Digital PR seeks to do one of a number of things: boost brand visibility, improve a site’s SEO health through the gaining of high-quality links, move the needle on keyword rankings, drive traffic to a site – and even generate leads and conversions.
But it also has the power to create a real impact, generating attention and driving conversations to remember, which can be widespread in-person and on social media.
Digital PR campaigns can, and often do, go ‘viral’ – and dominate digital and broadcast news agendas for days, or even weeks at a time.
You might not have realised, but many topics of conversation like these that are generated by brands, actually come from in-house or external Digital PR teams, which use their expertise to see projects like these through from start-to-finish.
This can position a brand as an authority in its industry and see it set worlds apart from its competition.
In this blog, we’ll talk to you about how Digital PR can be disruptive, citing examples of some of the most successful campaigns to-date. If you’d like to talk to us about Digital PR services and how they can inform a core part of your digital marketing strategy, get in touch with us by calling the Embryo office on 0161 327 2635, or emailing [email protected].
The Key Elements of a Disruptive Digital PR Campaign
The Story and its Relevance
It’s important to remember that at the heart of any Digital PR campaign, there should be a news story. The campaign needs to offer something to the public – and how this manifests can be interpreted in a number of ways.
To start with, ensure your content is newsworthy, relevant and engaging. You could choose to raise awareness about an important issue, reveal shocking stats or create an entirely new concept.
Example: Roland DG’s 50 Shades of Ginger Campaign
An award-winning campaign that went viral in 2023 and received widespread coverage across digital news websites, print, and broadcast – as well as being talked about on social media and in homes – was ‘50 Shades of Ginger’ by Roland DG.
For World Redhead Day, the world’s leading provider of digital printing solutions created a ginger colour index, to help redheads all over the world find their perfect named colour match from 50 vibrant oranges and reds – while celebrating its TrueVis range’s colour-printing capabilities..
They sought to understand the frustrations of those with ‘ginger’ hair – whose varying hair colours were merely described by one word. They even worked with celebrities like famous TV personality and redhead, Jenny Powell, and created a print version of the 50 Shades of Ginger index.
The multi-channel campaign received UK-wide and global press coverage and recognition in top-tier publications and was even picked up by ITV’s This Morning.
They backed up the campaign with research they conducted prior. Lauren Swinnerton, Head of Marketing Communications and Brand EMEA at Roland DG, said: “Our research found that 54 per cent of redheads would never describe their hair as ‘ginger’ and for years, people have struggled to truly define their hair colour – with many viewing the most common term as somewhat derogatory. So, we got to work to develop 50 shades to show the full spectrum of shades that make up the vast colour gamut of redheads.”
Here, you can see that Roland DG raised awareness about a struggle people with hair described as red or ginger, have. It was compelling, interesting, and subtly promoted the brand and its colour-printing expertise, too. A perfect example of how Digital PR can be disruptive.
This leads us nicely, to data.
Campaigns can be created without data, but if newsworthy and from a reputable source, it can certainly strengthen one – and even be its basis.
It can come from a brand’s internal data, a survey with a reputable company like OnePoll, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, or curated from multiple sources online.
You can’t use a single dataset that has already been published online as the basis of any story, because it’s not ‘new’ and hasn’t been released by your brand. For example, if a Government body releases new data, it’s likely already gone out in a press release to the media. But what you can do is curate and compare multiple sources of data, to create your own dataset.
An example of this could be combining data from YouGov and search data from Google to create a new analysis on a topic. Other source examples include the Office of National Statistics and the UK House Price Index.
Example: Just Plane Wrong: Celebs with the Worst Private Jet Co2 Emissions
While those sources are commonly-used and reputable, I’d encourage brands to think outside of the box when it comes to data collection. A fantastic example of this is Yard Digital’s campaign – Just Plane Wrong: Celebs with the Worst Private Jet Co2 Emissions.
This is one of the best-known, viral Digital PR campaigns to date. Ahrefs tells us the landing page on-site has a whopping 1,825 links pointing to it – with 900 follow links.
It went live in the Summer of 2022, and saw the Yard team scrape data from Celebrity Jets. They cross-compared it with the general population’s CO2 emissions (CO2e) and each celebrity’s CO2e. The data looked at the number of flights each star had taken so far, the average time of their flights, miles, and total CO2e just since the beginning of 2022.
You may well remember that Taylor Swift was dubbed as the worst-offender, and the news dominated publications, TV and radio stations across the world. It was covered on the likes of Bloomberg, Rolling Stone, HuffPost, Time, ABC News and more.
Can you imagine the SEO benefits of generating that many high quality links to the Yard Digital website?
It was so successful, that when Rolling Stone covered it, they contacted the named celebrities representatives for comments. So, we should tell you that Taylor Swift’s rep said: “Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.”
This idea was unique, relevant and engaging and used a number of publicly accessible data sources combined. Rumour has it that Taylor and-or her reps may have used her attendance at multiple Jets games, since she started dating American football player Travis Kelce, as a way to drown out the negative PR about her private jet emissions.
General Assets & Branding
All great campaigns have assets to go with them – and these can be as small as an image for a social post, or as large as a billboard.
They help to tell your story, promote it, and allow you to visualise your campaign and bring it to life. Assets are always good because they give journalists content (especially images) to use, when they publish your story online. These can be branded too, which adds to the level of promotion a campaign gets.
Example: The Final Flush: How We’re All About to Lose Our Public Lavs
In 2023, Victorian Plumbing released a campaign about the ever-dwindling numbers of public toilets on UK streets. They found in the year 2000, there were 6,087 public toilets in the UK, and in the year 2021 that number had shrunk to 3,990.
They also revealed the cities with the fastest decline, and in which year they were set to be ‘loo-less’ if the trend continued. The team used a combination of FOI data and the Great British Toilet Map to determine this information.
But one of the greatest things about this campaign, aside from its creativity and imaginative use of data, were the assets produced to go with it – and the style of branding that was chosen.
The theme was to dub public toilets as ‘endangered’, so they emulated the style of the WWF, which works to protect endangered species.
They emulated the style of the logo, language and branding used by the WWF, and produced a number of infographics to bring the data and its narrative to life.
They also created a documentary-style video with a narrator who doubles up as an impersonator for endangered species protector, the world-famous David Attenborough. Something which made this campaign stand out further was the use of images which showed the posters inside billboards and advertising spots, making it look like it had actually been advertised all over the UK.
And they used lots of great puns to go with it, too. The campaign was covered on the likes of HuffPost, MSN and TimeOut.
As well as static or general assets, you can produce interactive assets. This changes the user experience entirely and if done right, provides a more personalised meaning.
These could be interactive map infographics, which a user can scroll over in real time, looking at snippets of information. It could be some form of calculator, which is quite popular, which could for example calculate how often you should wash your bedding based on your lifestyle habits – yes, this has really been done.
These types of assets, which often sit on brand’s campaign landing pages on-site, are considered more disruptive.
Example: JustPark: How Old are your Reactions?
Parking spot provider JustPark created a game on-site that calculated your age based on your reaction times. You start driving, and when a big stop sign comes up on screen you press any key.
I played the game and was told I had the reactions of a 38-year-old, although I’m only 31! The results left me thinking, ‘surely not, I’m a good driver with a sharp mind?’. But that’s clever, because the brand’s aim would be to evoke this feeling, or a more positive one which makes you feel like you’re young and the best driver in the world.
Either way, your results will evoke some kind of feeling in you, which is the whole point. This is a great example of how Digital PR can be disruptive and provide a more meaningful experience.
In order to predict people’s ages, JustPark surveyed 2,000 people and got them to play the game, before plotting their reaction times against their ages. A general game player’s predicted age score is the age that most closely matches the age of people with the player’s reaction time.
This campaign was covered on the likes of Mail Online and HuffPost. Clearly, a lot of work went into it, but it’s unique and coverage-worthy, and if it can generate a lot of links and positive attention, it’s definitely worth it.
Another way to ensure your Digital PR is as disruptive as possible is to have ‘on-site content’ that goes hand-in-hand with your campaign. This could be a dedicated landing page, or a blog post page.
It gives you a place to showcase your assets and campaign copy, and also means you don’t have to fit everything into one long press release, which can make pitching harder.
We only have a few seconds or minutes to grab a journalist’s attention, and it’s best to keep things short and sweet, while giving them the right amount of information, and then giving them a link to refer to for more information.
It’s also easier to track links and report on traffic when you have a dedicated campaign page on site. Otherwise, links point to a brand’s homepage, and some referral traffic can show as direct traffic, depending on the type of link a publisher has given.
Example: The Sexiest Bald Men, According to Science
For three years running, Reboot Digital has conducted a campaign in which they reveal the world’s sexiest bald men, which has consistently generated a huge amount of attention online – in particular on Twitter.
Here’s an example of one of their dedicated landing pages which housed 12 image assets – doing this allowed them to showcase the idea behind the campaign, and its results, in a creative way – and it wouldn’t have been possible to fit all of these within one press release.
Each male celeb was given a score out of ten which was determined by golden ratio facial proximity, cranial shine factor, net worth, height and public opinion.
This is a brilliant example of everything I’ve discussed with you today, multiple sources of data to create one single, new data-set, on-site content, and assets – all centred on a conversation-worthy topic – the foundation of disruptive Digital PR.
In the 2023 version of the sexiest bald men campaign, in which Prince William was voted top, Reboot reported 371 links and a whopping 13,800 mentions on Twitter – plus 340 across TV and radio.
I personally saw it everywhere in the press and it really did dominate headlines in top-tier news publications, like GQ, Virgin Radio, Marie Claire and The Metro.
Putting your Disruptive Digital PR Plan into Action
I hope from reading this blog you’ve learnt how Digital PR can be disruptive. To summarise – the key elements are:
- A newsworthy and relevant story or topic of conversation – what are you offering the public? Why would people care? How interesting is it?
- Exceptional use of data – compare and contrast different sources to create your own dataset
- On-site content
The final thing to consider is adopting a tailored press and outreach strategy. This could include:
- Writing multiple different press releases with different news angles, tailored for different audiences
- Compiling a comprehensive media list to include online, print, TV and radio
- Writing succinct and appealing pitches
Again, if you’d like to talk to us about Digital PR services and how they can inform a core part of your digital marketing strategy, get in touch with us by calling the Embryo office on 0161 327 2635, or emailing [email protected].
In the meantime, check out our 2024 trend predictions for Digital PR.