Digital media has leveled the playing field for small businesses and made it easier than ever to drive measurable results with PR. But you have to understand how the game is played.
Getting noticed by the right person or publication could truly catapult your company to the next level, but the days of sending out scattershot press releases to big media companies are over. The game has changed, and so have the players. Today’s public relations is about reaching select influencers in appropriate ways. An influencer, for instance a blogger who covers your niche, can be as valuable to your business as a leading newspaper, because he or she has the trust of your target group. It’s all about audience–yours and theirs. These five tips will help you execute effective digital PR strategies.
Tip 1: Get noticed in Google searches
Before you begin any communications efforts, make sure you understand your target customer. Create a customer profile by documenting your audience’s key traits, preferences, and behaviors. This document should also include keywords–the words and phrases that define your business and offering. Then, make sure those words are being used appropriately on your site. Additionally, track the keywords that are driving people to your site by using a Web analytics tool, such as Google Analytics. Incorporate well-performing words into your press releases and social media posts.
When conducting a Google search, most people only click on results that appear on the first page. That’s why it is so important to invest in PR strategies that improve your search ranking. “Good PR now means a better shot at ranking higher on the search engine results pages,” explains JoJo Gutfarb, director of media relations & digital strategy at Goodwin Group PR. When a media outlet runs a story that includes a link to your site, it improves your search ranking, so also be sure to include links in your content.
Tip 2: Tell a good story; just tell it faster
“Everyone skims in the digital age,” says Jon Minners, senior marketing manager at Vault.com and former editor for the Bronx Times Reporter. “The digital age allows small businesses to make an impact with pointed messaging in the form of eye-catching videos or intriguing infographics,” so try to include those elements in your press releases or email outreach, he says.
When crafting your story, incorporate “snackable” elements–content that can be digested quickly, such as photos, short videos, and snappy factoids. For example, if there is a visual element to your story, hire a photographer to take some pictures you can share with the press. This may make your content more likely to get noticed. Plus, media outlets, digital publications, and social media influencers (see tip #3 for more on that) are always looking for “shareable” content–content that fares well on social media.
Tip 3: Identify and leverage relevant influencers
Sometimes a more efficient way to reach your audience is to partner with people they already trust (influencers), and have them help share your message. This is called influencer marketing. “You still want to score press from respectable media outlets, but the options for, and the definition of, media have grown exponentially. TV is now YouTube, radio is podcast, and newspaper is blogs, forums, and social media platforms,” observes Gutfarb. Influencer marketing focuses on getting your message to key people who your target customers value. These influencers often have large social media followings or popular blogs. The idea is that getting these leaders to share your story is a more effective approach to influencing your audience, in part because they already have the trust of your target group.
Your knowledge of your industry and customer may be enough to help you identify key influencers, but Cyst says that having your audience take a short online survey can also help. Consider emailing customers and prospects a link to the poll and offering an incentive in return for their time, such as a coupon code, to improve the odds of people actually participating. “Asking questions such as what social media channels people are using and the types of information they are open to receiving is a great starting point,” she says. Gutfarb adds that you can also leverage your keyword strategy. For example, search for your keywords on YouTube to find popular “YouTubers” making videos relevant to your business and on Instagram to find popular accounts. Additionally, Buzzsumo is a free tool which allows you to use keywords to search for popular content as well as the people who shared it.
“It’s important to identify the individuals with the right audience – just as you would with a traditional media outlet. What differs the most is the way you engage with bloggers, as opposed to traditional media,” says Cyst. Be succinct, stress “what’s in it for them,” and try to offer an experience or an exclusive offer as opposed to a traditional pitch.
Tip 4: Social media is your multi-purpose tool
Social media is a PR game changer–a tool for pitching, monitoring, and storytelling. Businesses can use it to forge relationships with reporters and influencers. “It makes the process more personal,” notes Cyst. “Reporters are people, too. They post photos of their pets, their families, their hobbies, etc. Relationship-building can start with something as simple as responding to a photo they posted of their dog and asking what breed it is.”
If possible, build a rapport before pitching, and reserve pitches for private messages, as opposed to public tweets or posts. In addition to using social media to monitor what is being said about your company (a tactic called “social listening”), use it to share and amplify your story. When Minners distributed a press release about recent research from his company, he bolstered his efforts by tweeting key facts from the release throughout the day and @mentioning relevant people. Then, he used Google Analytics to monitor where his website traffic was coming from so he could gauge the success of his efforts.
Tip 5: Embrace New PR Metrics
With print publications, it is challenging to know how many people really read your story. On the other hand, digital PR allows you to precisely monitor your content’s performance. To do so, review traffic sources on Google Analytics, as Minners did. This will show you what channels are most effectively driving traffic to your website and which content is most interesting to your visitors. For example, if you notice users are spending more time on a particular page of your site than they do with other content, try providing more information on similar subjects. It is also important to monitor calls-to-action/conversation opportunities in your content, so include trackable links when possible. A trackable link is a link that allows you to monitor how many people clicked it. Bitly is a good tool for this. Additionally, track the MOZ rank of blogs and media outlets that mention your business. This shows you how popular the site is and helps you understand the value of the placement.
These days, it’s easier than ever for small businesses to get in the digital PR game. You have the same access to influencers, and your audiences, as big brands. Concentrating on getting the right type of content into the hands of the right media outlets and influencers can greatly increase your odds of PR success.