A Guide to the Different Types of PR and Their Benefits
Something we hear a lot at Embryo is the question “how can PR help my business?”
And it’s a great question, as public relations and its benefits can be hard to pin down. There are many facets to PR campaigns, and many different types of PR, each with its own advantages.
If you type this question into a search engine you’ll find yourself looking at various explanations about what public relations actually is – and that’s because it can be described in a number of ways. There are also many different types of PR that public relations professionals can utilise. Essentially, public relations (PR) involves a brand, organisation or individual using strategic communication methods to promote themselves and influence the public’s opinion about them positively.
Actively engaging in PR not only helps the public to understand the purpose of you as a brand, organisation or individual, but it can also help with active engagement, building beneficial relationships, raising authority, demonstrating values, showing a positive image to your brand and communicating with the target audience, crisis communications and beyond. The importance of PR and the way it’s executed will of course vary depending on the industry or nature of business – for example, something which is controversial by nature may require more PR efforts, in an attempt to manage or shape the public’s view.
What is Digital PR? Why are Different Types of PR Important?
To some Digital PR is considered an extension or deployment channel of traditional public relations strategy, to others, it’s an entirely separate avenue altogether.
Digital PR involves creating unique, engaging, relevant and newsworthy content, which is to be pitched to journalists and publications to gain media coverage and links on websites. The content is usually part of a ‘campaign’ or a news story. Campaigns are larger in scale than regular news stories or news releases – they’re often data or asset-led, and sometimes brands create landing pages on their websites with all of the information, which could include infographics or video content.
Building Create Public Relations Campaigns Online
You might have heard of the phrase ‘hero content’. It’s common practice to aim to build a campaign around it. It’s generally defined as shareable content that involves a lot of planning and research, will appeal to a mass audience, have multiple uses and has a higher likelihood of going viral.
But not all valuable content that’s capable of gaining coverage in the press needs to be hero content. There’s still much to be said for the news stories and features which could, for example, include the following: a real-life, human interest story; exclusive data that’s not big enough for a campaign per se; an important industry-specific announcement; a brand or professional’s expert tips; a thought leader’s opinion on a breaking news story; news of a product launch, and much more! All of these methods can help to promote a brand, organisation or individual’s work or efforts.
What remains the same across the board, however, is that the content needs to be strong.
It’s good to think about how many of these questions you can tick off your list when you have an idea about what content to create:
- Is my content relevant? (generally, and to the publication and reporter)
- Is my content newsworthy?
- Is my content timely?
- Is my content engaging?
- Is my content unique?
- What can it offer that people don’t already know?
Digital PR is seen by many as a ‘link-building’ method – but it’s about so much more than that, and we’ll talk about the benefits, and why you should be utilising it to boost your search engine optimisation (SEO), later.
Digital PR can be executed in-house, or executed by a specialist agency, like Embryo, which has a specialist digital public relations team with years of experience not only in PR, but journalism too. The importance of finding or creating a news hook and the ability to write in the way a reporter would, shouldn’t be underrated. It saves them time in having to analyse and dig out the angle from a wordy and incorrectly formatted press release – and these are mistakes many PR professionals are still making.
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Increasing Website Traffic and Sales through Creative Digital PR Campaigns.
Pieces of coverage
Estimated coverage views
The Difference Between Traditional PR and Digital PR
Traditional PR and Digital PR are intrinsically linked – and it’s often said within the industry that the former has evolved into the latter. Traditional types of PR have been around for a long time and were utilised long before news websites and news outlets existed the way they do today. The efforts involved gaining traction for a brand through press releases, which is what Digital PR professionals do now, but they heavily utilised in-print newspapers and magazines, the TV, radio, famous people and hosting events.
The key to success used to be building positive relationships with key contacts in the media. PRs would often wine and dine journalists – something which in today’s world happens much less often. Not only are journalists busier than they’ve ever been, but a lot of them also work from home full-time or part-time, post Covid.
SEO and Digital PR
Traditional PR skills are still incredibly important and are often transferable to Digital PR. But as the digital world has evolved, so have different types of PR, the PR industry as a whole, and its relationship with SEO.
We’ve already mentioned that link-building can inform an important part of a Digital PR strategy. Gaining links and brand mentions online, on sites with high domain authorities, can boost a brand’s overall authority online (among other things) and this is where the types of PR differ so much.
Today, many journalists’ headlines and stories are optimised and dubbed as ‘SEO-friendly’ to include keywords, phrases and questions that will help their stories rank better on search engines such as Google – and this is a method taken from SEO teams at agencies (or in-house) who create blog content for clients this way – although both have a lot more control about what is published on a website, versus what a journalist decides to publish from a press release sent to them.
The aim of optimised content is for it to rank as high as possible on search engine results pages. Many publications now employ SEO journalists and editors, roles which didn’t exist less than a decade ago.
Let’s use the example of asking a search engine a question. You might Google ‘when do the clocks go back in the UK?’ – and if you do, on the very first page you’ll find news articles from well-known websites, with headlines that mirror the question.
You’ll find more of these if you click on the ‘news’ tab too. They do this so their articles are favoured by search engines and can be found with ease. They have just as much chance of being viewed by a reader looking for an answer as a specialist website with the same information does. It’s the same for blog content, and as we mentioned above, press releases and stories can now be optimised too.
Some elements of PR are measurable, such as monitoring the amount of traffic to a homepage or product page after news of a product launch goes live or tracking the growth of a brand’s domain rating after achieving links to a client’s website over a longer period of time. But others aren’t – and that’s one really important thing to remember, which we’ll cover further on.
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The Benefits of Digital PR
The benefits of digital PR are, of course, dependent on the industry, organisation and purpose of the campaigns. DPR for an e-commerce brand, for example, would be executed differently from DPR for a service-based organisation. DPR for a charity whose goal is a call to action would be executed differently than DPR for a well-known thought leader who wants to further build up their media portfolio.
However, there are generally some key benefits across the board that organisations can expect from digital PR.
Boosting brand awareness
A lot of people question what this really means, and how simply ‘boosting brand awareness’ can have any benefits at all. It’s something that can’t always be measured because we’ll never fully know how much of an impact a story or campaign has on members of the public, which is why it’s hard for us to understand and quantify.
Let’s use the example of a weight loss story written about a case study who used a diet brand’s products to transform themselves, and improve their health. In the story, public relations writing best practice would be to mention:
- How the case study lost weight
- What diet plan or meal replacement products they used
- Include links to the brand’s website
- Include a strong and interesting backstory about the person
If all goes well and most of the information is included, someone simply reading this story is becoming aware of the brand. They may or may not visit the website at that very moment, but they might Google other success stories from the brand, or they might note the name of it down so they can visit the site directly later on. They might forward the article to a friend who wants to lose weight, or even just tell them about the brand.
They might not take action at all, but revisit the article after Christmas when they’re looking to lose a little weight. They could also choose to leave the webpage and search for the brand on social media. The reader may have already been considering which diet brands to buy products from – and add this one to their list of companies to research if they’d never heard of it before.
This is all part of Google’s messy middle, which takes into account the way that users research their purchases and helps marketers to better understand user buying behaviours.
Not all articles will include hyperlinks. As much as we might want them to (and here at Embryo we do have a high success rate) it’s never guaranteed, so it’s then even harder to track the reach of a story and its success in boosting awareness. A story like the example here can contribute to a consumer’s buying journey in ways we don’t even realise.
This story might also go in print in a magazine, but other than looking at the publication’s circulation figures and trying to work out how many people might have read the story, brand awareness is still hard to track, however, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any!
Brand mentions still hold so much value, and they’re often described as ‘inferred links’. Google can identify the context around the mention and the overall authority of the publishing site. It then builds relationships between words and phrases, including the brand names connected to websites and pages.
So, while you can track metrics like sales, and traffic to a webpage at certain times, and monitor traffic from referring domains, you won’t be picking up on all of the awareness created by the story. Brand awareness is about putting the brand in front of audiences who may otherwise never heard of them and getting people thinking.
Increasing online presence
Even if your business already has a digital marketing strategy so your brand is ‘present’ online, digital PR can help to further increase your online presence authentically and be used as part of an omnichannel strategy.
Campaigns and news stories become important when, say, a person conducts their research about a product, service, charity or person. Being more present goes hand-in-hand with building trust and authority in any given industry, and can help brands stand out from their competitors. The more sites you’re present on and the more search engine results you can potentially be included in, the more people you’ll reach. That’s why it’s a good idea to adopt multiple PR methods and aim to be featured in multiple publications – not just those immediately relevant to a certain niche.
Let’s say that someone is searching for the ‘best air fryers to buy’ on Google. A lot of the top-ranking search results are those on news and lifestyle publications that have created product round-ups for their readers on air fryers. If you’re an appliance brand that sells these and you are utilising Digital PR, you’ll be pitching your products for inclusion in these round-ups, along with any deals you’re currently offering on them. Presence has the power to provoke thought and conversation, as does awareness. Think of these benefits as a way to speak directly to readers.
Links and Domain Authority
One of the more highly-favoured benefits of Digital PR is links, also known as backlinks. This is because they can send readers directly to a client’s website. Links also help to push ‘authority’ from the site that they are on, to the site that they link to. The more authoritative a website is, the more authority a link from that site pushes to another.
Different Types of Links
There are different types of links, such as ‘follow’, ‘nofollow’, and affiliate-style links. The difference in value between ‘dofollow’ and ‘nofollow’ is a somewhat controversial topic in the digital sector and is always up for debate – with lots of different thoughts and opinions from various experts. ‘dofollow’ links are considered to benefit a linked-to website more than ‘nofollow’ links. However, when it comes to authoritative news websites, Embryo firmly believes that there is little difference between the two.
Google counts how many sites link to a webpage and uses this information to help determine its quality. The overall strength (also known as domain authority or domain rank) of the domain that a webpage links from is also a factor in determining the strength of a link.
Building Domain Authority
Digital PR professionals use various tools to find the domain rank or domain strength of a website by using tools such as Moz or Ahrefs. Sites with higher ones are sought after by those trying to attain links, as these sites are more likely to pass more authority through their links.
To give context, www.google.com has a DA of 100, www.bbc.co.uk has a DA of 95, and www.mirror.co.uk (Daily Mirror) has a score of 94. National news and lifestyle websites tend to have higher scores, followed by regional and local news websites, and then blogs.
So not only does a site benefit from attaining a clickable link on a high-domain-authority website, this in turn will improve domain authority over time.
Links shouldn’t be thought of solely on SEO value. Links also help to generate brand awareness and traffic.
An affiliate link is a link which allows a publisher to potentially receive a commission for any sales generated through their web visitors, who go on to purchase something from the site.
Affiliate links are popular within e-commerce-led stories, with one example being the ‘best air fryers to buy’ story referenced earlier.
Typically, affiliate links don’t pass value to the site being linked to due to how they are usually constructed. There is some evidence to say that Google is trying to assess the quality of affiliate links so that the linked-to site still gains in authority. However, from most experiments, affiliate links rarely pass any SEO value to the linked-to site.
Regardless of the type of link, the article still points to and takes readers to the brand’s website, should they choose to click on it. This is why links shouldn’t be viewed solely on their impact on a site’s SEO efforts.
Increase in sales, traffic and lead generation
The more high-quality and trusted websites that link to a brand’s site, means the higher the brand will rank in search engine results, which will in turn increase traffic organically.
Links generate traffic by sending the reader directly to the site or a specific page on the site. Both of these can impact lead generation, but it’s then down to the brand to entice web users to the right places – which is why a functional, appealing website is so important.
Building trust, expertise and reputation
The more trusted sources that feature a brand, organisation or individual, the more reputable they become in the eyes of the public. Digital PR is a great way to position the client as an expert in their industry, whether it’s by utilising specialist knowledge from a nutritionist or the thought-leading opinions of a CEO.
It’s very possible that when a reader or consumer is researching said brand, the news articles they’re featured in will be shown in the results. Not only does this help to strengthen reputation in the eyes of readers, but journalists too, who will see the client as a trusted source itself.
Media: Owned vs. Earned vs. Paid
Many marketers and business owners will have heard these terms before, but where do the types of digital PR fit into these types of media, and what’s the difference between them?
It’s possible to utilise all three at the same time, and most comprehensive digital marketing strategies will include all of these types of media.
1 Owned media
Owned media is any media that is created, controlled and owned by the brand. This could be for example blog content, the content in Facebook and Instagram posts, and the content within press releases before they’re sent to the press.
2 Earned media
This type of media is earned organically and will include a lot of the work public relations professionals do to gain their client’s coverage. It’s anything that’s earned naturally, including the sparking of a conversation on social media off the back of a viral campaign which has got people talking.
3 Paid media
Anything that is paid for such as sponsored ads, social media promotions, or advertorials, counts as paid media. Advertorials are adverts published on news websites or in print written in the style of an editorial article.
Different types of Digital PR
There are a number of ways you can carry out Digital PR activity and they may include one, or a mix of different methods, in order to achieve the best results. There’s no denying that competition is stiff when it comes to grabbing a journalist’s attention, but here are the most important elements to consider when putting together your overall strategy.
If there’s one rule, it’s that you need to tell journalists and readers something, or multiple things, they don’t already know. Data-driven campaigns have huge potential to earn links and drive traffic to sites, as well as get a conversation going. The more detailed data-led campaigns see Digital PRs and brands creating or trawling through heaps of trusted, unique datasets and conducting meticulous analysis to give them a variety of news hooks to play with.
Campaigns and stories can be based on new or exclusive data that can be sourced online, such as via Google Trends, on social media, from a client’s own internal database, from a survey conducted through an external facilitator or in-house at the brand, or obtained from a public body by way of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, to name a few!
People base their whole campaigns around data or use them to add more weight to existing stories. You can use data to prove the point you’re trying to make.
Google Trends is a free tool that analyses the popularity of Google search words and phrases using real-time data. It shows what people are searching for, when, and from which location. Not only can this data help you work out when is the best time to cover a topic and when something is trending, but you can also show an increase or decrease in search terms over a period of time of your choice. This is something journalists value as Google is a trusted source.
Social media data can be sourced and used in many ways. One example is to analyse the number of views a hashtag has on TikTok. You might do this to discover how popular a trend is compared with others. If you were writing a piece about the most popular types of different weddings currently, you might search for #sustainablewedding – which has 12.4m views on TikTok, #winterwedding which has 89.3m views, and #humanistwedding with 4.6m views. You can do a rolling comparison between the trends to create a story with your key findings.
Creative campaigns often involve the kind of data we’ve discussed above, but that’s not always the case. When they do, assets like videos, images, infographics and GIFs can be created to showcase the data in an eye-grabbing manner. Assets work well on branded landing pages because they’re a good way of demonstrating key points without the need for too many words, which may lose a reader’s interest. But they’re not always based on stats and figures.
We’ve seen DPR campaigns that utilise wow-factor assets to demonstrate, for example, how a city might look if refused planning applications had been approved through the creation of new-world images using developer’s designs. Alternatively, GIFs that show viewers ancient landmarks around the world being restored to their former glory. These assets can also be used or repurposed for other digital marketing channels like social media.
Consumer-Focused & Product-Led
These types of digital PR are ideal for those in the e-commerce or service-based industries, and while some of these methods are simpler than others we’ve discussed, they can be equally as powerful. The launch of new products and services can be published through press releases. But digital PR teams will also use commercial calendar dates to their advantage. For those selling products and offering deals, Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are key times to pitch products for inclusion in round-up articles and gift guides that might be titled say ‘the best Christmas gifts for her’, ‘Black Friday fitness deals you don’t want to miss’ or ‘Mother’s Day gifts for under £50’.
In recent years shopping reporters and editors have become roles more publications are filling, with pages dedicated to helping readers find the best products and deals. The key to success with this method is targeting the press who write about the brand’s product or niche and pitching it in an engaging way – the price of the product and how good the deal is will also play a huge part.
Where relevant, seasonality and trends can be the driving force behind consumer-focused content. As well as pitching products to be included in existing or future articles reporters may write, brands and DPRs can create their own to outreach. For a fashion brand that sells country attire, you might write an article about ‘the 10 best hiking boots for your Winter adventures’ and pitch it to journalists who cover fashion and shopping.
Something else to take advantage of is reviews – there are a lot of dedicated review writers employed at publications, or journalists who cover a specific topic like fashion who are happy to review items, as well as those who run blogs. Blogs usually have lower domain authority, which is an important metric to check first if your efforts are SEO-led. In general, however, reviews are great for brand awareness and are often a major factor at play when it comes to the consumer’s buying journey – they can be the difference between a purchase or loss of interest to a competitor.
Stories that contain ‘expert’ commentary hold a lot of value – provided the source is trusted, reputable and qualified – and these are things expert-led stories can help to build. Any company doing digital PR needs to think about which internal experts and specialists can be utilised when expert-led comments are needed. If a DPR was working with a doctor at a skin health clinic, they can use the doctor’s commentary plus potentially the founder’s from a business perspective.
Experts’ advice, knowledge and guidance are valued in the eyes of journalists and readers. Stories can be created solely on expert commentary, or to bolster an existing story on a relevant topic. You might create a story around a trending topic, for example, a skin health hack that is trending on TikTok – you can ask the doctor questions about whether it’s good for the skin, do’s and don’ts, and other advice. Or you might base your story around seasonality, and ask the doctor how best to nourish and maintain skin during the colder months. Tips and advice-based articles are still extremely popular, so if you can find the right news hook and ask the right questions, you have a better chance of gaining media coverage.
These are stories where people are at the heart of them, but still achieve a brand’s goal. A lot of human interest stories are described as ‘real life stories’ – powerful and engaging stories which are shareable, and provoke emotion and conversation. A lot of companies who have case studies can utilise their stories for promotion in the press. We can use the example of the weight loss case study mentioned above. You’d interview them and find out more about their backstory, what caused them to gain weight and so on, to determine the most newsworthy angle.
You can also utilise the stories of key figures within a business – perhaps a CEO who has changed career and fought off a lot of hardship to get to where they are today – which is running a multi-million-pound company.
Key figures like these can also be put forward to write opinion pieces for publications and be featured in leader profiles within their niche.
Reactive PR requires DPRs to remain fluid and flexible to work on opportunities that might not directly tie in with their main strategies. It’s a technique that is becoming increasingly popular within the industry, with some professionals even attributing the bulk of their media coverage success to reactive PR. Reactive PR is the practice of responding and reacting to news and trending topics and looking for ways to place a brand or individual within the conversation, which can help them to achieve different goals.
Big, breaking news stories and viral trends that journalists are keen to cover provide space for brands and people to step in and get involved by creating their own stories around them, or contributing to articles reporters are already planning to write.
Newsjacking & Media Requests
Both of these form huge parts of Reactive PR. Newsjacking specifically involves jumping on the back of a hot news topic and using it to your advantage, and is usually done by way of using a brand’s data, insights or expert commentary to contribute to the conversation – providing it’s relevant. These don’t need to be in the form of press releases – you can simply send your information out to the reporters covering the topic, and you may find journalists add it to existing stories or that you’re their inspiration to create a new one. Of course, whatever you’re contributing needs to be newsworthy, unique or insightful.
The Covid pandemic and the constant changing of travel rules and restrictions we’ve seen in the last couple of years gave key figures within the travel industry the chance to give their thoughts and opinions about the news. Hotels, airlines, airports, and people who had their holidays cancelled or got stuck in other countries were a huge part of the conversation around that time.
Media requests can be golden nuggets. Also known as #journorequests on Twitter, journalists use them when they’re doing a call out for specific information, case studies or experts for their stories. Tools like ResponseSource and Twitter are great tools to use to monitor them, which is a huge part of the job for DPRs. Being able to respond quickly and work with clients to get the information or quotes required, the better chance there is of success. Not only do these gain brand mentions but it’s an effective way of building up links too.
Learn More About the Types of PR.
At Embryo, our digital PR team are always looking at new ways of building links, coverage, brand awareness, and DA, so why not get in touch and see how we can help take your online presence to the next level?