Securing top tier media placements is rarely an uphill battle when you’re an industry or household name. Not only is there the power of your brand, but also a plethora of news stories to draw on; from weekly multi-million-pound business deals to major announcements, launches or celebrity endorsements. It’s not always quite so easy when you’re an SME, start-up or a larger company without the brand presence of your competitors. However, this doesn’t mean that your business and website is destined to lack coverage, links and domain authority for all eternity.
By adapting to a strategy that’s suitable for your business and being openminded about how your business can ‘create’ news, you can build brand awareness and your backlink profile faster than you might think. Here are some strategies for rebooting your digital PR strategy if you’re not currently seeing results:
Media are writing stories about your industry every day, so if you’re struggling to secure links and coverage with proactive media relations, try being reactive instead. There are several tried and tested ways of doing this; for example many trade outlets publish forward features lists and some journalists use alert systems such as Response Source or the #JournoRequest hashtag on Twitter to put out alerts when they’re looking for contributions to articles they’re writing.
However, many of these alerts are often highly niche, so it’s worth putting some effort into building relationships with journalists and letting them know that they can lean on you as a resource. Many journalists will take a quick call if you’re introducing your brand for the first time. Alternatively, if you have inhouse experts or materials that you know may be useful for future articles, then it’s also worth sending out a casual email to notify key editors of their availability. You may not get a media hit straight away, but sowing the seeds early on can reap rewards later down the line.
Relevant human-interest stories are of interest to many consumer outlets, and if you can source the right kind of case studies this can be an effective route to placing your brand in the media. Avoid falling into the trap of selecting examples that are very ‘on brand’ but have zero news appeal. For example, a customer that raves about your five-star service may reflect well on your business, but it looks like marketing puff to journalists searching for a story that will really engage their readers. Instead look for inspiring, unusual, feel good and genuinely newsworthy stories from within your organisation or customer base. For example, if you’re a gym or fitness business, has a customer experienced very dramatic weight loss thanks to your help? Or has a colleague proposed to their partner in an interesting and unusual way?
When people think of PR stunts, they tend to imagine flash mobs in London Victoria Railway Station, big celebrity endorsements or giant sculptures floating down the River Thames. While these could be great ideas, and would likely garner some media interest, they’re also very expensive and often have a questionable return on investment. Especially for smaller businesses. However, PR stunts can be done much more effectively and on a smaller scale in the digital age. It may be cost-effective, for instance, to launch a ‘limited edition’ but unexpected product or service that will gain media attention and drive links to your site. How this could work for you will depend on your business, but newsworthy examples range from a DIY coffin kit to a photo consultation for signs and symptoms of STIs. Alternatively, if you sell a highly visual experience – for example, you’re a zoo with endangered baby animals, an attraction or tourist board – it’s often very powerful to invest in video and photography stunts that you can sell into the national photo and video editors.
Big or small, your business likely has people within it who are experts in their fields. And more often than not, these people can be great PR assets that you can leverage to secure fantastic media placements. However, avoid over-relying on the CEO or ‘Head of’ Sales or Commercial. These spokespeople may be great brand representatives but are often over-quoted in press releases and pitches due to political sensitivities or because they’re perceived to have a media-friendly personality.
Instead, do an audit of the media sector you want to achieve coverage in and ask yourself whether they’re picking up on expert advice and warnings. Often you’ll find opportunities to comment on industry hot topics, peoples’ concerns or current trends and behaviour. Then try narrowing down who your industry experts are and whether they could add value in the same way. Depending on the sector you work in, it could be a GP, medical specialist, lawyer, recognised cybersecurity expert, award-winning chef or even an engineer. If you don’t have anyone suitable within your business, use social media to find and build mutually beneficial partnerships with external experts who are eager for publicity.
One of the easiest ways to secure coverage when you have no news is to create it, and third-party data be very useful in this objective. Talk to colleagues and other departments, as there may be an internal database you can draw on. You can also work with a polling company to run a survey question to niche samples that are relevant to your industry. Alternatively, authoritative sources such as the Office of National Statistics, Public Health England and Eurostat, among others, regularly publish data on topics ranging from the gender pay gap and mental health to the MOT fail rates. The trick is to find data that’s relevant to your industry and look for new ways to interpret and analyse it that reveals something newsworthy. For example, the rising rates of STI infections in England are already widely reported; but by reinterpreting the data by location you get can create great stories and generate coverage that reveals the country’s most infectious towns and cities.
Many people have their own take on what makes good PR. However, when it comes to identifying a story that will really gain your business media coverage, many fall into the trap of creating strategies based almost exclusively on what personally appeals to them, marketing puff or something that’s only significant to their internal team. While all of these could be newsworthy, and may even be important for the business to promote, it’s important to focus your digital PR strategy on what’s most effective if you have limited resources. First, do a coverage audit that identifies the types of stories that the media in your industry publish. However, look for trends, recent news and avoid repeating the past or copying previous coverage. Online media changes and develops very quickly, and if a journalist has just run a particular story, they’re unlikely to do it again very quickly.