That’s what everyone’s looking for, right? The silver bullet, the shortcut that guarantees overnight PR and link building success? Well I’m sorry to disappoint but it just doesn’t exist.
To really succeed in your PR and link building efforts these days you need to put in the time and effort. Success is made up of four main things (and this is aside from having a great idea):
- A great hook
- A reason to link
- Great relationships
A great hook
To make people want to write about your campaign you need a hook – there has to be something that makes your story newsworthy. The hook can come in many forms though, and I’ll go through some examples.
Timely – your campaign could be timed into a particular date or event that you know people will be writing about. For example, Mother’s Day is coming up and we know that there are journalists and bloggers everywhere producing articles and blog posts about Mother’s Day. For this you might have an amazing mother/daughter case study, you might have the perfect Mother’s Day gift to go in gift guides or an amazing experience for people to treat their mums to, or you might have some data specific to mums. There are always multiple requests for stories around these annual events so plenty of hooks there.
There are other hooks that fall into the timely category – for example, newsjacking: something happens in the news and you have a client that has some really relevant data or is an expert in the field and can provide a great comment. This, again, is timely and a hook for why a journalist would want to write about you.
Innovative/New – just having something that is brand new or innovative is enough of a hook sometimes. By that I don’t just mean a new version of a product that already exists, I mean something that is truly new to the market. An example of this is HSBC and First Direct, who last month announced the launch of their voice recognition and touch security software and got tonnes of press for it just because it was something new in that industry and market.
It doesn’t always have to be a new product or service, though; it could just be some new data that you have acquired that people are interested in – again, this can be enough of a hook for people to want to write about you. Or it could be new technology or a new social media platform that you’re the first one to market, or something like virtual reality technology.
Unexpected – as above having new data can be a hook, however having data that is unexpected can be a great hook. If you can challenge a widely acknowledge misconception and back this up with data then that’s something people talk about.
New visual representation – not everything has to be new: taking old data or an old idea and representing it in a new way can be enough of a hook. We’re visual beings, we typically don’t want to consume a load of text about a topic so if you can represent something interesting in a visual way then that can be enough.
A reason to link
So you’ve got the great idea and you’ve worked out what your hook is going to be to get people to write about it, that’s great but why are they going to link? There’s still a difference between what people will be happy to write about and what will motivate them to link to you. You have to be offering something of value on your website that would make a journalist or a blogger want to send their readers there.
If you’ve given everything away within your press release or email to them for their story then there is no reason for them to include a link unless they’re feeling nice and do want to credit you. Instead, you need to think about what you can hold back or create on your site that gives the reason for the link. This could be an interactive tool or game that people would want to come and play that you’ve given the journalist/blogger data from, it could be further research or a whitepaper on the topic of the story or it could be more articles from an expert that you’ve pitched them.
There’s a wide array of reasons you can get a link, you just need to think about the value you can offer and therefore the reason from the mind of the journalist or blogger.
So we now have a great idea, a great hook and a reason to get a link – but who are we going to get that link from? This is where relationships come in. Relationships are the bread and butter of the PR world going back to the days of the little black book and boozy lunches to secure a long-lasting relationship.
Sadly the boozy lunches are becoming a thing of the past thanks to shrinking newsrooms and journalists being squeezed for time (although there are definitely still some that see the value in face-to-face meetings), but generally these relationships have to be secured in a different way.
The word ‘relationship’ is key here because a relationship is not achieved by sending one mail merge to a bunch of journalists or bloggers and hoping that some pick up the story. Relationships with journalists and bloggers are the same as any other relationship – you need to put the time in to really get to know the person: what their likes and dislikes are, what topics or sections they write about/for, how and when they like to be contacted, the list goes on.
You need to try and find as much of this out as possible before even sending your first email, which like I say can take a lot of time if you’re wanting to contact a lot of people. However, it’s worth it because you’re more likely to get a response and keep working with them in the future if they can see that you’ve put the effort in.
You’re probably reading this thinking wow that’s a lot of work – and it is. That’s why the last point is time: you need a lot of it to really succeed. But the more frequently you do this the less time you need, as you’ve already built some of the relationships, and from that you get to understand more of which hooks work with different people and what calendar events they write about. Therefore, you build an understanding of who to go to with what and when.
So, in summary, there is no silver bullet, but there is a recipe to success that, if you follow, should guarantee great results nonetheless.