Experts Discuss 25+ Digital PR Hacks to Grow Your Brand


This blog post is an excerpt from our Digital Growth Summit event in Los Angeles.Here are the digital marketing experts who contributed to this blog: Serena Ehrlich Director, Social & Evolving Media Business Wire Digital PR Key Takeaways from Digital Growth Summit 5 Victoria Green Digital PR Key Takeaways from Digital Growth Summit 5 Ben Plomion Digital PR Key Takeaways from Digital Growth Summit 5 Kate Lobel Digital PR Key Takeaways from Digital Growth Summit 5 Curtis Boyd Digital PR Key Takeaways from Digital Growth Summit 5 [su_spacer size="1"]

Experts Discuss Digital PR Hacks to Grow Your Brand

Here are some key takeaways from the digital PR panel:

  • Incorporate multimedia in your digital PR
  • Images, infographics and video capture the attention of media outlets and make their job easier.

  • Know your audience
  • Don’t just blast a release far and wide and see what sticks. If you know the audience and reporters you need to reach, target your efforts there.

  • Be creative in your messaging
  • Just because you have something to pitch or sell doesn’t make it newsworthy, but if your message is creative and elicits some kind of emotional response, you’ll be more successful.

What are the best practices in 2016 when it comes to using digital means to promote or initiate public relations?

Create different assets for different platforms and audiences. -- Ben Plomion

We advocate for companies to have multimedia within their press releases and to make sure that they are interactive. —Victoria Green

Analysis. You need to understand what it is that you are doing. Analyze your purpose and understand who your audience is and who you want to read or watch your materials. —Curtis Boyd

You can’t activate everybody. You have to start with smaller groups so that you can really target to activate those audiences. —Serena Ehrlich

We try to break down our announcements into multiple pieces for multiple audiences and create different assets for different platforms. This is a digital panel, but sometimes non-digital things can work as well. About two years ago, we created a traditional printed game called Cards Against Marketers that was similar to the Cards Against Humanity game. We customized each card to a particular reporter and then we sent this out to 50 reporters with their name on it by FedEx. It was old school, traditional marketing, but it worked. —Ben Plomion

You have to activate through a marriage of text and multimedia, because only 37% of the world enjoys reading text. —Serena Ehrlich

What tools are you using for traditional and digital PR?

See where your competitors are not focusing and get a very raw picture to help you build your strategy. --Victoria Green

We use the databases like Cision and Groupie, and we dive into the SEO tools such as seoClarity and Moz. Moz actually allows us to look at our competition and see what some of their major wins are, what their backlinks are, and what people are talking about in regards to that competitor as well as look at the editors that are covering that particular topic to see if we can add them to our media list. You can also see where your competitors are not focusing and get a very raw picture to help you build your strategy. —Kate Lobel

We have quite a few tools that I like right now, but the first one is Contently. They help connect brands to writers, and what I like about them is that they can give us access to tremendous writers who can do anything from blog writing to investigative journalism. We also really love Ceros, which is a New York company that helps us take white papers and other material and turn it into animated gifs and videos. —Ben Plomion

What about more traditional services?

With each release, think granular and customize your news to smaller audiences. --Serena Ehrlich

We want our clients on the publication that caters to our audience, so using places like Muck Rack helps us develop a list of writers that will be a good fit for us. I start following them, build up a rapport with them, and then pitch to them. These large databases can help you narrow down your search and figure out who can help get you or your client’s message on to these larger publications.—Curtis Boyd

Know your goal. We frequently hear people say, “The Wall Street Journal—it has got to be the Wall Street Journal.” We ask why and they say, “Sales,” but the Wall Street Journal might not be the best place to drive sales. With each release, think granular and select targets and news distributions and customize your news to smaller audiences. So one of the things that you can do is to customize your news and then use a two pronged approach by combining targeted market outreach with targeted newswire circuits. —Serena Ehrlich

How do you amplify your reach for a bigger platform or to distribute news?

If you have an enticing title and imagery that connects, then you're going to get visibility. --Curtis Boyd

Our advice is to use multimedia with your distribution efforts, to know your audience, and to avoid blasting everyone. Knowing who you are sending it out to and knowing the audience and the reporters that you are trying to reach is important. —Victoria Green

I also like using pay-as-you-go ad network platforms like Outbrain or They are completely online and what you can do is you can take a news release (and we include this in our distribution) and it gets put into an ad block. You get to tell them who your target audience is, and then these platforms match your content with articles on the web in order to hopefully get people to open your article. I have done major Outbrain campaigns that have failed and I wasn't charged any money, and I have done major Outbrain campaigns that have succeeded and cost me $23. So they are not expensive, but they do help you get that news coverage that you want. —Serena Ehrlich

Outbrain can charge as low as $0.03 per 1,000 impressions, which is a really good deal. If your content matches, you have an enticing title and you guys create imagery that really connects, then you are going to get a tremendous amount of visibility on places like Outbrain. —Curtis Boyd

You don't want to be the National Enquirer of headlines, the clickbait of headlines, but when it comes to getting people to see your news it really dials down to your headline and your multimedia asset. —Serena Ehrlich

What brands have you seen that are demonstrating strong digital outreach?

Last year the consumer attention span was nine seconds. --Ben Plomion

I don't want to talk about politics or who to vote for, but I do want to touch on the Donald Trump campaign because they are using emotional PR in a really successful way. When you can learn to evoke an emotional response in your titles and in your news, your visibility is going to skyrocket. Their campaign has done a really good job of eliciting an emotional response. When you can tie a product to a human, emotional response then you are going to get unbelievable results. —Curtis Boyd

Essentia Mattress. Based out of Canada, they are the leader in organic and natural memory foam mattresses. What they are doing is really integrating every single digital channel as much as possible ranging from SEO, web development, PPC, traditional and digital PR, social media, etc. —Kate Lobel

If everybody doesn't know, the single greatest tip for media relations in 2016 is when you pitch a reporter, in your pitch say, "If you cover me, we will share this out for you." The number one metric for reporters in 2016 is inbound traffic so if you offer to share then you have a much better pitch. —Serena Ehrlich

When you integrate those keywords and you are working hand in hand with your SEO department or your client's in-house SEO, it is valuable because you can actually measure things. I can be with a client and we can monitor a keyword before, during, and after we implement it in a press release, and I can actually place a monetary value on how much ROI I provided them just by placing keywords in the press materials. —Kate Lobel

Last year the consumer attention span was nine seconds. I don't know if you know this, but I was told that the attention span of a goldfish is also nine seconds. So it is getting more difficult to gather someone's attention in a short period of time. Miller Lite asked us to find images posted of Miller Lite because they realized that a lot of images did not have any hashtags or text posted with it and because their social listening tools cannot listen for images or video. They hired us to help them use image recognition to scan those images on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook to find images that are related to the brand. They then used those images to generate marketing insight and create a new marketing campaign. —Ben Plomion

Images do not require translation or literacy. Human beings recognize images way before they recognize verbal speech or text. Another point, if your competitior is doing Google or Twitter ads with the link in it, you can take that link, put a + sign at the end and you can see how successful it is. —Serena Ehrlich

How do you measure social PR, digital communications programs?

I was freaked out by diving into analytics, but now it is my best friend. --Kate Lobel

UTM codes and being able to track goes directly into Google Analytics and as a traditional PR person, I was freaked out by diving into analytics, but now it is my best friend because it gives you so much insight. Even just registering your client on the backend can show you how many sessions were brought to your client's website from that specific placement and the new sessions as well as how many people bounced from that site from your first placement. You can also see how long someone stayed on your site from the first placement and most importantly if they actually converted. —Kate Lobel

UTM is just an extender you put on a URL. —Serena Ehrlich

There is this concept that in PR, the number one metric is coverage. What do you see as other metrics that can come out now that there are more analytics available?

Within 24 hours of a news release going out see the data, see the impressions, see who tweeted it. --Victoria Green

We have a lot of integrated analytics tools where you can go in within 24 hours of a news release going out and see the data, see the impressions, see who tweeted it, etc. There are so many metrics we offer that come with the cost of distributing your release, and many people do not look at these as much as they should. —Victoria Green

One of the top metrics that we are now seeing is GeoResonance—this concept that you can now track where your information is resonating. So if you are a California-based program and you see a high amount of shares coming from Texas, that gives you three major pieces of action:

  1. You call Texas media market outlets and try to set up an interview with your customer, because conversations are coming.
  2. You do social marketing.
  3. You tell your sales teams that you have activity in these markets.

Serena Ehrlich

What advice do you have regarding the future of digital PR tools?

Videos and graphics are becoming more of a part of capturing attention for readership. --Curtis Boyd

I feel like videos and graphics are becoming more and more of a part of modern publication and capturing attention for readership. Social media will intermesh even more with major publications as more and more people spend time on social media, so I think the future is more visual and more social than we might want it to be. —Curtis Boyd

One of the first things that you learn in PR is when what you are about to share isn't newsworthy. I think people forget that. They get lost in their message and trying to sell, and some people just do not care. You need to get more on the creative side of things and be creative in your release. —Victoria Green

Do press releases need to start integrating graphics, or does it really depend on the audience?

No news is on the web without an image. --Serena Ehrlich

I think it depends on the audience, but it is not necessarily graphics. Multimedia, yes. Multimedia meaning infographic, video, interactive, the picture that you drag across and shows before/after, anything that you can incorporate. —Victoria Green

The biggest complainers to us about companies not using multimedia are TV and radio. These radio stations and TV stations have websites, and no news is on the web without an image. —Serena Ehrlich

Are the headline and the first line the same?

If you are new to digital PR use Help A Reporter Out. --Curtis Boyd

No. Here is a trick with press releases. Take the headline of anything that you have distributed and Google search the headline only. See what Google is surfacing and sharing publicly. What is it putting out there on the search engine to make people want to open it? A lot of people think that it is the subhead, but no one will see the subhead until they open the release. That first sentence needs to tie into the headline because it is the only real estate that you get to get anyone to open up your news release. —Serena Ehrlich

If you are new to digital PR go to Help A Reporter Out which is 100% free, because you guys should be taking every opportunity to try to build a rapport with these writers and build a relationship with them by cutting through the noise and sending them really great pitches. —Curtis Boyd