- With the right strategy, digital PR can help drive both brand awareness and organic performance
- During an economic downturn, brand visibility is essential to maintain brand advocacy in the long-term
- Brands that will come out on top are those that take a cross-channel approach to drive more ROI, using data from other channels to inform their approach
Despite being tempted to pull back on spending during a recession, I believe that it is critical that brands stay visible to maintain brand advocacy — and Digital PR is a great, low-cost way to do so.
Future front-runner brands will be those that adopt a cross-channel approach to drive more ROI, utilizing data from other channels to inform their approach and ensure it resonates with target audiences.
With the current economic climate, brands and businesses are understandably scrutinizing every cent, and will likely make cuts to marketing budgets across the globe.
Businesses need to be realistic about their growth trajectory over the next few months and ensure every marketing dollar they invest is accounted for. While this may naturally lead to greater investment in performance channels, such as paid media, this will result in increased cost per click (CPCs). A way to still stay measurable but reduce costs is to get creative and focus energy on earning attention rather than continuing to pay for every click and impression.
As a result, I would argue that digital PR is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolkit, as, with the right strategy, it can drive both brand awareness and organic performance.
You’re missing a trick if you’re just using Digital PR to drive links
Digital PR is used to build high authority, and relevant links to key category pages to drive search performance through organic growth. A targeted strategy that aligns closely with SEO objectives will enable you to track ROI if you have the right measurement tools in place. This activity feeds into lower funnel marketing activity as it helps to harvest demand, as increased rankings capture better traffic and conversions.
However, if you’re only using it for this purpose, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity further up the marketing funnel.
Through securing brand-led, high-impact coverage on authoritative and influential publications, digital PR can also be used to drive search demand and upper-funnel brand awareness. This third-party validation is the perfect way to build salience, credibility, customer advocacy, and trust while simultaneously driving organic performance through high-quality links.
In order to achieve both brand and performance though, you need to be creating relevant and engaging content that your target audience wants to read and share. You shouldn’t be creating content ‘just for a link’ but taking into consideration wider business goals – and making sure you’re actually targeting press that your audience is reading.
In summary, digital PR shouldn’t just be an ‘intent-led’ marketing discipline to increase rankings. It’s a discipline that can both drive demand and awareness, whilst helping to capture intent-led traffic.
Why brand visibility is even more important during a recession
Recessions are difficult and uncertain times, which is why it’s even more important to continue to build visibility and salience – as with tighter budgets, consumers are likely to become more selective and want to buy from brands that they trust that stay relevant to them.
We have seen in previous economic uncertainty brands that maintain their brand awareness and relevance, retain more market share, and are able to bounce back quicker. Mark Ritson’s marketing recession playbook provides further information and sources on this subject.
In order to use digital PR to deliver true brand performance, you need to ensure you’re creating it based on as much cross-channel insight as possible.
Sharing cross-channel insight to deliver better ROI
While many marketers say they work ‘cross-channel,’ the reality is that many teams are still working in silos – especially across brand and performance teams.
To drive the best results, it is essential to break down silos and take data insights from each channel to develop one overarching strategy.
For example, to drive organic growth, while it’s critical to start with key SEO insight, search volumes, brand traffic, non-brand traffic, relevance, and the number of backlinks, you should be considering other channels to maximize performance.
Another example would be that your PPC and paid search teams will have a lot of useful data that you can use to inform your organic strategy. Which are the keywords that are costing the most? You can tailor your efforts to improve organic rankings for these keywords, effectively allowing you to spend less on those terms.
Your programmatic team will also have access to display placement reports which will provide insight into the publications and websites your in-market audience is visiting. This should then inform your target outreach list. From a paid social perspective, this team will have lots of useful information on what content performs the best — providing valuable insight for your PR brainstorms.
Amplifying your Digital PR coverage further
You shouldn’t just be working with other channel teams to define your strategy, you need to work with them throughout the whole process, to amplify results.
For instance, if you generate a truly fantastic piece of linking digital PR coverage, on a very credible publication. Whilst this will drive SEO performance and some brand awareness, in order to maximize the opportunity, and the valuable third-party validation, make it work even harder by amplifying through paid social.
Mini case study: Maryland cookies use PR to reach 5+ million people
Maryland came to us because they needed to align PR, programmatic, and paid social to drive mass awareness of their new Sugar-Free cookie and deliver an immediate surge in new customer sales. Through an integrated approach of PR, paid social, and programmatic, we reached 5.3 million people across all channels. View the case study here.
We have seen in past campaigns that by utilizing PR content as part of your social ads, not only can they actually perform better than the ad creative, but they can also help to prevent ad fatigue and provide you with additional assets (that you don’t need to pay anything extra for!).
Immediate steps to help your 2023 marketing plan
In order to be successful, it’s important to create a framework that helps to pull all channels together.
At Journey Further we use the ‘4Ds’ – Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver.
This phase involves asking all the channels to provide insight and data based on their recent campaigns and learnings to date. It is recommended to assign a client lead who can be tasked with pulling together a list of questions and a briefing document to ensure the discovery phase is as useful as possible. This will help identify where the biggest opportunities are across channels.
Agree on the best objective and goals based on the insight provided by all channels. Create an overarching strategy that will deliver against them and drive maximum ROI.
Set a clear roadmap, with roles and responsibilities outlined across each channel. Whilst in the case of an organic growth strategy, SEO and PR will take the leading role, it’s important other channels are clear on the ways they can amplify the activity at each stage, and what learnings they can also gather from the activity to improve their own results in-channel.
Marketing activity is activated. If this is a digital PR campaign then influencer marketing and paid social tactics may be used for example, alongside outreach, to bolster the campaign and drive more buzz and engagement.
Reporting on the right metrics
Another benefit of working cross-channel is that you will be able to report on many more metrics, giving a more holistic and accurate view of ROI.
Creating a live, 24/7 reporting dashboard utilizing tools such as Data Studio will allow you and your team members to check in and monitor progress at all times. This will provide you with a continuous cycle of insight — to allow you to continuously improve your marketing efforts and deliver one overarching strategy that enables you to remain visible while also driving performance.
Beth Nunnington is the VP of Digital PR and Content Marketing at Journey Further, leading Digital PR strategy for the world’s leading brands. Her work has been featured in The Drum, PR Moment, and Prolific North. Find Beth on Twitter @BethNunnington.
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The purpose of a content marketing campaign is almost never a boost in sales: People who want to consume and share information rarely intend to buy. Content marketing is mostly about influencing the influencer, i.e. those people who can impact your customers’ buying decisions.
Hence the most effective content marketing strategy is the one that involves influencers, especially influencer-driven content.
According to the ANA survey from Linqia, 57 per cent of marketers report that influencer-driven content outperforms brand-created content:
- Influencers are people who have already earned your consumers’ trust, hence influencer-created content is more trustable than brand-created content
- Naturally, people prefer to engage with people rather than brands, hence influencer-created content triggers more audience engagement than brand-created content
- With the above in mind, it’s obvious that influencer-driven content results in higher ROI – and also thanks to the fact that it spreads easier using the power of participating influencers.
But how to engage influencers into creating content for your company blog? One of the most effective ways is to set up a writing contest: Have them contribute content to your blog for a chance to win a prize or a set of prizes.
Benefits of holding a content marketing contest
There so many marketing opportunities behind this idea that it will make your head spin:
- Free editorial content from notable names in your niche published on your blog will attract more clicks, grow your email list and diversify your rankings
- Social media shares that content will bring will build your brand awareness
- Partnering with other businesses in your industry for them to provide prizes for your winners will build important connections
- Involving niche influencers and popular media outlets to judge and announce your winners will bring more connections and exposure.
Furthermore, think about the customers you will be able to engage when announcing the contest in your newsletter and on your social media channels.
There are so many reasons to try this tactic that you may be wondering why you haven’t done it before. Well, it’s tough and time-consuming, but the steps below, together with some handy tools, will make it possible.
1. Brainstorm and research topic areas
Obviously, hosting a content marketing contest starts with what any content marketing tactic should start: Brainstorming and keyword research. There are mainly two approaches you can take here:
- Focus all entries around your brand: Invite your current customers to submit content that talks about your product. How are they using it? Which problem did it solve? This way you’ll enrich your blog with a variety of user-generated content that will bring many more users who will be encouraged to give it a try too. Of course, that will engage your userbase but it will limit your contest entries to your current customers.
- Focus all entries around your general niche. This can be timed out to upcoming holidays (e.g. “Submit your Christmas recipes”, etc.) In order to keep the topics relevant to what your product does, you may want to come with a set list of topics which is where keyword research comes into play.
When I plan any content marketing campaign, I always start with keyword clustering, which is something I’ve explained how to do in a previous article for SEW. Playing with keyword groups always gives me a nice perspective and helps me brainstorm.
Here’s an example from Serpstat breaking down a very cluttered topic into nice categories to pick one to go with:
Read more on how keyword clustering works on Serpstat and how to group your keyword lists.
2. Reach out to participants
Now that you know the topics you want to focus your content marketing contest around, it’s time that you reach out to prominent writers and bloggers in your industry who you think will want to participate.
If you are focusing on your product-related content, it’s as simple as reaching out to your customers. For general how-to content contest, you’ll need to create a list of influencers who:
- Will want to participate
- Are probably to busy to participate, but will agree to help you spread the word and collect more entries.
I use Buzzsumo to find active content writers in my niche. They have handy filters that allow me to find bloggers who have hosted or participated in similar ventures, or don’t mind contributing to others.
3. Get organized!
You’ll be dealing with lots of new contacts: hopefully influencers participating and coming on board to spread the word, press contacts, media partners, sponsors, etc. Unless you get organized, you’ll be lost and miss a lot of opportunities.
You can use your current customer management platform to organize all the new contacts and leads you’ll be building throughout the contest. Otherwise, give Hubspot’s CRM a try: it’s free, and it will give you all the required features to record, organize and follow up with all the new contacts you’ll be building along the way.
I also use Cyfe to keep everything relating to a current campaign I am running within one dashboard. You can use the dashboard to keep an eye on brand mentions, create quick links to other tools you should be keeping an eye on a daily basis, import your Gmail messages, and so much more.
4. Keep your content quality standards high
- You want your participants to disclaim any relationship or bias when they mention other sites
- You want your participants to stay away from mentioning your direct competitors
- You want your participants to only provide exclusive content and never publish it anywhere else
- You want your participants to adhere to particular quality guidelines (a certain length, format, using images, etc.)
- You want your participants to clearly understand the judging process (I recommend against using easy-to-game metrics like “The most shared article wins”. It’s much better to come up with something more complicated, for example, winners will be determined by a panel of unbiased judges based on certain criteria. However keep the process very transparent: Those judges should be publicly listed and their voting should be publicized too)
- You may want your participants to support a certain payment method (in case you offer a cash prize)
All of that should be listed in a formal agreement all the participants should review and sign to avoid any misunderstandings later. Try using KeepSolid Sign app which is currently free to make sure every participant is well-informed.
5. Collect in and present your entries
There are plenty of ways to easily collect entries for your contest. You can use Google Forms or set up advanced Contact Us Forms that will force entries to comply with your guidelines (e.g. set the required minimum word count, include extra mandatory fields like links to the author’s social media profiles and previous articles). Here are great WordPress plugins for that.
There’s also a tool that is specifically designed to collect entries for content marketing contests, called Easy Promos. They have additional features that may make your job easier like integrated voting features, photo and video uploads, etc.
With the platform, you can pick a winner via public voting, a jury or by random choice with certificate of validity.
When it comes to collecting and displaying entries and participants, you can go as creative as your imagination takes you. For example, Gleam allows you to create and embed blog widgets with the contest leaderboard (which naturally attracts more entries).
6. Scale up your content promotion
Obviously, you want that content from your contestants to do well on social media because it’s your site that will generate additional traffic and exposure from those shares. I use Drumup for all my social media campaigns, because it makes it so easy to organize content that needs promotion.
Use Drumup Content Library feature to keep all the entries in one category to easily go back and see all of them. Furthermore, set up each article to go live throughout your social media channels several times in the future to reach more of your followers:
You also want that content to spread beyond your immediate social media circles! To achieve this, you can submit every entry to a tool called ViralContentBee [Disclaimer: This is a project I co-founded].
ViralContentBee allows you to tag each contributor in the “RT” field to encourage your participants to engage with every tweet:
I hope these tools will encourage you to give hosting an influencer-driven writing contest a try. Good luck!