When it comes to winning media and PR coverage, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy.
Not only do you need to tailor the perfect pitch and personalise your approach for each journalist in order to cut through the noise, but you also need to know when and who to outreach to in the first place.
Of course, if you’re an agency specialist, you have to do all of this while deftly managing multiple campaigns at the same time for clients in a range of sectors.
It’s not without its challenges – but there are some proven approaches that can supercharge campaigns and help to sustain consistent coverage, brand visibility and links.
In this blog, I wanted to share some top Digital PR tips we’ve used across the PR team at ICS-digital to achieve our client campaign targets and overcome the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the Covid pandemic, many of us have of course been working from home – and as PR professionals, we have missed being able to have brainstorms as a group face-to-face or float a quick creative idea over a cup of tea.
Those brief face-to-face chats at the desk and impromptu meetings have been removed and replaced with more formal and planned conversations over Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
However, it’s important to maintain space to be creative, and so our solution has been to have daily catch-ups to keep everyone in the loop and on track.
We try to limit how much we speak via online messages (such as Teams), as while communication on tasks is important, too many notifications and pop-ups can distract from the core goals of earning links and client coverage.
There has to be space for inspiration as this is what the success of outreach and day-to-day journalist relations is based on.
More than this, it’s important to not equate ‘messaging’ with communication and to avoid falling into the trap of thinking any message over Teams or Basecamp = Productivity.
As much as we need to make time to speak to each other and develop creative ideas, it’s also key to block time to deliver - so don’t worry about muting conversations and chat groups, and don’t get side-tracked from your key tasks.
In these volatile times, the news cycle can flip by the day. To ensure campaign success, it’s more important than ever to have an agile, ‘Always-On’ approach that allows for quick results to be achieved, even with a broader or larger campaign.
One of the ways we do this is to develop relationships with journalists and understand the snippets of opinion, data, commentary and insight that they really appreciate on a regular basis, which adds value to their reporting.
In fast-moving industries like finance and retail, for example, reactive commentary and data can always find a home – if it’s high quality and journalist-friendly. Naturally, this then unlocks fresh opportunities to win coverage and links.
Be sure to check the news regularly throughout the day for trending topics and decide what you can relevantly react to, especially where there are similar topics to the campaign(s) you’re actively working on. Targeting the journalists who are already covering these stories can be highly fruitful – but only if you can provide them with something genuinely useful.
It’s important to not only have useful data and insights – but you also have to be seen to be of value too… and that comes down to how you approach the journalist or influencer.
Particularly for reactive PR, make sure you personalise your emails. I’ve found that journalists are more likely to cover the release (and remember your name as a PR person) if you craft compelling, personalised messages that demonstrate an understanding of the value of their time.
More than this, don’t simply send them everything and anything. You don’t want anyone to see your name pop up in the inbox and immediately sigh in despair.
Sometimes it can be daunting when you’ve set a goal of achieving especially high coverage and link key performance indicators (KPIs). Where do you begin?
The key here is not to worry about the top figure you need to hit and instead break it down into bitesize elements.
Our first step is frequently to focus landing coverage on ‘amplifier’ sites such as CNN.
As these global publishers have a massive reach, they typically lead to additional organic linking coverage as a result – either from other outlets reading about and covering the story or from journalists taking an interest if secondary outreach mentions previously won coverage.
It’s important to remember publishers and journalists have KPI’s too. If a major publisher runs your story that’s picking up shares and buzz online, other journalists will take note and want a piece of the action for their own visitor and click through targets.
So, while it may seem crazy to focus your attention on just one site to begin with, if you’ve done your homework properly, landing that one big piece of coverage will lead to 50, 100 and 250 more – and plenty of SEO-boosting links.
This technique has helped me and the team massively increase the number of links we secure, so it’s worth a try if you feel like your campaign could do with a boost.
Other steps you can take to break down the KPI’s are:
It can be more challenging working within regulated industries where you have to be creative to earn coverage, yet still stay within what’s possible from a brand and regulatory perspective.
We’ve found that applying scientific data and research methods to these campaigns works a treat.
From finding out that cute animals are GOOD for your health to revealing Xbox players are the most toxic gamers, data-driven, scientifically verifiable campaigns not only drive campaign coverage but contribute to existing knowledge banks, ensuring your study earns links well into the future.
Working in PR, as either client-side expert or an agency specialist, you find yourself consuming a lot of news daily, constantly thinking of client campaign ideas and checking for client coverage every waking hour of the day. It can be exhausting.
Take regular breaks, exercise and put time into yourself. You’ll be able to work better and think clearer.
Finally, enjoy it – there’s nothing better than landing those big links and headlines and having the satisfaction of a job well done.