Digital PR in a Web Marketing Agency: Conquering the obstacle of getting published

The digital PR team is the creative branch of a web marketing agency that gets their clients visibility on the web. The idea of digital PR is to pitch a story to a publisher that is so fabulous, that they HAVE to have it included on their site. In theory, yes. Let’s take a little trip to what I call reality:

You’ve just finished writing a magnificent article for your client. It’s witty, unique, the perfect edition to any website relevant to the topic. You do your outreach, contacting bloggers, journalists, websites and the like, pitching this great idea and telling them why it needs to be included on that site. Half don’t respond and half charge a standard £800 per article. When did everybody become so money hungry?!

In a fairytale world, there would be an even exchange: I give you a great piece of content for your website, and you publish it. I give your audience a great read and you make my client, and in turn, me, happy. Simple and easy. But this is what I like to call a cookie cutter explanation of this business, and it’s one that if you expect it going in, will surely make you really frustrated really quick. Working in digital PR, or as we call it in the biz, DPR, takes a veritable combination of creativity, journalistic know-how and precise knowledge of communication platforms in order to succeed: getting the client results and not going crazy from rejection in the process.

Frustrated Customer Service Agent

Your first step in getting links is to be resourceful. If you already have a database of contacts, consult that and squeeze it dry. A list of contacts that have already published something for you is like a gift from God: use it. Here you may have to get a bit crafty. Maybe your client sells luxury villas, but don’t stop at just contacts in real estate sites/publications. Why not go for design and architecture? Pitch a piece about the preserved medieval architecture of the old Italian villa. Exploit your contact list as much as you can. Coming up with the story is the easy part, first get someone interested.

Another helpful tool in DPR is to find the news hook, as we call it in journalism. I always ask my clients to keep me updated on the latest news in their company, because it pitches itself. Design websites may get a hundred emails a day for pitches on “so and so’s” artistic collection, but if you contact them saying you’ve got an exclusive story on the designer commissioned to build the stairs in Italy’s tallest tower, this sends up some signals for a journalist. Remember as well that many newspapers (in the US at least), are highly understaffed, and a good article that fits well with the voice of the publication, may be a godsend for some journalists.

If you’re not working with a huge list of contacts, you’ve got the task of building one. Digital PR is exactly that: public relations. So start building those relationships. Get on the phone and start calling newspapers and magazines and ask to speak to someone in the editorial office. Even if you don’t manage to bypass the secretary, ask for a direct email to the editor. It will be much better than the generic you find on the website. If you do manage to build the relationship, these won’t always get you the fast links you’re on deadline for in a web marketing agency, but it will give you better quality links and better quality contacts for the future.

DPR: three little letters, one big job. It’s combining the skills of a great writer with the shrewdness of a salesman and the wit of a journalist. But if you can master all three, you’re as good as gold.

Heather Di Maio

Digital PR officer