Eva Cheng stresses the importance of never underestimating the power of reactive PR, and explains how this type of work can make a big difference for your SEO in 2023.
Eva says: “Reactive PR can be expert comments or general requests, creating proactive campaigns related to awareness days, relaunching past campaigns, etc. It’s all about keeping an eye on what’s happening now and less about planning for evergreen campaigns which can last more than a year because of production and outreach.”
Should you have a particular channel in mind when using reactive PR?
“Purely through publications. It’s all about building links and really tailoring campaigns to target niche publications which are harder to gain links in. If you were to create a small proactive campaign for an automotive client, let’s say - if it’s relevant and timely it’ll be more likely to get covered within those kinds of publications.”
Is reactive PR about seeing what relevant stories are out there and then adding to that by providing a slightly different angle or interviewing someone?
“That’s one tactic of doing reactive PR, but it’s very much about knowing what’s coming ahead. It’s like with seasons; you always know what’s coming so you can prepare in advance. Going back to the automotive example, if you know the winter is coming and the roads will become more dangerous, you could write some campaigns covering aspects like safety tips for driving in the winter.”
When you talk about never underestimating the power of reactive PR, are you talking about the power to build links?
“Yes. When launching reactive PR and corrective campaigns, you’ll gain more relevant links within publications. For a mattress client, for example, it would be easier to gain a link within an ideal home when they are looking for someone within that area of expertise to offer advice.”
How do you track of which stories are current and which stories to write about?
“Keep an eye on the news and create a digital PR plan. Know what awareness days are coming up, what people are interested in, and also look at Google Trends. On AnswerThePublic you can enter a topic like ‘electric vehicles’, and it will give you the most asked questions that people type on Google. You’ll then know that people are searching for the topic and it’ll give you a good idea of what’s to come.”
Is the aim to rank in Google News?
“Not necessarily. It’s to build the backlink profile so you’ve got more relevant links to your client. For an automotive client, you’d never try and target a beauty publication because it wouldn’t be relevant. If they were getting spammy links it would impact their backlink profile. Google would see that as a negative and the rankings would be impacted. Google has said it looks at the backlink profile of websites to value the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of the site.”
Do you reach out to people with a view to them linking to your content? Do you ideally want to build organic links to it?
“Most links that are built are purely organic and not so repetitive, and therefore more unique. This builds that trustworthiness with Google. It’s like sending a trust signal towards them that you’re not just posting all over forums as part of a spammy practice. Niche publications are harder to get into and it’s harder to get links within big publications. Creating campaigns that are effective and relevant gives the journalists more reason to cover them because they’ll be what people are looking for.”
What type of content do journalists like?
“It’s a big mixture at the moment. There are big hero development campaigns which are landing links within relevant publications. There’s also reactive stuff like, for example, a sleep campaign around ‘How to stop storing’ when it’s National Snoring Day. It’s very hit and miss when deciding on the main gain of getting links.”
Is there an online resource people can use to find national days?
“You can just type in national days of the year and you’ll find some great resources. Don’t just look at national days, but look at charity awareness days too. If it’s a mental health charity awareness day it could be a great opportunity for brand collaboration and sharing advice.
You can even do the same with evergreen campaigns. The reason it’s great to focus more on reactive PR at the moment is because of the substantive effort that goes into making things look brilliant on-site. Reactive PR can be a great way to get a quick win. If you have blog content on your website already and it becomes relevant again, you can relaunch the campaign and potentially send journalists to your content. It’s like creating a hook for journalists. You have to be very aware of what’s going on around you and never be afraid to refresh old content and bring it up to speed with the latest societal developments.”
How do you find and build relationships with journalists?
“You can just do a news sample. Go on Google News and search for electric vehicles. If you’ve got a campaign around electric vehicles, you can find journalists that have already covered the topic, get their names, and start doing a deep dive into their internet profiles. Check their information online and try and get their email address, etc. You can also check media database websites online.”
What initial message resonates with journalists and is most likely to get a reply?
“It’s tough because journalists don’t really have much time to build a strong connection with PRs, especially in digital. It’s a lot easier within product and physical PR because they want to converse about things, do product reviews, arrange giveaways, etc. In digital PR you might not have the physical resources to achieve the same. You should put your headline as the main hook of your campaign in the subject line of emails.”
What’s an example of a headline that works?
“It really depends on what time you’re sending it and who you’re sending the email to. Adding ‘revealed’, ‘data reveals’, or ‘experts say’ to the start of an email headline would traditionally increase the open rates. However, these terms have become overused and less effective. If you change your headlines and mix up the wording you’ll stand out much more.”
How do you measure the value of reactive PR?
“You should partially look at the links that you build for brand new clients - whether that requires building the link profile or a diverse set of links. They might already have syndicated links across regional publications which are great for their backlink profile. Then, you need to analyse what the competitors are up to.
If a client got a link within Motor One but your client hasn’t got the link in Motor One, you should target those backlink gaps in order to compete with your competitors. Once you achieve that, it should essentially raise you in the SERPs and you’ll climb higher.”
Will journalists automatically link to you if they know you’re the resource or do you have to make sure you ask them for the link as well?
“When you launch a campaign you should add ‘if you want to use this data please credit…’ and then link to the relevant post. Alternatively, if it’s an expert comment and you’re jumping on it, you could ask the client if they can link to a relevant category page within your site.
For example, for an automotive client’s site, it could be a landing page on EVs or hybrid cars because that article would be relevant. This will also be considered a trust signal from Google because all of the content around it is talking about electric vehicles. If you get linked with this content on electric vehicles or cars, Google will see this as a trust signal because everything is interconnected and relevant.”
What’s the future of reactive PR? Is it going to be more about using social media platforms or will blog posts and traditional journalism still be relevant?
“Both. You can use the traditional blog posts that you have on there, but if you want a quick win you can look at social media and analyse TikTok and such. It’s good for internal PR teams to work with social teams because they might spot something you can monopolise to complement your existing plans. If you have content writers who are writing blog posts for a client, it’ll be great to see the content plan so you can get the media list, email templates, journalists, etc. ready for outreach. Once that’s ready and it’s live, you can just hit that link in there and send it out to journalists in the hope it gets covered.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Building links for the sake of building links. We used to think a high volume of links was a trust signal to Google, but when you do a deep dive on someone’s profile you might see they’ve got spammy links, loads of forums, directory sites, and things that aren’t directly related to their business.
Relevancy is the key to 2023 because it does impact your search. If you’re an automotive client and you’ve got links within a beauty publication, how is that going to drive sales and traffic to the site? If someone is interested in beauty they’re less likely to be interested in cars.”
Eva Cheng is a Digital PR Consultant at Evolved Search and you can find her at evolvedsearch.co.uk.
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