Laura Crimmons of Silverthorn shares her top mistakes people make in digital PR campaigns.

1) You don’t know your audience

Failure is in the eye of the beholder, says Laura.

Coverage in a newspaper might seem a great result to a PR, but if the SEO strategy demanded followed links, it’s not so good. Vice verse, having a link but from a publication that’s totally irrelevant to the audience probably won’t get your PR people jumping for joy.

The answer? Know your audience. Set your KPIs according to what we need to achieve.

The key thing to note as a PR is that you typically have two audiences:

  1. The media / journalists
  2. The end user

The needs of these audiences will be very different and the way that you deliver content to them will therefore also differ. But, says Laura, as marketers, we need to start with our end user and work back from there, because the media want to appeal to those people just as we do.

Laura shared some tips to help with this:

Use Buzzsumo for most shared content

The first thing you can do is review shared content on platforms like Buzzsumo. Pull the top articles into an Excel spreadsheet and categorise them according the type and topic.

For example, Laura’s review of travel publications found that the most shared content was Instagram focused, so if you want coverage in travel, try to do something about Instagram.

Know what travels well in your niche and base your ideas there.

Balance your focus

With the above said, Laura recognises that in order to gain coverage, we do need to consider the media audience. But we also need to think about the relevance to the brand/our client – what content can we produce to initiate the conversion journey?

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Get to know the media

Another tip for gaining coverage was to do the work for the journalist.

If you believe the content is well suited for a specific column they write for, tell them so.

If they have a specific interest in something, try to target your content to that (e.g. Game of Thrones content to Game of Thrones lovers).

2) You let the client lead

The second most common mistake Laura sees is letting the client lead.

Yes, we need to be sure that we take our client’s ideas on board. But, there is a high likelihood that those ideas are going to be very sales focused.

She gave the example of a gym membership. Her gym client will want to promote the membership as a product. Laura argues that savvy PRs will promote ‘fitness’ and ‘health’, looking at what the end user is trying to achieve, and not what the business wants to sell.

Having the content be too heavily branded is also an issue if you want to gain coverage. If you produce a great piece of content but it has your branding and brand colours all over it, the journalist won’t use it because it looks like an advert.

3) You don’t consider the media’s needs

Another mistake people make in their digital PR campaigns is not considering what the press wants.

You need to consider what’s sharable. According to a Muckrack study, journalists consider what is going to be sharable when reviewing potential stories. Be sure to think about sharability in your own ideation.

Use tools like Buzzsumo to understand what length of content performs well on the target publication, and create something similar accordingly.

Also consider the old adage that ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ – meaning that those stories which gain an emotional response will be preferred by the press.

4) You don’t have multiple angles

Every campaign, says Laura, should recognise that you can’t control the news agenda, just as you can’t control other people.

Let’s say you create a campaign and something happens in the news that makes your original angle unusable. Be sure to have a back up.

Equally, if someone else happens to do something very similar to your campaign, having a back up alternative means you’ll still have something worth sharing.

Check out this blog post from Silverthorn for more tips: https://silverthornagency.com/thoughts/how-to-pitch-what-journalists-want

Laura Hampton

Head of Marketing & PR

Head of Marketing at @impressiontalk specialising in user-centred SEO, PR, content marketing and digital strategy. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

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