Digital PR Starter Guide for Beginners

Digital PR Starter Guide for Beginners

A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Your Brand Stand Out From the Crowd

Robert Grum

Marketing Specialist

Last updated: October 27, 2017

There are several ways to reach your target audience on the internet but nothing works better than digital public relation (Digital PR).

Because it delivers.

Digital PR

Statistics show that PR has 10 to 50 times high conversion rates as compared to advertising. Not just that it delivers in terms of conversion rate and ROI but digital PR is what Google loves.

According to Sarah Skerik who is the PR Newswire’s VP of content marketing:

Google is emphasizing the value of authentic earned media.”

The fact of the matter is, as much as 92% of consumers reported that they trust earned media over traditional ads that they see all the times all over the internet.

Brands that don’t succeed in doing well in terms of digital PR and outreach, eventually fail.

What is Digital PR?

So what exactly is this digital PR?

In simple words, it is a marketing tactic used by marketers to increase their online presence by building relationships with key influencers and journalists.

Social Media Today defines digital PR as:

“A marketing technique that is all about combining traditional PR with content marketing, social media and search: transforming static news into conversations and bypassing media to speak directly to your target audience online.”

Public Relation (PR), when done online, is known as digital PR.

KFC Colonel’s Scholars Program is a perfect example of how digital PR can change the fate of your business. KFC decided to award a $20K scholarship solely on a single tweet. Students had to convince KFC with a single tweet that they qualify for the scholarship.

The idea was great but KFC knew it had to use digital PR to get the word out. So they decided to announce their scholarship campaign via USA Today. As a result of this initial media placement, the scholarship generated more than 1000 media placements in top sites and newspapers like AP Wire, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and several others.

The scholarship program generated more than 9 million impressions and some 2800 applicants tweeted to win the scholarship. Here is the tweet from the winner.

scholarship generated more than 1000 media placements

Imagine if KFC had announced this scholarship program via their own website and official blog, would that had the same impact?

Absolutely not.

USA Today news story was their best bet and it worked.

How Digital PR Works

Before we move ahead and talk about why your business needs digital PR more than ever, I’d like to show you how it actually works in the real world. This will give you a better idea of how it’ll fit into your overall digital marketing strategy.

Here is a basic overview of how it works (Step-by-Step procedure is discussed later in the guide).

  1. You’ve an awesome product or a news story.
  2. You create valuable content for your product.
  3. Find journalists and influencers in your industry.
  4. Reach out to the right and most appropriate authority figures. Connect with them.
  5. Show them your content.
  6. They will publish it, link to it, and will share it with their audience.
  7. You get all the love.

The crucial part of the game is finding right authority figures. An authority figure could be a journalist, a blogger, an influencer, a celebrity, or anyone who is considered an authority in a niche.

For instance, how’d you feel if Justin Bieber tweets about a new music app? Do you think it will increase app downloads?

Absolutely it will, because Bieber is an authority figure and what he recommends will be taken seriously by his followers.

Similarly, if Forbes talks about a new startup, how’d you expect their readers to respond to it? The startup will go viral.

This is what makes digital PR so powerful.

Digital PR isn’t just about sales and brand awareness but it brings with it several other benefits too.

Benefits of Digital PR

So why you should really care about digital PR and why you should add it to your digital marketing strategy?

Here are a few reasons to stick to it.

#1. Improves credibility and reputation

Needless to say, digital PR and outreach make your brand credible. When an influencer or a journalist talk about your business, it will make your brand look reputable.

This is the whole point of digital PR.

Instead of you talking about your business and products on your own blog and social media accounts, you let trustworthy people talk about your products and business.

A study by Dr. Jonathan Albright revealed that fake news can destroy a company’s reputation much quicker than real news. Studies also show that fake news spread much faster as compared to accurate news and this is one reason why you should actively engage in digital PR to protect your brand’s reputation.

#2. Improves search engine ranking of your website

The most important benefit of digital PR is none other than high-quality backlinks that search engines love. Whenever your brand secures a media placement, it gets a backlink.

Backlinks are the most important ranking factor and when you get backlinks from high authority sites, it helps a lot in improving your website’s search engine ranking.

seo is most important benefit of digital PR


#3. You enjoy high-quality content

Have you ever read a poorly written article on Inc., Bloomberg, or Mashable?

I’m sure you didn’t.

Authority sites have very strict editorial guidelines and they will never publish anything that’s average. When your content goes live on one of these sites, it means it is extremely high quality and has passed editorial review.

Digital PR is one of the best ways to make sure your site gets editorial backlinks from within high-quality content.

This helps with building brand image and making your target audience happy.

#4. Helps boost media relationships

Media relationships are at the center of digital PR. You must have heard a lot about building relationships and connections with bloggers, influencers, and journalists.

When your brand consistently appears in top news sites, journalists will get used to seeing it and will start linking to your site.

Besides, when you outreach to authority sites for getting your content published, that’s another way to build relationships that go a long way. More on outreach coming soon.

#5. Improves ROI

Digital PR pays off big time.

Statistics show that 83% of consumers trust recommendations from peers and people they know more than advertising.

Refer to the KFC scholarship campaign. The reason why their campaign generated buzz and reached over 1000 news sites in record time is that they launched it via USA Today. Consumers trust recommendations from USA Today.

This is what exactly happens with every digital PR campaign.

How to Create a Digital PR Strategy for Your Business

Creating a digital PR strategy that blends well with your overall digital marketing strategy is not an easy task. You’ve to make sure you’re doing the right things at the right time to make it work.

#1. Monitor and analyze your brand and competitors

The strategy development process begins by conducting in-depth research about your brand. This includes:

  1. Competitor analysis
  2. Brand mention analysis
  3. Leading industry topics
  4. Leading influencers and journalists within your industry
  5. Current trends
  6. Content gaps
  7. Customer needs
  8. Target market

This will help you in setting clear goals for your campaigns.

#2. Set clear goals

Set clear goals as to what you want to achieve from digital PR.

Do you want to increase brand awareness?

Are you interested in acquiring backlinks from authority sites?

Do you want to improve brand reputation?

Do you wish to generate leads?

Are you interested in promoting a product?

The goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Digital pr strategy smart model

‘Increase in subscribers’ isn’t a SMART goal.

Increase in subscribers by 100% in 2 months’ is a SMART goal.

A SMART goal is easier to communicate and measure.

#3. Identify target audience for your PR campaign

Let’s admit it, you cannot reach your entire audience with a single media placement.

Even if you manage to have your story published on CNN, it won’t reach your entire target audience because not everyone is interested in CNN. A lot of people don’t visit CNN at all.

Therefore, it is crucial to identify your target audience for your PR campaign.

You’ve to identify a specific chunk of your target market that you want to reach with your digital PR campaign. Once you’ve identified it, the next phase is to identify relevant media channels and outlets where you can best reach them.

For instance, your primary target audience includes businesses and CEOs. You’ve to identify media outlets where businesses and CEOs hang out. In this case, you’ll have to get your content published on sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

You might have to identify a different audience for each article you publish. This is what Jamie Scott did when he was promoting his pop-up restaurants after winning MasterChef 2014. It helps in tracking results of each article you publish.

Here is an awesome guide to identifying your target audience.

#4. Create content for readers as well as journalists

Time to start creating content.

The content has to be relevant to your audience interest, publisher style, and it must be consistent with your brand.

Now, this seems to be too much.

Sure it is. You don’t want to put your brand’s image at risk, right?

Getting your content published on a news site means you’ve to have a newsworthy content. As Charles Anderson Dana said:

“When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news.”

There are four things that you’ve to consider to make your content catchy and newsworthy to increase outreach response rate.

Purpose: What’s the purpose of the content you’re generating? This should link to your goals.

Timeliness: A news story that’s not well-timed won’t be considered. Come up with a new angle and new information that will hook journalists and your readers.

Uniqueness: Content, your idea, and perspective must be unique. This is what journalists are interested in.

Relevance: Keep your content relevant to the news site and make it relevant to what your target journalist is into these days.

#5. Emphasize on visual content

While the text is important, visual content is more crucial.

Research shows that when people hear information, they tend to remember only 10% of it three days later. If a relevant image is used with the same information, people retain 65% of it three days later.

Visual content will never disappoint you as your reader’s minds are tuned in a way that they prefer it.

visual content is more engaging

Here are a few content types that you should add in your digital PR strategy.

  • Social media posts
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Interactive content
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Interviews

#6. Outreach to right influencers at the right time

Research shows that 20% of your outreach will yield 80% of your results. You’ve to use your time wisely when outreaching.

Pick the right target journalists and influencers to reach a wide target audience.

Follow these steps to find right publishers for your content on your selected media outlets.

Step #1: Find journalists

Look for journalists who cover your niche. Those who have interest in your industry are more likely to respond and talk about your story.

Step #2: Start small

Don’t go for large sites initially. You’re not KFC and your story cannot make it to USA Today no matter how compelling and interesting. To get started, look for relatively small sites and outlets.

As soon as your story gets out, it will be picked by several other news sites depending on how interesting it is.

Step #3: Use customized templates

Outreach to your selected journalists. Tweak your story and template based on the journalist. A single story and outline won’t work for all the journalists. A customized story is what works best.

Here is a template that can be used to reach out to journalists and influencers.

Hey there,

Congratulations on the new gig with Business Insider.

A fellow PR friend mentioned you were a pleasure to work with at Forbes, I hope this new opportunity with BI is just as awesome.

I was wondering if it’s cool if I share a few details with you on a company in the HR/Small Biz space that may appeal to your Careers readers. Just in case they fit with anything you’re working on or perhaps spark an idea.

Thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing from you.

There are several ways to do PR outreach right, this is a nice resource where you can find lots of templates.

Depending on the goals of your PR outreach strategy, you might have to publish content on your blog first and then later reach out to influencers so they can link back to it.

Brian Dean has an awesome technique to do it the right way known as where you can find lots of templates. So if you’ve published content on your blog and want influencers to link to it, you need to stick to Skyscraper technique.

The templates that you’ll use in this case will be different.

Here is one that Brian Dean has massive success with.

Template to outreach influencers 

#7. Track and measure your campaign results

Track results of your PR and outreach campaign. At any given time, you’d be running several digital PR campaigns with different goals.

It is critical to track each campaign individually to see what works and what doesn’t.

Use UTM codes to track your campaigns, content, and referral traffic within Google Analytics.

UTM codes are tracked in Google Analytics

Measure the success of every campaign by referring back to its goals.

Try to build relationships with journalists and sites that do well. Consider them your business partners. Stay connected and engaged with them so you can take favors in future too.

The Best Digital PR Tools

Digital PR and outreach gets easier if you’ve access to the right tools. Here are a few tools that will help you get better.

#1. HARO

HARO first page view

Help a Reporter is the best place to find journalists. Sign up with HARO as a source, subscribe to your preferred niches and activate email notifications.

You’ll get an email whenever a journalist will ask for a help.

Here is an example of an inquiry from an Inc. editor.

HARO inquiry example from an editor

You just have to respond to it and that’s all. If your pitch seems interesting, you’ll get published on Inc. Easy outreach, right?

#2. HootSuite

Hootsuite first page view

HootSuite is a social media management tool that can help you find people, influencers, and journalists with massive followers. You can find journalists from your HootSuite dashboard and can reach out to them right from your dashboard.

It makes finding right people for your PR campaign fairly easy.

#3. Muck Rack

Muck Rack first page view

Muck Rack is a perfect solution to finding journalists and monitor content. It allows you to find journalists based on their location, niche, topics they cover, and their tweets. This is one resource that you shouldn’t go without.

#4. Cision

Cision first page view

Cision might cost you some money but you’ll never regret your decision. It is a massive PR software that comes with several features. It is an all-in-one PR tool that will do everything for you ranging from finding journalists to content distribution to tracking and analysis.

If you want to find out more about different tools, check our full list of best tools for digital marketing.


Digital PR and outreach is not a quick fix. Don’t expect heaps of traffic with a single brand mention. Don’t expect a jump from anywhere to page one with a single backlink from an authority site.

It is a long-term marketing strategy that will deliver results for an extended period of time. Do it consistently. Make it a mandatory part of your digital marketing strategy.

It will soon turn the tables.