About two months ago, I started what I hope will be a long career in Digital Marketing and PR. Having taught English in companies in Milan for four years and solemnly swearing to leave that job and never look back, I embarked on this journey of finding not just a ‘new job’ but a new career. I persevered through the negativity of ‘you won’t find a job in Italy,’ ‘how much do you really think you’re going to make,’ and went on some interviews. The most difficult part was thinking of what skills I had. Four expensive years of University and four years of working, surely I must be able to scrounge up something! Here’s what I came up with: good people skills and great and passionate writer. By the grace of God, I was hired by a Digital Marketing Agency Optimized Group. It has been a great experience so far but hardly a walk in the park. For anyone starting out in this business, I’m going to set forth a checklist for kick staring your digital PR career.
1. Be organized. If you’re not one of those people that is used to making lists, start getting used to it and FAST. Let me break down the digital PR job for you: there’s two parts to it. First you create interesting content for the client and second you try to publish it online. A huge part of this job is building a database of contacts. For me, I came into this job as one of the first people in the company to do digital PR in the foreign markets (outside of Italy). The database that existed for English websites was scarce and so I’ve been working to build that up, it’s my baby essentially. If you don’t know how to use Excel, learn. You need to keep lists of contacts for each client. I like to set up my excel file with the following columns: URL/Email/Status/Date 1st contact/Date of 2nd contact/Phone number/Name of contact. Doing outreach will be a breeze if you invest the time in filling in this information beforehand.
2. Think outside the box. You will have a slew of different clients that offer different products and services. Some sell products that you can offer as samples to bloggers in exchange for a blog post. Piece of cake. Even if most bloggers have the ‘policy’ of charging 200 euros per blog post, some may be swayed with the promise of a nice sample product. But not every client has a product or service that easily sells itself. The difficult part, for me at least, is not creating content. I could write all day about a box of Kleenex. The hard part is making people care. And why do we want people to care? Because we want them to publish our stuff….for free. The idea is to present these sites with such a marvellous story that they will NEED to have this piece for their digital publication. So how do I do that if my client sells water bottles? Well first, think about all this water bottle has to offer and that will help you widen your contact search and give you more story angles to consider rather than just an overview of the product. Does this water bottle come with a bike attachment? Does its innovative design affect the taste? Does it have a filter? Does it have some contraption that makes in the perfect water bottle for athletes? Get creative!
3. Study the sites. Ok, no need to spend 10 minutes reading all the articles on the homepage, but get a sense for the tone of the site and how your article for your client would fit in there. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. When I first arrived, I spent weeks collecting contacts, and just doing one big mailer with a generic message. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve found I have more success when I write the emails individually. If my water bottle I’m trying to market is made of recyclable material, let’s see if there is an eco-friendly section of the website and skew our pitch to attract the editor of this site telling him/her ‘I’ve got a great new eco-friendly product I’d like to write a feature for and give you for your eco-friendly section.’
4. Get on the phone. My boss has been preaching this from day one. I have no problem talking on the phone, but trying to convince people to publish my content always made me feel a bit like a telemarketer. You know, the ones you hang up on when they call and interrupt you during dinner. But you have to do it. Yes, it’s digital marketing, stress the ‘digital,’ but people respond well when they can actually talk to a person, which we do so little of these days. Half of the contact emails you find for these sites will be something like email@example.com. I don’t feel so confident that my proposal or the content I worked hard on is reaching the right person if I send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick up that phone and start dialling!
5. Smile. I want to say this is a joke, but it’s proving to be anything but (in my experience at least). When I toyed with the idea of escaping this job about a month ago because I was so discouraged, my boss said that one of the reasons he hired me was because I had potential and I was always smiling and positive, and according to him, that was 50% of the job right there. Wow. 50%. That’s a lot resting on just a smile. But the funny thing is, when I was in the 8th grade I tried out for the soccer team to assuage my dad, because having two already athletic sons wasn’t enough. And to my dismay, I actually made the soccer team. When I asked the coach why he would pick such a terrible athlete, he said ‘I picked you because you have a positive attitude and you’re always smiling.’ So apparently a smile can get you things you once though unattainable.
My point is this: stay positive. This job, especially in the beginning is frustrating. People won’t respond to you or just flat out reject you and there’s a ton of pressure in this job to get your clients links every month. But you will find your way, and when the links start coming, you won’t be able to stop SMILING!
Heather Di Maio
Digital PR Officer Optimized Group