considered Digital PR.
What are the basic steps you need to follow, in order to achieve reputable media outlets to publish your story?
5 Easy Steps to Start Your Own PR Campaign
As Danielle Capriato points out, at the heart of any digital PR efforts you’ll find social media monitoring:
“Continuous social media monitoring is critical for organizations to stay on top of the conversations surrounding their brand. It also helps those managing brands to engage the right audiences and influencers to tell their story.” — Danielle Capriato | Manager, Strategic Communications at PR Newswire @dcapriato
Social media will help you in all of the steps towards writing a good story and getting it featured, especially when you are a startup.
1. Plan for your target
Plan your article according to the media outlets and journalists or bloggers you would like to target. Think of their readers and the writing style. Plan your story angles accordingly. Ask yourself “Is my content newsworthy and relevant to the people I am pitching it to?”
2. Research the competition
See which of their content got media coverage.
“Do some Googling on your competitors and other businesses like you to find out where they have been publishing online.” – Samantha Anderson | Co-Founder at 41 Orange, Inc., @samanderson41
You can also use tools such as Buzzsumo or social media platforms (Twitter, YouTube) to monitor the competition. For more advanced PR professionals, there are paid link building tools, such as ahrefs.
3. Target influencers and build relationships
Connect with journalists and editors and start your database. Most importantly, engage with your list of influencers on multiple channels — write them emails, follow them on Twitter, try to connect on LinkedIn. The more influential someone is, the more efforts it is required to make them notice you.
“Follow them online, and create a relationship on social media. Engage with them, compliment their work – share their tweets, like and comment on posts.” — Kelsey Cole | President & Co-founder at Multivitamin Media @kelsccole
You can use free resources such as Help a Reporter (HARO), Twitter and LinkedIn to connect and engage with influencers. For your database, a simple Google Spreadsheet will do fine, especially if you don’t have the money for paid PR services such as Buzzstream or Pitchbox.
4. Craft your pitch
Prepare several templates, which could be handy for the different publications you are targeting.
A good pitch needs to be as concise as possible while answering the following questions: who, what, why, where, when, how. You can find a good pitch example here.
Most importantly, make sure it is not a “cold pitch,” especially if you’re reaching out to reputable media outlets.
“There is no excuse for a cold pitch with the internet.” — Kelsey Cole | President & Co-founder at Multivitamin Media @kelsccole
A cold pitch is a pitch which is not based on a previously established relationship. If you don’t have the time to get in touch with your list of influencers at an earlier stage, make sure you present your story in a way which will leave them wanting more.
5. Follow up
Write a follow up to the media, journalist or blogger to thank them for publishing your content, for citing or tagging you. This will help you strengthen the relationship already established.
A follow up is also a good idea if you haven’t received a reply. But before you reach out to a media outlet for the second time, always consider what you want to achieve and why you are doing it — only follow up with media you think will be worth your second attempt. When your human and financial resources are scarce, it is good to prioritize and distribute your efforts wisely.
Stay tuned for the second part of our DIY Digital PR blog post, where we will be sharing tips on optimizing your content for the web, getting ideas for brilliant stories, along with measuring the success of your digital PR efforts.
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