What is Digital PR or Digital Public Relations?

Digital PR is the future of public relations. The digital world has changed massively over the last decade and PR has evolved to keep up. No longer just churning out press releases, PR is now all about combining traditional PR tactics with content marketing, social media, and search optimization. It also requires you to understand and use the news so as to create conversations that speak directly to your target audience online, showcase thought leadership, and build your brand as an authority in your space.

Two of the most common methods you can use to promote your brand are expert commentary and bylines. This modern twist, has allowed us here at Circa to develop digital PR strategies for our clients. 

Digital Public Relations Strategies, Tactics & Tips

Expert Commentary

The term “expert commentary” refers to when an expert is quoted within a larger story that was written by a reporter or journalist. Since one of the primary goals of digital PR is to build domain authority and get backlinks, this is an ideal tactic for both building up your brand and growing your backlink profile.

Expert commentary can be given in news pieces, case studies, expert round-up articles, and much more. When you take the time to provide expert commentary, you increase the authority of your brand and often gain access to previously untapped audiences.

Bylines

These are contributed articles (like a guest post or op-ed) that will be published under the expert’s name. In the case of a college or university, for example, a professor or thought leader may write a byline for a website focused on helping students choose the right major for them. Generally, bylines are unique opinion pieces centered on a trending topic. Here at Circa, faculty members will have the option to write the article themselves or allow our expert team of former journalists to ghostwrite it for them. 

Why is Digital PR Important?

Now that we’ve given you a quick rundown of the general strategies digital public relations entails, let’s get into the reasons why investing in it is important for your business, no matter what industry you work in.

Digital PR has emerged as a powerful tool for generating exposure and establishing credibility online. Forging strong relationships with journalists, editors, bloggers, and other producers of digital content can help a university to amplify its story and reach larger, higher-quality audiences.

The four main goals of our digital PR strategy are:

  1. Expanding brand awareness
  2. Promoting thought leadership
  3. Building high-quality backlinks to a target domain
  4. Driving organic traffic

 Here’s what the benefits look like broken down.

What are the Benefits of Digital PR?

Brand Awareness 

One of the most notable benefits of digital PR is brand awareness. The simple fact of brand awareness is that no business, no matter the industry, can succeed without it. People don’t buy from or invest in brands they don’t know, and they can’t know about your business if they aren’t exposed to your brand and content.

This applies to niche publications, as well as general industry ones. Digital public relations enables you to get your brand in front of the movers and shakers of your chosen industry. With it, you control what content people see and how they see it.

Thought Leadership

Similarly, digital PR also provides the opportunity for thought leadership. When you or someone influential releases a byline or provides expert commentary, it in turn helps establish your brand as an expert in the industry. It is also important to note here that individuals who are consistently being published in the media are most likely to be considered industry experts and thought leaders for doing so.

Organic Traffic

The next benefit of utilizing digital public relations is that it brings in organic traffic. Obtaining high-quality links through media placements act as “votes” in the eyes of Google, which Google then uses as signals of trust and can boost rankings. When you bring more traffic to your website and are actively working to improve your brand credibility, people inevitably respond. This means more eyes on your brand and content, more people opting into your service or product, and more revenue coming into your company coffers.

Visibility and Search Engine Rankings

The final benefit goes hand-in-hand with organic traffic. When your content is consistently being seen and clicked by untapped audiences, it plays a huge role in your ability to rank higher on search engines. This is because Google looks at backlink profiles and the number of times people click your links.

 With all that being said, let’s get into the steps it takes to implement a digital PR strategy.

How to Implement a Digital PR Strategy

There are six steps that are necessary to implement a successful digital PR strategy.

  1. Present your strategy to the subject matter experts you plan to utilize for expert commentary and bylines. Ensure they understand why digital public relations is important from both an institution and personal perspective.
  2. Conduct individual Interviews with your chosen experts to learn more about their expertise. This will enable you to determine which websites, topics, and articles you can look into to create media opportunities for them.
  3. Begin pitching your expert to the media. A good rule of thumb when doing this is to keep an eye out for potential stories that they would be able to speak and write to.
  4. Review and maintain communication with reporter and faculty – facilitate phone interviews between expert and reporter. Ghostwrite bylines on behalf of experts.
  5. Keep track of the websites and articles your experts are featured on. This is called “Media Tracking,” and it enables you to learn what content the media resonates with the most. From there, send over information on each placement to faculty members and stakeholders to have them share the content with their audiences as well.
  6. Finally, be sure you analyze the metrics of each piece of content. Good metrics to track include unique viewers per month, Domain Rating, social shares, and publicity value.

Digital Public Relations vs Traditional Public Relations

Too often, the main idea surrounding PR is that it only involves press releases and crisis management. Although the most prominent initiative of traditional PR is press outreach, with a special focus on traditional media outlets like newspapers, television stations, and radio, it doesn’t provide the same weight in today’s digital world.

This is why digital PR is so important. It enables you to get the word out about your content and company without losing any valuable SEO potential.

With digital PR, you can still take advantage of press releases. The only difference is that digital press coverage can enable your brand to stay current with whatever is happening in the world right now. This means more eyes on your content, more people caring about what your brand has to say, and a better reputation overall.

Simply put, digital PR doesn’t force a story, but many times, traditional PR does. 

Why Hire a Digital PR Agency?

At the end of the day, many businesses or universities may not have the time to handle their digital public relations in-house. This is why a great option is to higher a digital PR agency like those of us at Circa. We have over 5 years of experience running digital PR strategies for higher education clients, as well as great experience utilizing experts’ knowledge to create and take advantage of media opportunities. This, in turn, has enabled the PR team to build relationships with a significant number of media publications.

 We thrive on bringing brands into the digital light, and we’d love the opportunity to do that for you. So if you’re a higher education institution who’d like some help, please feel free to reach out to us here

List of Digital PR Tools

In order to be successful in digital PR it is vital to invest in some tools that will allow you to improve results and also showcase the value of your work. The list below will enable you to connect with national and industry specific reporters, distribute your pitches and gather important metrics. 

Cision

“Cision empowers communicators to identify influencers, craft and distribute meaningful stories, and measure the impact”. Circa Interactive uses Cision for three main purposes. 

  1. Build relevant, high level media lists. 
  2. Distribute our pitches 
  3. Monitor the media and measure the impact of PR wins

HARO

HARO seeks to narrow the pool for expert commentary, connecting journalists to the best- suited sources for their story. Our very own Alyssa Susnjara discusses how to craft an effective HARO pitch here

Ahrefs

When looking to quantify the value of a digital PR win, Ahrefs comes in very handy and supplements that information that is provided by Cision. We can assess the quality of a site by looking at the Domain Rating, discover the most shared content for any topic, easily analyse your site’s backlinks profile and help you get relevant keyword ideas for byline articles or op-ed’s. 

Grammarly

At the end of the day, our team is working with some of the brightest minds and most well known reporter’s on the planet, and we pride ourselves on our ability to communicate accurately and effectively. Grammarly ultimately acts as our safety net and can come in handy before sending an opinion piece from one of our experts over to a top tier publication such as The Hill. 

Google News

This one is obvious but just impossible to leave out. To be successful in digital public relations, you have to have a grasp on the news. At Circa, we use Google News and subscribe to national and industry specific publications to ensure we know what is trending in every single industry. Google News plays a role in this as it allows us to search for the key terms that relate to our experts. 

Digital Public Relations Campaign Examples

When everything is done correctly, and you establish some high level communication channels with your clients and the media, digital PR can provide incredible value, as seen in some examples below.

 

Pushing for Gender Equality in Higher Ed Leadership

Our professor of education leadership had an extensive byline published at Education Dive. Our understanding of this publication led us to connect with editors there and then help the professor to write a piece discussing how we can increase the number of female leaders in higher education. 

CEOs are in the spotlight. To succeed, they need to be real

We were able to get an op-ed published in CNN Business in which the professor discusses effective leadership traits that can help to positively propel companies forward.

Mental Trauma After the Storm

In this piece, a professor spoke to U.S. News in Puerto Rico, where he was helping to train mental health professionals on tending to patients a year after Hurricane Maria battered the island.

Here’s a Possible Fix for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: Tear It Down

An expert discussed with WSJ how property values rise following a freeway teardown due to a reduction in local traffic within a quarter mile of the roadway.

George Bradley
George Bradley has been part of the Circa Interactive team for five years. He graduated from Plymouth University in England with a Master of Science in Marketing Management and Strategy. As PR manager, George is passionate about creating high-level opportunities for professors within national publications and continuing to develop the strategy and performance of our PR team. You can follow George on Twitter @george_m_b.

Don't know where to start? Find out how our team of experts can help.

Your faculty members are doing research that’s worth talking about, and our digital PR team ensures the world’s best media outlets are bringing attention to their findings. We help your faculty secure media placements in top-tier publications, with links back to your programs that help increase your SEO rankings.

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