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Avoid These Five Dodgy Digital PR Practices

Avoid these five dodgy digital PR practices.

You may have noticed that more and more digital marketing agencies and freelancers are starting to offer digital PR as a service – and rightly so! Not only can it be an effective means of gaining links and enhancing your business or organisation’s online visibility, there are plenty of wider benefits it can bring to your other digital marketing channels – like increasing your website’s authority and driving keyword rankings, leads and even sales.

However, this is only the case if these digital PR campaigns are run correctly

What’s more, it’s not simply a matter of ‘doing digital PR’ and expecting positive results. A campaign needs to be created, rolled out and managed in the right way, to help drive the right returns. But unfortunately, without the right knowledge and trusted support, it’s easy to get confused – or sadly misled – by those offering digital PR to them. What’s more, you can fall foul of irrelevant or substandard approaches that simply won’t work for your company.

So if you are planning on branching out into digital PR and you’re looking to hire an agency to run it for you, here are five dodgy practices to look out for and how to avoid them. Then, when equipped with this understanding, you should be able to recognise if the digital PR campaign you’re paying for is right for your business and that it’s going to help bring the right returns.

#1 Producing misleading data and misinformation

Any digital PR campaign worth its salt will have been at least informed in some way by a dataset. Whether it’s interpreting existing information, getting customer responses or creating and analysing new and unique figures – data is the cornerstone of successful digital PR.

However, it can also be used by some to create misleading information, to inform campaigns that are less focussed on the truth and trustworthy insights, and more focussed on creating sensationalist ‘news’.

Data indices are a great example of this… Now don’t get us wrong, indices can be a fantastic, accessible and effective means of displaying data, particularly when ranking information or showing discrepancies between different parts of it, but this is providing they are indeed truthful and not clearly spun a certain way to suit an agenda or angle.

Those that do this will often take a small sample of data and use it to create an index or ranking system and then claim ‘all [persons] in [area] think this…’ without actually explaining that it’s a tiny snapshot of the population. Another approach is to take larger, existing data sets, compare them and then say ‘x is better than x’ or ‘those who believe y are more likely to z’ etc. – yes, you might get a couple of shocking headlines, but the claims aren’t particularly reliable here.

This also isn’t particularly good practice from an online perspective, as now more than ever, Google is working to stamp out misinformation and is penalising those who don’t offer honest ‘Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness’ or ‘E-E-A-T’.

How to avoid:

The simple thing here is to query the who, what, where, when and why of the dataset your chosen digital PR provider intends to source and use when they’re pitching you the idea. Although, this depends on whether or not they’ve actually explained this when presenting your idea – something they should have done already.

For extra due diligence, they should also share with you their findings and any assets they might use to present the data before they go live. This will also give you more opportunities to ask questions about the data and highlight any concerns.

#2 Not relying on expertise

On the subject of E-E-A-T, it’s useful to lend your voice – or the voice of a recognised expert – to any digital PR campaign that your business is involved in or running. Not only does this help qualify and validate the information the campaign is putting out there to both Google and the campaign’s audience, it also gives you an indirect opportunity to demonstrate that your brand knows its stuff and is a specialist in your sector.

Whether it’s in any content assets or social posts or press release quotes, ideally the person(s) lending their thoughts to this would be in a senior position or at least one which logically makes sense to comment on the subject matter of the campaign.

How to avoid:

This is another simple one to resolve in that if they don’t ask for your views, then ask the campaign manager why or when they intend to get your thoughts. If they then say they weren’t planning on it, refer them back to E-E-A-T!

#3 Running siloed campaigns

There are some digital marketing agencies and providers that offer ‘digital PR’ as a standalone service and very much treat it in isolation as one channel. Now, this approach might be the preference of some, but to us this means that you end up missing out on a wealth of other aspects that can support and benefit wider areas of your business’s digital marketing.

At Another Concept, we always factor in some or all of the following with our digital PR campaigns:

  • Expert content creation: the production of strong and engaging content assets that drive more interest in your campaign.
  • Considering search opportunities: analysis and subsequent optimisation of the campaign to help your on-site aspects potentially drive short and long term rankings.
  • Using content optimisation: as well as looking to optimise for any relevant search terms, we’ll also look to drive interest and leads with certain products or services your business offers, by naturally linking to these or subtly adding ‘calls to action’ into any campaign content.
  • Hitting E-E-A-T signals: as we’ve mentioned before, we will source relevant internal and external expertise where possible to help meet Google’s content guidelines and to provide validity and authenticity for the campaign.
  • Varying outreach processes: we won’t just send out a few press releases to a handful of sites, we’ll try various outreach approaches to help maximise coverage and campaign exposure.
  • Promotion via email, paid and social: we’ll leverage and utilise these channels if we think they’ll be beneficial for boosting the campaign and driving more positive results.

As the above probably demonstrates to you, thinking about the bigger picture is better than simply coming up with a campaign idea and sending it out to a few websites with the hope they’ll cover it.

How to avoid:

If the above approach is more in-line with what you’d like from a digital PR campaign, you have to go back to the provider’s pitch process for this one and get them to explain their processes. With any luck they will explain how they will look to weave in or include other digital marketing opportunities- if not, then you should be looking for another provider who will.

#4 Producing poor press releases and pitches

We’ve mentioned outreach above, which is obviously a pivotal aspect of a digital PR campaign, as it’s the means in which you can secure coverage, links and awareness – essentially what can be the top tier results.

While the strength of the campaign itself is another big factor in how well it gets picked up by other outlets, how it is positioned (and essentially sold to them) can be make or break. By this, we’re referring to everything from the quality of the press releases, to the pitch emails, subject lines, follow-up processes, response times and even chasing up natural coverage.

Put simply, if these are badly written, sloppy, not strategic and convoluted you run the risk of getting little to no pickup and potentially getting your brand blacklisted by sites that think you’re spamming them.

How to avoid:

By the time you’ve got to the outreach phase of a campaign, you should be fairly happy with things so far – providing you’ve been properly kept in the loop – but you need to do some further due diligence…

The campaign provider should have shared any outreach assets with you for approval, before they start sending them out. This way you can essentially check that they are accurate and properly position your business and the campaign. The last thing you’d want is a spelling error in your business’s name or a headline that’s totally off-brand to be put in front of a wider audience.

Without prying too much, you may also want to ask about their outreach processes and the types of publications they will be targeting, just to make sure that they don’t go after any that you won’t feel comfortable about.

#5 Taking mass distribution shortcuts

You may also encounter digital PR providers who promise specific results, such as link or coverage numbers. This should be a bit of a red flag.

It might be that they can achieve this, but in some cases they may use mass distribution shortcuts like AI-generated press releases and publication on paid-for news wire services. You can argue this in itself is a time-saving outreach strategy, but ultimately, it doesn’t add much value to your campaign and can lead to issues further down the line.

To go back to our previous points about Google cracking down on content that’s spammy and goes against its guidelines, if you have the same AI-generated press release across multiple sites that aren’t especially relevant, or which are obviously just built for the purposes of link posting, Google isn’t going to look too fondly on it. What’s more, as per the recent March 2024 Google update, these types of sites will likely be deindexed – so this ‘coverage’ will be ignored by Google.

How to avoid:

Alongside looking for the red flags we’ve mentioned, you can again help avoid this by enquiring about the outreach approach and what it might involve with your digital PR campaign.

The big coverage numbers might look great on face value, but in this case, less can be more. We’d always make the point that 10 pieces of coverage on quality, relevant and authoritative websites with high traffic is worth much more than 50 pieces on rubbish ones.

Looking for a reliable and quality Digital PR provider?

A final thing to consider here – whether some or all of the above dodgy practices are being used – is that the campaign will have your brand’s name attached to it. In other words, there’s going to be the looming prospect hanging over the campaign that your company’s good name will be fronting something poor or that’s been featured somewhere that doesn’t align with your core values.

Despite all of this, we don’t want to discourage you from using digital PR as it can be a hugely rewarding experience and investment for businesses across the sectors. What’s more, there are many providers who offer a fantastic service and have run some incredible campaigns for their clients – a group of which we’re proud to be a part.

So if you would like to know more about our approach to digital PR or you want to speak to us about your next campaign, get in touch today.

Get in Touch

Concerned you’re not pursuing the right strategy? Worried you’re not getting the results you should be? Let us know. We’ll take a look for free and give you our honest verdict.

Alternatively, if you’d like to have an informal discussion about the results we can help you achieve, get in touch. We’d love to meet you for a chat over a coffee or a beer.

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  • Rich Hart

    Rich has spent over 10 years working within agencies, in-house and on a freelance basis. Experienced in copywriting, content strategy, digital PR, outreach, consultancy, training and more, Rich currently drives our digital PR offering.

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