Digital marketing is a puzzle that brands continue trying to solve.
Companies are sinking more money into paid search, and social media isn’t always the answer. However, all too often, they’re ignoring their secret weapon: the PR pro.
“PR is, in youth speak, a search and social marketing hack,” says Chris Bartley, managing director of Havas Life Medicom, one of Europe’s biggest health care creative, medical education and PR agencies.
How PR affects search
Much of search marketing equates to link building. It’s not enough for a PR or search marketing pro to secure an earned media mention. To make a real impact on a brand’s SEO, a link has to accompany the media placement.
“While the benefit of a press mention boosts a brand, it may be short-lived. The spike in referral traffic may be brief,” says Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media. “But, when you’re able to get a journalist or blogger to link to a piece of content on your site, that link is likely to last. It’s rare that sites delete pages and links. And, this will increase your SEO.”
“Links to your website equal authority,” explains Crestodina. “Authority increases the likelihood that anything on your domain will rank. This is why PR professionals have such a huge ability to affect search rankings. The key is to understand the value of links and capture the opportunities of press mentions.”
The key here is to not just get your brand mentioned, but to ask journalists and reporters to link to key brand content.
PR’s inside track on social media
Why do we see PR and social media teams working more closely together than ever? Because brands are finally figuring out that these two should be tightly aligned.
“PR is so much more effective today because it merges, rather than separates, marketing and media channels,” says Bartley. “Only the PR team can tell a story and in one day have it shared consistently through the communities that are most interested in that specific topic.”
Bartley emphasizes: “Only the PR team can package your promotional message into a format that friends, peers and colleagues will share naturally just as part of what they do each day.”
When a company makes an announcement, industry news sites are often the first to cover the news. When they cover it, they usually share it on social media. Then, the brand will also share it, and chances are that a few partners or other fans of the brand will share it, too.
“If you now search Google on the specific product phrases in the press release, you’ll see you’re controlling the narrative with a good presence in the first few pages,” adds Bartley. “Achieving that feat through traditional search marketing would take months, significant spend, and tons of hours.”
The impact is even greater if a story has real news value.
Bartley says: “Now swap out the dullest corporate non-story for something genuinely remarkable. You get the same search marketing result. However, you’ll suddenly find social media shares go crazy. That can have huge commercial impact in a very short span of time.”
Finally, don’t forget about paid social. Once you’ve got your brand out there, you’ll want to boost this earned media with a just a little bit of budget.
There’s a reason 60% of content strategies are PR-focused.
“I think if you’re not as successful as you want to be online, you have to be thinking about creating content that someone’s actually searching for,” says Arnie Kuenn, CEO of digital marketing agency Vertical Measures.
PR teams play a role in creating what Kuenn calls “educational content”—something public relations practitioners frequently do as part of their work with clients.
“Generally, what we’ve done is pitch a series of educational articles,” says Kuenn. “We’ll write contributed content. Sometimes it’s just a mention or citation. We’ve had great success doing that.”
PR’s value on the rise
The value of public relations is increasing, as PR pros continue to prove their worth as storytellers who can write and place stories, building links in the process and getting the word out on social media which further enhances a brand’s SEO.