How Digital PR Is Evolving With Earned Media

Are SEO and PR really becoming the same thing? Will the progression of one lead to the end of the other? At DigitalRelevance, we believe the professions are merging, and we’re leading the charge to bring the two together in order to better serve our clients.

The careers of many PR professionals center on earned media. Whether looking for an interview, a hands-on review or inclusion in a product roundup, reaching out to writers and editors to garner coverage for clients, usually in the form of online mentions and links, has been the way of the modern PR world.

Historically at Relevance, talented SEOs worked to increase search visibility for clients by also securing links. While from a distance the two practices seem similar, they are in fact worlds apart in strategy and execution.

Guest posts

Most SEOs are familiar with the practice of guest posting. It’s been accepted as a solution to the now black hat offering of “link dropping,” in which links are placed on any and all websites, including forums and comments sections. Guest posting provides more relevant content on topics of interest to sites that accept a brand’s contributions. These sites are typically smaller than online mainstream media outlets, with less monthly traffic and social engagement from readers. Strategic links back to clients’ sites are included in those articles, which are placed frequently on the sites that will post them.

PR professionals have a similar practice, which requires them to write and pitch “bylined articles.” Outreach methods are basically the same, but transparency is key. The difference between a byline and a guest post is that with a byline, a PR pro provides a truly relevant piece of content that will benefit readers while simultaneously positioning oneself (or their client) as a thought leader or industry expert. Often, bylined articles are pitched to larger or very niche media, and the goal—unlike guest posting—is always quality over quantity.

Editorial coverage

As SEOs move away from guest posting and begin to create more valuable pieces of content, they are also learning how to secure editorial coverage. It’s called “earned media” for a reason – you’re literally trying to earn that exposure from an outlet, rather than crafting the piece and placing it yourself.

Rather than reaching out to an outlet and offering an article that you’ve written, editorial coverage is asking a media contact to incorporate your client, product or service into an article that she creates. You have to know that what you’re asking them to write about is something their readers will care about and, more importantly, you have to make sure they see that value immediately.

Editorial coverage can yield big payoffs: the outlets are usually larger and can provide more brand awareness. Unfortunately, you have to work really hard to earn these larger, more effective placements. For every media person representing a large outlet, there are hundreds of PR professionals vying for their attention. Having a plan of action is essential.