As SEO and digital PR continue to merge expect further integration of these young disciplines in 2020

As SEO and digital PR continue to merge expect further integration of these young disciplines in 2020

The discipline of digital PR is one that has grown significantly in recent years. Born originally of an SEO requirement, digital PR today is acknowledged to have far broader benefits than simply its ability to build links – leading to an ever-increasing investment in it, and a growing competition between traditional and digital PR teams.

As the discipline continues to evolve, digital PR practitioners and clients are looking ahead to new opportunities to capitalise on a full spectrum of benefits, which includes valuable website backlinks right through to brand building and audience mobilisation capabilities.

Here are some of the most exciting opportunities in digital PR for 2020:

Digital becomes traditional

As digital PR has grown, so too have the tactics used to achieve online coverage.

Up to this point, digital PRs have called on tactics associated primarily with SEO style outreach complemented by news-hook thinking. Data analyses, visualisations, surveys… they’ve all been the lifeblood of digital PR campaigns.

Moving into 2020, expect to see this landscape becoming increasingly saturated. In order to gain the attention not just of journalists, but of readers too (more on this to come), digital PR campaigns will need to be more creative and more audience driven.

This has already transpired in the sense that many PR campaigns are calling on more traditional tactics. ‘Dream job’ scenarios, though not new to the scene, have become more prolific thanks to some high-profile successes (such as this one from Spa Seekers) and other stunts such as this campaign from Envirobuild [see main image] have proven that non-digital thinking can lead to digital results.

Into 2020, then, this will become more widespread. Think offline stunts to drive online visibility. Think gamification and an increase in interactive content to drive user engagement. Think bigger campaigns calling on traditional tactics.

Integrated marketing

Digital PR is, by its nature, a top-of-funnel marketing activity. What this means is that you can expect, as an investor in digital PR tactics, to raise awareness amongst your audience, but not necessarily to see conversions immediately off the back of it.

With that said, there are ways to generate conversions from digital PR campaigns. In some cases, the campaign is so ‘on point’ in terms of the business’ focus that it can be a lead generator (this example from an energy company proved that even topics directly related to one of the company’s primary offerings could create new business leads). However, in most cases, PR campaigns tend further away from the core sales topics, so generating a sale can be a challenge.

In these cases, integration with other marketing channels is an option.

Take paid channels, as an example. Let’s say that a PR campaign has been crafted such that it appeals to a topical interest of the target customer, but is not directly related to what the business sells. In this case, the strategy might be that the PR campaign be promoted through typical PR channels (outreach to journalists), but also through some paid promotion on social media, targeting audiences interested in the topic of the campaign.

This benefits both the PR and the PPC strategy, as it amplifies the campaign to a greater audience and provides the paid social campaign with valuable content to promote at the top of the funnel.

Thereafter, it would be down to the PPC manager to craft a funnel-progression style campaign, whereby those people who interact with the PR content are then delivered a series of gradually more sales-driven content in order to encourage a conversion.

Alternatively, digital PR – especially as it moves more into the territory of content marketing – can be used as an audience building activity, where those people who visit the campaign content can then be reached by remarketing activity.

Whatever the chosen channels, expect 2020 to be the year where digital PR integrates more fully across the marketing mix for even greater, measurable, impact.

Measuring the ‘broader benefits’

The main challenge of digital PR has always been how to tangibly measure the benefits of it.

Born, as it was, from an SEO need, digital PR must be measured by its ability to generate high quality backlinks to the target website. There are plenty of tools out there (Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz…) to facilitate this.

Beyond this, digital PRs will be looking into the New Year at how best to articulate the benefits of PR beyond links. This will include, but will not be limited to, recognition of unlinked coverage, a reduction in notice paid to the ‘rel-nofollow’ attribute and an integrated set of goals where multiple channels are used.

Further to this, with Google’s work to understand the value of links and to recognise the difference between links as ‘votes’ and links as a PR output, digital PRs will also be looking to increase click through rates in their campaigns. The hypothesis here is that Google will recognise the value of links into a site that also drives traffic as being of greater value to the reader than those which receive no clicks. As such, PRs will monitor referral traffic as a metric of value.

Looking ahead

In summary, 2020 looks to be an exciting year for those operating in the digital PR industry and any business utilising PR to help them grow. At the same time, it continues to be one of the least mature disciplines amongst the digital marketing set, meaning that, for those working in it, its evolution is still very much led by people who seek to innovate and companies willing to try new approaches.