Blog post

What is digital PR, and how does it work? 

Date of post

11 August 2023

Blog categories

Read time

5 mins
Marketing Labs team working round a table

Coverage on news sites and mentions in the press can earn your brand valuable coverage and links back to your website, boosting your traffic and SEO efforts.

Digital PR is a powerful promotional tool that combines traditional PR with SEO to create a hybrid benefiting from both tactics. 

In this blog, we ask what is digital PR and how does it work?  

What is digital PR? 

Digital PR is a way of leveraging traditional PR methods to earn unpaid links and mentions in the press with the aim of boosting brand awareness and site traffic.

Let’s put that into context by looking at the definition of public relations from the CIPR.  

Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations 

By applying the principles of traditional PR in a digital landscape, it’s possible to earn trust and attract unpaid links back to your website. Managing your reputation online is critical to winning over potential customers – and it has some influence over Google too. 

How does it work? 

Dedication and hard work are required to earn media coverage and press mentions.

There are no shortcuts in digital PR – only professionals working tirelessly to create compelling campaigns ready to pitch to journalists. 

When it comes to building a campaign, the three most popular tactics are: 

  • Data-driven campaigns 
  • Press release (e.g. company news or product launch) 
  • Creative stunts and campaigns 

For a campaign or a story to get picked up, it must have a strong or unique angle. With this type of proactive PR, it’s up to you to pitch your story/news/campaign to journalists. To do this, you’ll need to establish a relationship with the reporters in your industry.

This takes time, but it will bear fruit because once you’ve established yourself as an expert in your field, you’ll find that journalists start coming to you directly. This is a type of reactive PR.   

A great example of this comes from our CEO at Marketing Labs, Matt Janaway. As an authority in the field of digital marketing, he’s often asked to quote on industry-related news. 

What is digital PR, and how does it work? , image

Matt Janaway is quoted here in Forbes online. 

One great way to put yourself forward for inclusion on highly authoritative websites is to use a platform like Featured or HARO (Help A Reporter Out). Publishers post their requests on the platform, and subject experts respond with an answer to the brief. 

If yours is good enough, there’s a chance it will be included in the journalist’s final piece.

Why is digital PR important for SEO?

Acquiring backlinks to your site is a critical component of a successful SEO strategy. With digital PR, you can attract links organically by having your story picked up or being quoted directly in the press.  

Typically this is a link to your homepage using your company name as the anchor text. By earning these links instead of buying them, you’re telling Google your content is reputable and valuable. 

Google prioritises earned links because they signify trust and authority.

As a general rule of thumb, websites with more backlinks get more search traffic. In the graph below from Ahrefs, you can see the correlation between search traffic and referring domains. 

Graph showing the correlation between referring domains and site visitors

With digital PR, it’s possible to earn links from highly authoritative websites where you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to buy them (like Forbes in the example above). 

This is important for two reasons: 

  1. There’s more chance of readers following the link to your website ready to engage because you’ve already established trust by being featured in the article. 
  1. Your competitors can’t swoop in and steal the link by offering more money. 

Earned links are a product of high-quality content, genuine relationships, and organic interest, which would be hard for your competitors to replicate overnight. 

What are the benefits of digital PR?

Link-building is arguably the most talked-about benefit of digital PR, but it’s not the only benefit. You can also 

  • increase brand awareness 
  • enhance your reputation by positioning yourself as an expert (Google loves this!) 
  • increase traffic to your site and, therefore, opportunities to sell  
  • boost your social shares 

Digital PR is user-centric. It involves pitching to high-volume, highly-authoritative sites whose readers are aligned with your brand. Their highly-engaged traffic has the potential to turn into visitors to your site. 

What’s more, these visitors are already primed to engage because you’ve established trust by being cited as an expert in your industry. 

Take the example we introduced earlier of Matt Janaway (the CEO of Marketing Labs). Matt is regularly featured on respected websites in the digital marketing sphere, from Hubspot and Moz to Ranktracker.  

But what about that all-important backlink – the digital breadcrumb trail that leads readers back to your brand? 

“If you find yourself without a link in a piece of coverage, ‘polite persistence’ is your go-to strategy,” advises Matt Janaway.  

“Follow up gently with the journalist. A kind request may just turn the tide. Even without that link, you’ve planted a seed in the reader’s mind, which is a valuable victory in its own right.” 

How do you measure digital PR?

Measuring the impact of your digital PR campaigns is crucial to understanding whether you’re on the right track. If you’re not seeing results, you may need to tweak your approach. 

You can use these metrics to measure performance

  • Brand mentions/media coverage 
  • Number of backlinks
  • Social media engagement 
  • Website traffic from the referring domains
  • Search engine visibility 
  • Brand sentiment  
  • Enquiries and/or sales  

Remember that the specific metrics you choose to measure will depend on your PR goals and objectives. It’s important to align your measurement approach with your overall business goals to ensure that your efforts deliver meaningful results.

“Monitoring your digital PR efforts is as crucial as the campaigns themselves. Using tools like Google Alerts can help you monitor brand mentions that might have passed you by,” concludes Matt. 

“Ensure you’re actively following up with journalists who have requested your insights. This approach not only unveils the effectiveness of your strategies but also helps you to develop strong mutual relationships.

Proactive engagement and consistent monitoring will help you maintain and improve your brand’s visibility. 

Post author

Mel left university with a first-class degree in English Language and Linguistics and after more than ten years as a marketing manager working for organisations across various industries, she left employment behind and struck out on her own as a freelance writer.

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