Digital PR : a crash course in resilience

Pre 2020, we’d regularly ask ourselves, “Is Digital PR just SEO people making a land grab, or is it in fact the direction PR is heading in?”

On one hand we thought (and still think) it’s exactly the same as PR ever was. Increasing awareness via clever news hooks, while providing consumers with information that can inform purchase or lifestyle choice. On the other, it requires a new set of skills that enhance our ability to track progress and respond to metrics that would previously sit within a SEO discipline.

A year and a half after COVID, the question has shifted to, “We know we can do Digital PR and that it works, but how do we cut through the news battlefield, and how many opportunities are there out there?”

Much like every other industry, PR is constantly innovating. But the main challenge we face isn’t industry evolution, it’s the lack of opportunity that the constant COVID news feed has created. The past year has taught us that even if your campaign is award-worthy, it’s the resilience that goes with the thinking that gets us the results we deserve.

For our team,  the pandemic has taught us the following five digital PR tricks:

Spotting a news gap is like finding a parking spot at Sainsbury’s on Christmas Eve:

We still do, and will continue to always inhale the news on a daily basis. But with a news agenda that’s as tumultuous as a salad spinner, one thing we’re constantly on watch for is a quiet news day and generally it never comes! We tend not to focus on reactive comms for tool placement, but we do know that quieter news desks are sometimes more open to featuring a research story. In our experience, pushing for links at these moments is a classic case of less is more. Keeping stories with tangible advice in our back pockets for when journalists might be looking for something other than COVID waffle.

The difference between a capability and a story:

We’ve learnt that the difference between a brand capability and a brand story have never been more different. For example, your brand may have a search function that indicates the best option for them from within your product portfolio, but if the product itself isn’t doused in consumer need or intrigue, then the story won’t fly.

Taking a long term view:

In a world where most things are instantly available, we’re often programmed to see results happen overnight. However, it’s important to take a step back with digital PR as often it takes a few weeks for a campaign to gain momentum. The reason for this is that we regularly have to highlight an issue before we solve it with a consumer tool. We therefore always see campaigns as long projects, as opposed to old-school reactive releases – which still work for share of voice.

Relevance, relevance and more relevance:

If a story doesn’t immediately link to your client’s central purpose, then your pitch will inevitably feel like an outlook shoe-horn. This has been heightened over the past year due to a reduction in media opportunities, meaning only the best of the best will land. We work closely with our clients to challenge, and be challenged, on how a consumer would view a piece and whether they would actually care if you gave them the elevator pitch.

Thought leadership is making a come-back:

This tactic is as old as the dawn of PR, but we’ve noticed a real shift in how it can be used. It remains an important tool for growing the profile of senior leadership teams, but it’s grown a new communications arm. We regularly use thought leadership to place both insight and links, providing publications with valuable insight, unique opinions and tools that consumers can use as a follow up.

So in answer to the question as to whether digital PR is an old school tactic with a new name or the direction PR is heading in? It’s both. But the skill and agility of a team that can pepper a reactive press office with a digital PR campaign should not be underestimated, especially when you have competitors snapping at the heels of your share of voice pie-chart.