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5 key takeaways from our #Blinktank webinar on digital PR and link-building

Last week marked our first foray into the world of webinars, where we kicked off our #Blinktank series with an event specifically centred on the world of digital PR and link-building.

And as expected, our host and in-house digital PR expert Tabby Farrar didn’t disappoint – she packed the hour with an extensive break-down of the practice, covering everything from the best approach for content ideation to crafting the perfect pitch and pivoting if your campaign underperforms.

If you missed it, you can watch a recording of her presentation here:

But if you don’t have time to check out the full video, we’ve highlighted some of the key takeaways you won’t want to miss.

1. Paying to build links is a bad idea

Paid article guest posting is (somehow) still pretty commonplace in 2021.

However, this practice has been against Google’s guidelines for a while now, and Google is getting better and better at spotting the patterns behind paid links. If they’ve flagged a particular paid link on your site, this can then result in Google thinking the remainder of your links (paid-for or not) aren’t genuine either, leading to an overall devaluation.

The only way to improve this is by then removing these bad links, which means you’ve now got a clean-up process ahead of you that’s not only slow and arduous, but one that’s wasted money as well.

So while digital PR takes a little more energy upfront versus paying for links, putting in the extra effort will pay off in the long run.

2. Go broad with content ideation

It’s a common misconception that if your brand specialises in one specific area, your digital PR strategy will always have to centre on this same niche. And while this is obviously preferable—one of the primary goals of digital PR is to position you and your brand as field experts—limiting yourself to one subject can similarly limit your PR strategy.

That’s why Tabby argues it’s worth going broad in your digital PR content ideation.

As a DTC business, you’ll likely already know your target audience very well, including what else they like outside of your specific product or topics related to it. In these cases, it’s possible to launch digital PR campaigns around this.

For instance, if you’re a company that sells washing machines, it can be hard solely creating content around selling washing machines, or waiting for washing machines to become headline news you can chime in on.

But washing machines can also fall under broader topics like family and lifestyle, the home or even hygiene – and coming up with content surrounding these areas (especially in a pandemic) are much easier.

Fashion retailer Missguided launched a digital PR campaign last year that garnered them links from 30 domains and more than 7,000 site visits. The topic of discussion? Netflix and chill.

Rather than talking exclusively about women’s clothing and accessories, Missguided used free data from IMDB to talk about the Netflix series most likely to end in “chilling”, knowing that this topic would also be interesting to their audience. Talking about a topic that, at first glance, is unrelated to your business’s sphere can be risky, but in this instance, it paid off.

This isn’t to say you should devise content topics that are wildly out of your sphere – nobody’s going to trust or even care about content on the best bubble bars for new mums when launched by a motorbike company. The same goes for publications or topics that fall outside of your brand voice – if it’s not a fit for your business, don’t edge into new territory just because it’s big in the news.

The bottom line here is, by keeping the content’s topic and tone in line with your brand and target audience first and foremost, you’ll be in a much stronger position to create relevant stories the right people will want to read even if they’re not necessarily about your product or directly related to it.

3. Make sure to sense-check

“Sense-checking” by its very name would suggest it’s a no-brainer in every digital PR specialist’s content ideation process, but it’s surprising how often campaigns are launched without having been through this critical step.

To sense-check a campaign idea in light of digital PR means double-checking that it passes basic tests that’ll tell you whether or not your content is likely to succeed.

When sense-checking a digital PR campaign idea, ask yourself:

  • Has this idea been done before? A simple Google search will answer this question. If it has been done before, can you do it better? Can you add something else to the conversation?
  • Would I talk about this content with my friends and family if I hadn’t created it? This will tell you whether or not people might actually find this topic interesting.
  • Can I re-spin this idea if it fails? If the data comes back not how you expected, is there a way you can still use these numbers for another idea?

If you answer “no” to any of the above, you’ll likely want to reconsider your idea.

4. Get your pitch exactly right 

As we mentioned in a past post, journalists can receive as many as 800 story pitches on a standard day, which means cutting through that noise and getting your campaign noticed can be tough.

That’s why nailing your pitch is so important.

It all starts with your headline – as the first portion of your content journalists will see, the headline acts as a gateway into your content. And if journalists are scanning their inboxes from their phones, there’s a chance they’ll only see the first half to two-thirds of your headline, which makes it even more important to get just right.

With specific tools, it’s possible to test out various headlines to see which ones are most effective in getting the word out about your campaign. BuzzStream is particularly helpful here, as it allows you to see the open rates and click-through rates on your campaign emails.

Using this, you can start with pitching to just a few journalists with one headline and more with another, and see which headline was opened more and focus in on that.

From there, you’ll want to segue quickly into your hook. Leave behind all the intros and go straight into the crux of your campaign, because if the journalist isn’t immediately drawn into your story, it’s likely they’ll move onto the next pitch.

In her presentation, Tabby includes a basic outline for what a pitch email should look like, including all the necessary information you’ll want to include, so check out the video for more guidelines on how to get this right.

5. Don’t be afraid to rework and re-pitch

Though we hate to admit it, it’s just a fact – not every digital PR campaign you launch will be a wild success.

But how you deal with that failure will dictate whether or not that campaign is well and truly dead, or if there’s still a little (or a lot) more life in it.

Digital PR campaigns can fail for any number of reasons: the content was drowned out by major breaking news or your headline didn’t garner enough interest. But just because your campaign didn’t succeed the first time around doesn’t mean you have to give up on it right away.

There are other tactics you can take before firing out a new campaign, starting with repositioning the campaign itself – is there a way to position your B2C angle for B2B or vice versa? Is there a regional spin you can take?

What about incorporating it into breaking news – is there a way you can dig up an old campaign and fit it into discussions around current news or with trending hashtags?

Many campaigns last year were lost in the COVID-19 noise – now that the world is beginning to move on, can you bring last year’s campaign back? Even writers on a certain beat can get side-tracked by headline news, so if you flag a story you’re positive they’ll be interested in but might have missed, you could see new life breathed into an old story.

You can also safeguard your campaigns in a way by tacking on a few unrelated questions to surveys you deploy ahead of a campaign. That way if you get back data you didn’t anticipate or your campaign falls flat, you’ve got a little extra padding that can help you rework your pitch. 

These are only a few of the takeaways from Tabby’s presentation – for more on digital PR best practice, including tools to help your campaign succeed and more tips on content ideation, watch the full video above or on our YouTube channel here.

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