Media relations used to be all about securing positive editorial coverage. In recent years that's started to change. Traditional coverage is still very important - according to independent research, that's still the most effective form of marketing. But PR agencies are increasingly being asked to deliver digital campaigns which can massively boost a website's online ranking and visibility.
Many in the PR profession view the rise of digital PR as a revolution in the industry and predict that digital campaigns will become the primary function driving public relations in the 21st century.
For ecommerce sites in particular, and for anyone with a website, in-bound links are hugely important. Google ranks sites on not only the number of sites linking in but also the quality of those links.
Bona fide news sites are ranked very highly. They also have a very high number of sites linking into them. What's more, sites such as BBC.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk and Telegraph.co.uk are likely to be around for a very long time to come and it's a given that the number and quality of sites linking in to them will increase year after year. Therefore a link from these sites to a small ecommerce site, for example, has huge value in increasing the site's Google search visibility.
A successful digital campaign can be hugely cost effective as it has the potential to go viral, being spread across the web via social media. That's why digital campaigns are particularly attractive with smaller companies seeking a real bang for their buck.
But delivering winning digital campaigns can be a very different skill to traditional media relations. Here (in no particular order) are five of my personal favourite digital campaigns which all won huge numbers of links.
An unusual job vacancy can make a great story. We worked with our client RepairaCar.co.uk to transform a mundane opening for a delivery driver into something the motoring media found impossible to resist.
Like all the best digital campaigns, this one went viral winning huge amounts of coverage across the web and heaps of in-bound links. The number of unique visitors to the client's website went through the roof and more than a hundred people applied for the job. Link highlights included The Sunday Times, Top Gear and The Daily Telegraph.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of bingo websites on the net. Lateral thought is definitely required to persuade news sites to link to them. When OnlineBingoClub.co.uk asked us to boost their Google presence, we brainstormed a number of ideas to come up with a concept capable of winning the web-links the site needed.
In the end we hit on the idea of a traditional wedding sponsored by the bingo site. The bride would walk up the aisle in a white dress covered in OnlineBingoClub's logos. Bags of coverage resulted, including more than 30 quality links from the likes of The Sun, The Daily Star and The Daily Record.
Our client Jim Venables, MD at Officebroker.com, mentioned to us that he wasn't letting his 80 staff have the day off for the recent royal wedding because he felt an extra bank holiday was bad for business. We thought he had a good point and worked quickly to ensure his voice was heard across the media.
The soundbite, "Why can't Wills and Kate get married on a Saturday like everyone else?" proved hard for the press to resist and the resulting coverage included several TV and radio interviews as well as links from The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and BBC News Online.
Finding something different about a product or service can be a challenge. If it's going to result in huge amounts of in-bound links it has to offer the media something unique. We managed to achieve this when working with car leasing outfit CentralContracts.com by coming up with the concept of a competition to find Britain's best loved and most despised traffic islands.
More than 70 people went to the trouble of getting in touch to nominate their roundabout loves and hates and the campaign generated more than 15 links from quality news sources including The Independent, The Daily Express, The Observer, The Scotsman and STV.
When our client Proactol told us they were seeking a product tester to measure the effectiveness of their fat binding pill we quickly saw the viral marketing potential. We worked it up into a story which we titled "Professional Coach Potato Required".
Coverage followed with more than 50 links including The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Star. It even made the front page of The Daily Telegraph.
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