How to Build a Successful Digital PR Plan
In a nutshell, a successful digital PR plan involves creating content campaigns for the media that secure backlinks to a client’s website. Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s one problem. The internet is filled with a staggering amount of content, and this means getting a journalist’s attention is trickier than ever.
Having a well-executed plan or strategy in place is the backbone of any successful campaign. Content creation without a plan in place often leads to content with no real purpose - and content with no real purpose often leads to generic content, which simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
So how do you build a successful digital PR plan for clients? Here’s my advice when it comes to the three critical stages of a digital PR plan: ideation, validation and production.
Tips for ideating
Coming up with new ideas when you’ve already been doing something for a long time can feel daunting. It might feel like ideas begin to dry up or you're beginning to recycle the same idea over and over again. If you find yourself going to the same handful of sites for inspiration then it might be worth signing up to Feedly, a news aggregator tool that compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources. It’s a great way of keeping track of topics in your client’s industry and finding new content ideas at the same time.
Google alerts is also useful when it comes to ideating. It’s so simple to use, you just enter a word or phrase, and you’ll be alerted by email whenever Google finds new mentions on the web. I have news alerts sent to my inbox at the same time every day for a number of different industries (healthcare, tech, travel etc), which give me updates on the latest news for that day. It’s a great way of coming up with newsworthy topics and themes to explore.
When set a brief to create content for a new client, another thing to do early on in the ideation stage is to take a snoop at their competitors. Create a list of 5 to 10 competitor websites you want to analyse and then sign up to Buzzsumo, an online tool that will give you information on popular topics in any niche and from any given domain. With the help of BuzzSumo, you can get a list of a competitor’s most shareable and linkable content. You can learn what is working well in that particular industry, and at the same time learn what your client’s competitors are doing well. From this you can then get an idea of what content themes perform best - and this can help with your own ideation and brainstorming.
Brainstorms are another important part of the ideation stage. Never ever pass on a brainstorm - it’s a great way to provide alternative perspectives and ways of thinking about ideas. The key to a good brainstorm session is that everyone in the room feels comfortable contributing their ideas. So if there’s someone new on the team, make sure they know at this stage there’s no such thing as a bad idea!
For efficiency make sure your ideation doc includes details on the concept, the data, the visual and note any challenges. And lastly, remember when it comes to jotting down your ideas, go for quantity - worry about quality later.
Tips for validating ideas
We have a very robust validation process at Aira, which is key when it comes to creating successful content campaigns.
You need to ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the one thing that the campaign shows? Remember, if you can’t sum your idea up in one sentence, your idea isn’t simple enough and you’re going to struggle to pitch it!
- How are you going to show that one thing? The execution is vital and needs to be easily digestible.
- Why will anyone care? It needs to offer some kind of value to your target audience.
- What makes your campaign different? If it’s been done before then it’s a no-go. Your campaign needs to be fresh with a new angle or execution.
If you can’t answer these questions then take it as a warning sign that the campaign idea simply isn’t strong enough. Validating an idea helps ensure the idea will resonate with your audience, and will prevent any mishaps occurring further down the line. Even if you’ve got a great campaign idea, if you can’t visualise it in a way that is easily digestible then it’s not going to work.
Even if you’ve got your idea through concept you might still be umming and ahhing over it. If that’s the case then what better way to get clarification than going straight to the horse’s mouth? On occasions we’ve spoken to journalists directly to see if it’s something they’d be interested in covering further down the line. They have always been open and honest with their responses too, so if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Tips for content production
This is one of my favourite parts of the whole process - seeing an idea come to life. And in the realm of content marketing - looks do matter. If you have free reign over a design, don’t take it for granted - it’s great to have full control over the design aspect of your campaign. But you will also have clients that want you to stick to their brand guidelines. If this is the case, I’d strongly suggest you try and meet somewhere in the middle. Although adhering to colours and fonts can work fine, try not to focus too heavily on the brand. We know from experience that journalists tend not to cover content when it's too promotional - so try to strike a good balance between branded and non-branded content.
When it comes to sharing designs with clients, it might also be worth investing in a visual collaboration platform. We use Miro, which enables us to simply drop a design to a board and allows our client to feedback on the design directly without the need for emails. Remember, content production is an integral part of a successful digital PR plan. If the campaign doesn’t look good and the message isn’t clear, it’s not going to get links.
Follow these steps and you’re on the right track when it comes to creating a successful digital PR campaign.