The Beginner’s Guide to Cision

With SEO professionals putting greater emphasis on links, PR has become a critical component in attaining top ranks. Whether you’re using PR for link building or working to leverage your professor as a thought leader in their industry, establishing a relationship with the media is a crucial tactic to any higher education marketing strategy. Often times maintaining this relationship can be the easier step, while reaching out for the initial contact can pose the biggest challenges to marketers. We recommend using Cision to help with media outreach and building relationship with reporters, publications and editors.

What is a Media List?

A media list is a list of the media contacts who would be interested in stories about your client, expert pitch or press release. These media contacts may include reporters, editors, bloggers, producers, freelance writers on both online and offline platforms. Cision enables the user to create media lists that include everything from national publications down to niche specific blogs.

What is Cision?

Cision is one of the leading tools PR and marketing professionals utilize when it comes to media outreach. By generating a catered list of reporters, journalists and editors, Cision allows organizations to directly reach out to professionals within specific research focuses. By keeping in mind a couple best practices and tips, marketing and PR professionals can improve both their response rates and general outreach skills.

Analyzing your Pitch

To start off, breaking down and analyzing your content is key to creating a good, targeted media list. Not only does the pitch have to provide newsworthy information, but the audience needs to be taken into consideration as well. The best approach to creating a pitch begins with the lead. The best pitches are able to present a current story and seamlessly tie in their product or expert. By creating a clear connection for your readers, you give your readers a reason to be interested with your pitch. As you create your pitch, you must be cognizant to stay within the time restraints of your story, especially when working around new, trending topics.

Research is Key

Once your pitch has been crafted, the next step is to research potential media outlets for those that best fit the client and pitch. By researching pertinent publications within the industry, marketing professionals can better understand the media and later determine how relevant their pitch is for that specific outlet. This is crucial when creating an effectively targeted list; if the list of contacts becomes too robust or unfocused, then the pitch can lose its relevance and newsworthiness, leading to a low response rate. Understanding the media cycle here is also an important component. You need to understand what your audience is currently writing about, and if the reporters are genuinely going to be interested in what you are sending them. The last thing you want is for them to unsubscribe. Thankfully, Cision offers a number of filters that will enable you to put your prior research to good use when it comes to building the list.

And Now The Distribution

To create a media list in Cision, you first begin with a search. The search tool allows users to filter through various subject matters, publication type, editors, bloggers and reporters at different outlets across the globe, all based off the criteria that you specifically want to search for. There are a wide range of filters here and it is certainly worth working out the filters that work best for you.

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You can also use these filters during your list creation to help narrow down your search. This will allow you to become even more focused, and we find this to be particularly helpful when your original search brings back a high number of results, like below.

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Your final list should look something like the one below. As you can see, on the left hand you can access all of the lists you have created easily. One thing that may also help is adding contacts from your existing lists to new lists (only when relevant).

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Following the creation of the media list and the finalization of the pitch, the distribution is ready to be sent out. Cision also allows users to schedule their outreaches, giving them the chance to reach their audiences during peak, optimal times.

Outreach can be a much more effective, efficient and less daunting process with tools like Cision. Cision isn’t cheap, but the investment is well worth it for SEOs and PR professionals looking to take their efforts to the next level.

Analyzing Your Results

The latest edition of Cision also provides analytics of each distribution that you send out. Simply go into ‘My Activities’ and click on the outreach that you would like to analyze. Here you can see the overall open rate as well as the specific individuals who opened your email and clicked on any links you included. This feature can be greatly beneficial when looking at who you may want to follow up with and who you should send future pitches to.

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In addition, when these distributions begin turning into media placements, Cision will monitor your results and inform you when an article or Press Release goes live. Other information provided also includes: Unique Viewers Per Month and Publicity Value.

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Earning media placements today in a very congested marketplace can be a difficult and an often thankless task. However, if you combine your pitching and list building efforts successfully, then there is every chance you will obtain the PR you are looking for. Cision 100% helps with our day to day tasks and has played a significant role in enabling us to get our clients the media coverage they are looking for.

If you have any questions on our pitch writing or Cision list building, then feel free to reach out.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

How Digital Public Relations Can Build High Quality Backlinks

Building high quality backlinks is a major component of any SEO strategy, and over the last two years, we incorporated a new approach to acquire those backlinks: Digital public relations.  Our process is simple: We leverage faculty members’ expertise and research to create media opportunities with the goal of getting a program link included. Our goal is to land placements in some of the best publications in the country (and the UK [Not an easy task]) in order to create a branding opportunity for our professors as well as build quality links to our programs targeted page to influence rankings and organic traffic. We created a visualization of our successes for nine master’s degree programs (some of which weren’t running the full year) and whether or not the publication added a link. We wanted to compile a list for other individuals running digital public relations for SEO purposes to have a guide on what publications add links — and those that don’t — as well as share other valuable information. Following the visualization, we have jotted down seven conclusions we drew from this analysis.
Digital Public Relations and Backlinks

1. General Insights from our Digital Public Relations Strategy

For the media placements we landed in 2015, the average Domain Authority (DA) was 72.42. During the year, the total potential reach of each publication resulted in a net of 919,690,441 unique monthly visits. (We actually only saw a small percentage of that traffic.) Our goal was to align DA and unique visitors per month and analyze any correlations. Our probability of acquiring a link after publication was 66%.

2. Best Sites for Landing a Link with a DA over 90

Landing an opportunity with a link for a publication over a DA of 90 is incredibly difficult, but we have found that the best site to accomplish this goal, so far, is the Huffington Post. It’s also great because once accepted as a blogger, you can create and post as many articles as you want. This is a great strategy when you incorporate some growth hacking principles that can build more traffic to those individual pages. We have also realized that Scientific American and Elsevier Connect are excellent opportunities to land a DA link of over 90 if you can supply high quality content. This is where a true PR professional needs to come in and pitch an editor on an idea that will provide value to such a high caliber audience.

3. The Higher the DA, the Harder to Acquire a Link

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any SEO specialist, but what we have seen through our data is that it’s very difficult to land a PR opportunity in a publication with a DA over 90, but it’s even harder to acquire a link. We have found that bylines are the best way to guarantee a link, whereas expert commentary–lining up interviews with journalists–has a smaller chance of landing a link but is a much more scalable process, because it takes more time to write an article than it does for a professor to speak with a journalist.

4. More than a Link: Branding Opportunity

While we primarily leverage digital pubic relations for SEO purposes, it’s also about brand recognition and potential reach. It’s also very important to understand that digital PR for professors accomplishes more than just acquiring high quality backlinks. Professors will become more excited with digital PR, because we’re helping tell their stories and put their research in front of a larger audience, which further establishes them as thought leaders.

5. A Need for a Certain Type of Story?

Certain programs did better than others. For instance, our computer science program had a total of 21 placements and the athletics program had 17 links generated from our PR efforts in 2015. Some of our other programs had less. What is hard to define from our analysis is whether or not a program’s subject matter relates to the ability to attain high quality links, because each of our programs have different budgets and varying numbers of participating professors. I can say that computer science, with the amount of tech blogs and the interest in new innovative technologies, is a fertile ground for higher education marketers because our professors are on the cutting edge of an extremely popular narrative. There is no doubt that reporters and journalists would like to speak with these individuals. 

6. To Link, or Not to Link

Another key takeaway from our analysis is that it’s difficult to know whether or not a publication will link or not. Sometimes we’ll ask for a link to be added to the article featuring one of our professors, and the reporter has no problem hyperlinking to our landing pages. Other times we’ve had reporters get upset we even asked or afraid that it will make them look poorly to their editor. We have also heard from reporters that certain publications have policies against adding links. For instance, an editor at MediaPost insisted they had a policy against adding links. That one is easy to cross off the list for adding links, but take note of Inside Higher Ed in the visualization. They have included a link for our program, and in other posts, they have not included a link. So our conclusions: Unless directly stated that there is a policy against adding external links, assume it’s possible. Just track your progress and update as you go. 

7. Probability of Success

Digital pubic relations takes work and creativity, but over the course of 2015, we saw positive results. Our probability of adding a link was 66%, and our goal is to get that closer to 75%. Through building relationships with journalists and editors, we’re confident we can make that change.
If you have any comments or questions about our analysis, then please feel free to comment below. Feel free to also share the graphic of our analysis using the embed code below.
JoeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more. 

 

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