Digital PR Tactics & Techniques

When you’re embarking on a new project to gain links and brand mentions for your website, it’s easy to get lost in the number of options available to you. In this article, we’ll list the different tactics and digital PR techniques people in the industry use and break them down one-by-one so you know what to expect with each.

Prior to starting you’ll want to have a solid digital PR strategy in place and an understanding of how this activity is going to impact your website. With that, you can start back-tracking on the types of publications you are hoping to appear in and how big the opportunity is once you get there.

Different types of digital PR tactics require vastly different levels of investment. Therefore, knowing how competitive a space is before you start will allow you to identify how big or small you should aim, in order to maximise your ROI with this sort of activity.

Separately, you’ll want to have considered the types of publications you are hoping to appear in and what journalists/writers in that space are used to featuring. For a fashion brand, writers in lifestyle and fashion are going to be key – but they have a different set of ‘hooks’ compared to a writer for a pest control brand, for instance. The format you are using has to work for them, otherwise your asset may very well be the thing that holds you back.

Here’s a list of digital pr tactics and techniques you can use to gain links and brand mentions:

Surveys

Example: https://www.self.inc/info/coronavirus-spending-habits-statistics/

Surveys are one of the best methods for building content when you have a small budget available or are looking to complement a larger piece with a data hook. Survey data can be used in many different formats but if the right question has been asked, you can get some talking points that journalists will gobble-up.

Google Surveys is one of the easiest and cheapest platforms we’ve come back to time and time again, allowing you to get thousands of responses for less than £100 or $125. Another is Mechnical Turk (owned by Amazon), which has more flexibility in terms of the number of questions you can ask and the insight you can gain by crossing-over between your questions and the answers. 

Pro tip – Look out for discounts for new members. We often found we were able to create a new profile for every survey we ran, allowing us to get 1,000 responses for $50.

Once you have your survey data, your creative expertise requires little more than an Excel chart or a press release.

Illustrations & Infographics

Example: http://www.fairmont.com/infographics/wedding-dresses-history/

Infographics used to be the go-to link building tactic for many savvy-marketers. They provide interesting and targeted statistics alongside descriptive visuals, which can easily be uploaded to a blog and used as a source page for link building. However, they aren’t as effective as they used to be and there is a lot of bad infographics still being sent out, which has tarnished the reputation of them as a format. That being said, you can use them to generate backlinks, however, you need to ensure it is designed ‘story-first’. 

An infographic coupled with unique independent research or data can be useful as journalists don’t have to visualise the data themselves. A piece like this can also be separated into various sets of illustrations – like a deconstructed infographic. Journalists can then pick and choose between the data/stories you are highlighting in your outreach and only use the points they think are going to be most effective for them.

Interactives

Example: https://www.icelandair.com/en-gb/northern-lights/

Interactive assets require more resource investment than other tactics in the list, but they also have the ability to generate a huge quantity of links as well as impressing writers at more authoritative publications, or even notable individuals on social platforms.

An interactive asset can be useful for displaying a whole host of stories, but one of the most popular is using it to visualise geographical data in a map. You can also use them to offer slider interactivity, play buttons in your data, or for users to interact with relationships between data.

Part of the reason they require more resources to build is because you’ll usually need a developer and a designer as part of the project. How much time is required on both of their parts is also then dictated by the environment the interactive asset is being uploaded into (via a CMS or folder upload being the most common). 

Long Form

Example: https://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/index.html

Like building an interactive, a long-form piece of content can require more resources than other tactics but the long-form format gives you the opportunity to really explore a topic in-depth and utilise various mini asset types.

By its nature, a long-form article is being built to tackle a topic beyond what anyone else online has done before, and this is the USP it offers when it comes to digital pr and link building. By creating a structured story, the page can become an essential resource for people who are interested in a particular topic. It can include illustrations, interactive elements, photography, calculators, etc. Using hash URLs (e.g. example.com/long-form-asset#calculator) the page can make it easily navigable and shareable for users and journalists alike, jumping straight to the parts of the asset you think will serve their purposes the most.

Game

Example: https://www.justpark.com/creative/reaction-time-test/

Developing a game as a digital PR play can be a risk worth taking. As well as being an engaging resource on a particular topic, a game can also provide a lot of data a digital PR can work with.

Unlike other techniques and tactics in this list, a game doesn’t immediately carry a headline of its own that journalists can use. There’s no ‘reveal’ as such and so you really have to consider what about it is going to help a journalist get the clicks and traffic they need in their articles.

It is, of course, a production heavy asset and you will have to work closely with the design and development teams to ensure both launching the asset works with your environment as well as various browsers and mobile devices.

Micro-site

Example: https://www.elfyourself.com/

Not as popular in 2020 as 2010, but a micro-site is essentially the license to develop a set of content that can sit partly separated from the brand or core product offering. This isn’t a blog hosted poorly from an optimisation perspective, but a separate domain that is built from the ground-up in order to provide link-worthy content on.

It’s often used when there are limitations on the core domain and a micro-site can be utilised to host assets that otherwise couldn’t be uploaded. It’s also a way of getting a specific user group on a site, such as people interested in an event or conference, which sits outside of a company’s core domain (i.e. a car manufacturer).

Video

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iurRGE2Y5e8&ab_channel=Glam%2CInc

One of the rare forms of digital pr, but videos can be created to showcase a topic beyond what’s possible in an interactive or illustrations. They also offer the opportunity to appeal to a user-base in a very different environment, where people may be searching for guides on a topic and find your video as the definitive ‘no-need-to-go-anywhere-else’ version and embed it.

With this tactic, you may find lifestyle publications are the ones most likely to pick it up as tabloids often have videos at the start of their content, this is just another way you can provide all assets to a journalist to make their life easier. Separately, if going down the guide route, a solid video can do the rounds on niche related forums, as users can often easily embed and share with other users in their communities.

Photography

Example: http://www.fairmont.com/infographics/life-without-bees/

Photographic content is extremely easy for journalists and writers to use, so as a format, you’ve already got an advantage.

There are many powerful elements to photography as a digital PR tactic. However, one of the most impactful is the ability to demonstrate before and after imagery. This can be done in a studio or using photoshop (depending on what you’re visualising) but the ability to ‘engage’ with this style of content is what gives it a unique advantage compared to others.

Production can be largely focused on working with a photographer or image specialist to create the imagery you’re hoping for, which can also simplify the production process.

Pro-tip: being on-brand here is absolutely vital. If you’re doing a studio photography session, you’ll want to make sure your manager/client is 100% sure they know what to expect before you conduct the session. Even minor edits past the session can make costs spiral.

Industry Analysis

Example: https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking

Generating a piece that offers unique value to people in your target industry/niche can be an extremely powerful source of links, both in the short-term and long-term. It can also become a ranking resource, giving you an ‘evergreen’ quality, where no on-going outreach time is needed and people discover your analysis again and again over time.

An industry analysis is an overview of a topic in your industry, where you are publishing your findings for others to use and share. Typically, you are diving into a topic or sub-topic no one has shared insights on before, or you’re doing a piece of research into an existing popular topic but to a degree never seen before.

Absolutely vital with a piece like this is that you are sharing knowledge in a way that can be condensed into ‘key takeaways’ and ideally, you’re uncovering something with undeniable validity. Therefore, your methodology for how you’ve conducted your research is going to be under structiny, especially if you want to be featured in top tier publications.

PR Requests

Example: https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidilynnekurter/2020/02/28/5-warning-signs-your-workplace-culture-is-hurting-your-companys-reputation/

Journalists are actively looking for experts in various different topics on a daily basis to provide unique insight on a topic they are covering. Platforms like HARO and ResponseSource are two of the most popular, but #journorequest and similar hashtags are very popular on Twitter to (just a little harder to sift through).

These requests provide you with a great opportunity to fire back some data or commentary of your own, in the hope you are selected as a useful source for the journalists to quote. To be successful with PR requests, you need to be quick to respond and offer useful bespoke insight. 

Pro-tip: If you represent a well-known brand or have a particular success in your career relevant to your field, include this in a bio. This can help ‘sell’ you as a valid source and increase your conversion rates.

Newsjacking

Example: https://rootdigital.co.uk/work/newsjacking-top-tier-links-in-3-days/

Newsjacking is the process of adding value to an existing conversation online. This can be something you are reacting to in the moment or something you’ve planned to react to, assuming the topic itself is going to be something many journalists are talking about.
Creatively, the asset or value you add to an existing story can be nearly anything, from a comment or visual (like above) to an interactive built entirely to feed into the topic. The topic can be from a wide-range too, stretching from an upcoming film release to a well publicised gaff.