Posted on: 02.05.2023

The Future of PR: ilk’s Predictions.

Ah it’s never quiet, is it? 

Just moments after we all feared our jobs would be overtaken by AI (more on that here), we’re now being told to fear the redundancy of the entire Digital PR offering itself. 

Before we all get into a state of panic, we need to iron something out: what PR and Digital PR actually are. Not what your clients think it means, but the very purpose and essence of the PR industry – something which is so often lost amongst the shouts of ‘look at how many links we’ve achieved this month!!!!’ (you’ve all seen ‘em).

That is what PR was founded on, and that’s what we so often see forgotten among spiralling link targets, client expectations and unrealistic promises. 

Digital PR isn’t going to go anywhere, as long as you are producing good, solid work that is relevant for your client and their audience, and not just getting links from anywhere and everywhere for the sake of meeting targets. 

What can we learn from traditional PR?

Traditional PR is so often deemed a ‘dirty’ word by digital marketers, but there is so much we can take from this practice when it comes to Digital PR and building links. 

First, move towards PR reporting metrics away from DA and followed links. Sentiment analysis. Reach. Coverage. Share of Voice. 

These are so vitally important in measuring the impact of PR activity, and show that your campaign has had a real impact on your audience – not just that it got a link. And on the topic of links, the link-building struggle is one all PRs can relate to. But the followed link building struggle reaches a new level entirely. 

As publications have cottoned onto the sudden desire for followed links, many of their link policies have changed. Top-tier publications are now either removing links altogether or including a no-followed version instead. 

We aren’t saying that followed links lack value. These golden links offer incredible SEO benefits, and if your client’s objective is to increase online visibility and search engine rankings they should be your top KPI, no question about it. But, even without that follow direct, a no-follow link is still crucial for brand awareness for your client, and it’s a metric that we believe should still be reported on and celebrated. The same goes for non-linking coverage too. 

So, what else should we remember when it comes to building a strong Digital PR strategy?

Relevancy is key.

One thing we must never underestimate is the issue of relevance. 

We all understand that when the pressure is on, it sometimes feels like you’d do anything to secure that coverage. 

But Google values relevancy over anything. If you work on behalf of a mortgage broker, for example, you shouldn’t be going out with a campaign surrounding health vaccinations or what the nation’s favourite fish and chip shop is. 

Many Digital PRs need to merge the space between client and campaign to ensure that they’re relevant, attracting key audiences, and in turn, also relevant for the publications they’re targeting. 

But your campaigns must relate back to your client and have a clear connection. Think of your audience first. What content is going to be of genuine interest to your audience, and what is going to establish your client as a voice of authority in their field? That’s what you should consider.

Quality over quantity. Always.

Sure, thousands of links sound impressive. Hell, in today’s climate, hundreds of links is impressive, yet the expectations around link-building have pushed Digital PR to be questioned, readjusted, and frequently debated.

As long as Google values DA, we will too. This doesn’t mean a knee-jerk reaction by implementing completely irrelevant Digital PR campaigns across unauthoritative titles, but rather, it should mean tactical, well thought out campaigns landing in key and relevant sites, meeting your target audience.

And yes, that means less links. Less spammy, less unauthoritative, and quite frankly less embarrassing

The mere mention of your client in those high DA publications, even before the authoritative quotes and no follow/follow links, still and will absolutely continue to play a huge part in boosting brand awareness.

So when it comes to setting KPIs, consider quality over quantity. Securing even three links in authoritative, relevant and diverse sites will always be worth more than 100 spammy links. 

Managing expectations.

Journos have their own targets to hit. Us PRs have our own KPIs to focus on. And painfully, we’re currently outweighing journos by quite the margin, as their inboxes hit up to 1,000 emails on a quiet day.  

With a growing pool of digital agencies and a shrinking pool of journalists, the competition is fierce. There’s no denying it, and there’s certainly no time to be shying away from it. 

Yet promising your client the world, and only achieving an island, will naturally lead to a fragmented relationship. Not to mention a very disheartened team internally too. Getting into the habit of guaranteeing a set amount of links in an ever-changing mediasphere is setting yourself up for failure. We’ve seen it first hand, and the end results are never pretty.

So how do you get around this? Simply put, you don’t make promises you can’t keep. Managing client expectations is absolutely key, whether it’s the start of a brand new exciting client on your roster, or your longest-standing client, who you’ve worked with for years.

Work on educating your clients instead.

Educate your clients (and your internal teams!)

Educate your clients on the value of ‘less is more’, and how this will help achieve their goals, as well as reporting on metrics other than just links. It’s a conversation we should be having. 

This doesn’t mean sitting them down for a week-long session on the benefits of SEO and Digital PR. It means steering them away from the mindless tactics of repetitive and irrelevant link-building, and towards a more targeted and direct approach via storytelling that resonates with your target audiences. And in turn, generates high quality coverage that resonates and engages.

You are hired by a client to be knowledgeable and to be their consultant. It’s okay to challenge them sometimes. 

A final word

Digital PR deserves high credibility. We are proud to work in Digital PR, and to be a part of a community that really does support each other. The creativity, tenacity and ambition of the PR community is unlike any other.

But we should be shifting away from the dark ceaseless pit of link-building for the sake of it, and into a reality of quality, reputable and relevant links. 

PR and Digital PR aren’t dead. They are very much alive and thriving.

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