Brands of all sizes employ public relations agencies that run campaigns separate to their SEO needs – often the two aren’t even aware of each other’s activity.
After six years in a digital marketing agency and now working for a PR agency, I believe PR could and should be working harder for your SEO strategy, at no detriment to the traditions and values of public relations objectives.
I’ll explore three examples of PR tactics that tend to miss a key element to drive SEO benefit.
You’d be right in thinking it’s very easy for me to sit here and suggest how PR campaigns could be improved, when I’m not the one working to the client deadlines and budgets. Which is why my examples include genuinely interesting PR stories and the suggestions are the kind of tactics that would not have cost anything other than further time from a creative or developer. And a heavy dose of hindsight.
1. PR stunts (Greggs)
Stunts have always been the best way to generate lots of noise, the recent Greggs Valentine’s Day story is a great example. Widespread national media coverage was generated by the news that the public can now book a romantic table for two at selected Greggs outlets.
The campaign is genius in its approach, playing on the image of Greggs being the absolute opposite of a romantic night out, and equally impressive when an agency persuades its client to take the piss out of themselves in this way. I’ve also no doubt there will be bookings! But the real winner in this campaign? OpenTable.com.
Every piece of coverage on the first page of a ‘Greggs Valentine’s Day’ Google search contains a link to the OpenTable website, or no link at all. Not one piece of coverage is directing people to the Greggs website. Granted they don’t sell sausage rolls on there, but it would be an opportune moment to generate traffic that can be marketed to.
I’ve no doubt Greggs aimed to drive people to their website. They created a landing page all about the campaign with a full menu and link to book a table on the OpenTable website. But for whatever reason, it’s been left out of the coverage. It’s natural, as a PR representative, to give the journalist the URL for OpenTable.com, but I believe you should give every reason to the journalist to link to the brand’s website instead.
If you fancy running a similar campaign for your own brand or client, I’d recommend embedding the OpenTable widget on to your landing page. This will give the journalist no other option than to use that URL instead, and you’ll get the chance to market to those new visitors once they are on your site. You could also host video content on there instead of giving it directly to the publications, so you benefit from those links too.
2. Survey stories (American Express)
I love a good survey story as much as 90% of PR professionals, and they are prime for generating links if you use them as the reason for doing something/launching something/saying something of value. But often they are generating coverage and bypassing SEO benefit.
Surveys are certainly not cheap to do either, you’re talking thousands of pounds spent with research companies to ask a large sample of people the questions you need to generate headlines. So, there is a huge opportunity to get your money’s worth from the data.
American Express released a survey story in 2016, claiming British pet owners spend thousands on their beloved animals each year. What was missing from the press release and resulting coverage, was any link back to the American Express website relating to the data.
The AmEx site doesn’t appear to contain any content that isn’t directly talking about financial products, so it’s not a huge surprise they didn’t achieve any links. But, like the cruel segment of a gameshow for the empty-handed contestant, here’s what they could have won… Coverage on the Guardian, Mirror, The Sun and Retail Times could all have linked back to the launch of lots of content about how pet owners can save cash and have more to spend on the luxuries they enjoy.
This all becomes the solution to the problem your survey data revealed and offers potential new customers something of value to them, helps capture long tail searches, as well as those lovely links. You could keep people clicking through your site by creating lots of lovely content around pet ownership, widgets to find out how much they can expect to pay out for certain things and how about a map of the most stylish dog-friendly hotels? Ideal for American Express customers who apparently like to spend lots of money on their pets, or so a survey told me.
3. Corporate PR (Lloyds Bank)
This is a sector of PR whose stakeholders are least likely to consider SEO a serious side of managing the reputation of a brand. Corporate PR is often seen as less creative and driven more towards getting the right message in front of the right people, at the right time. Building links, content and influencing web traffic as well as all that? Yes, it’s possible. Granted you can’t really be using cute puppy videos for this sector, but that doesn’t mean your creative and SEO juices can’t flow.
You might have an important message from your business, a new direction or a stance on an issue, that needs to be communicated in the right way. Take Lloyds Bank and their recent announcement banning their credit card users from purchasing Bitcoin. Virgin Money soon followed suit, but Lloyds have claimed the news agenda on the issue using a statement issued from their spokesperson.
Lloyds claim, ‘customers will be contacted digitally or by post’ but the only mention of Bitcoin on their website is an opinion piece from last October.
Perhaps they could have used a simple landing page all about why they have made the announcement. Answering FAQs from customers on the matter, supported by vox-pop video from the spokesperson and a call-to-action encouraging customers, old and new, to click through to further content that is of value to them.
The landing page link could be given to each journalist and it adds to their reporting, without a strong commercial message. Lloyds would simply be providing more information for anyone interested. They not only get links on high authority media sites but also the warm and fuzzy feeling of having educated their customers on their values.
Consider your campaign or business objective, take a step back to decide how and where that message could be seen and shared, but also how much harder it could work for you displayed on your own website.
Put your brand first and don’t be afraid to ask for those links. If you’ve nailed the added value, there’s no reason why your next PR campaign won’t earn you and the SEO team the results you deserve.
If you’re looking for further advice, Econsultancy offers a social media and online PR training course.
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