As digital PRs, we can often get stuck with our "campaign glasses", especially in the idea and production phase of a creative campaign.
By that I mean, you have a preconceived idea of where you want your campaign to appear, what kind of headlines you want it to make, and how people should read your data and your story.
As we all know, we cannot control the results of a campaign, but we can definitely point it in the right direction.
To give your link building campaigns the best chance in the outreach phase, you need to ensure that there is enough creative diversification during the production process, especially for data-driven articles and surveys. This opens up your "pool of journalists" and gives you a lot more people to contact with a potential interest in your play.
What is creative diversification?
With creative diversification, you minimize the risk of your link building campaign by making sure that your idea is broad enough during the production process. It doesn't matter what format you use for each campaign – you always need to acknowledge that it is diverse enough to survive in a changing news landscape. You want to come up with an idea that can naturally explore multiple angles and sectors in the outreach phase. This flexibility needs to be established pre-production by researching the potential results and headlines you are looking for before you have them.
Find related topics
In the production phase, of course, we have to focus on our fundamental topic. This is often the main reason the domain is there. It could be finance, travel, fashion – you get the picture.
Then you want to start branching out and layering topics: Finance + Students, Travel + Safety, Fashion + Elon Musk, and so on. You try to capture interesting subtopics.
Every link builder has a different approach to discovering these topics. The easiest way to get started is to grab a piece of paper and scribble ideas using word association. Just write as much as you can and you will find that there are many closely related subject areas that your content could delve into. (Tools like BuzzSumo would be invaluable here, but if you're looking for a free alternative, I've been enjoying playing with AlsoAsked.com lately for inspiration on related topics, but it doesn't beat existing news content.)
It is also important to think about the relevance of the topic because if she If you are questioning a weak link between your domain and the topic, rest assured that journalists will too. Link relevance is a completely different conversation. However, as long as it aligns with your client's goals and you view the link / coverage in full, you can't go wrong.
As a team at Root, we review our data points and approach a lot in the production phase of each campaign, noting that advocating personal expertise and curiosity often leads to interesting statistics. My own passion for veganism gave us a unique angle that proved fruitful when we undertook a third round of public relations for our recent COVID-19 spending campaign.
Take off your campaign glasses
When the idea for your new campaign came out of your head, you are emotionally and personally invested, whether you like it or not. You need to put these feelings aside to get in touch with as many possible angles as possible from the start.
When I say you need to take off your campaign glasses, you need to (preferably with a colleague) tear up the campaign and think about where you can add more value. It is best to approach this objectively. So if you can tackle a colleague's campaign and vice versa, even better.
Some link builders will not consider their angles and opportunities until the content has been created and consider it an outreach decision. Success is definitely possible this way, but you are preventing yourself from being as successful as you might have been if you had thoroughly incorporated your content before and during the production process.
Mark the key areas and approaches that you want to address ahead of time and you can incorporate that into your outreach strategy later.
Make industry specific data for journalists
Often times, as you build media lists and discover relevant journalists, link builders can be encouraged to search through the content themselves and ignore it. Knowing what they write about, both on Twitter and in publications, is a good time to start thinking about what data you could create specifically for them.
In the campaign that I mention on this blog, we focused on data related to the fundamental issue of how people make their money during the pandemic, which has been directly influenced by journalists.
The journalist who covered this particular topic in USA Today luckily tweeted a lot about the stories he was working on so it was incredibly easy for us to tailor some content to his interest and later offer him the kind of unique dates that he wanted.
Aside from keeping an eye on Twitter, you can also use Google Discover and Reddit to find out what they're interested in, so you can understand what's being talked about and what's trending.
I know a lot of digital PRs regularly check out important releases in-person and instead have great Feedly feeds or insights on YouTube. Either way, in planning early, it's imperative to think about what a journalist will need over the next few weeks and make sure your campaign is diverse enough from the start.
Diversify your reach with hashed URLs
Another way to ensure that your content is diversified and prepared for wide reach is to use URL fragments, or "hashed URLs". In the case of our coronavirus spending research campaign, we used article hooks on the page to provide anchor links from the table of contents above which then allowed us to offer another level of personalization.
The key results or headings section in a table of contents is an essential part of any long-form data campaign, making it incredibly easy for journalists and readers to find the most relevant statistics in seconds.
If you've never implemented this yourself, there is an easier way than hooking – all you need to do is know your HTML basics. (Please excuse if I slaughter this description as a non-developer!) Place id = "# subject" so inside the heading tag it would look like this:
In the example below, a BBC journalist used the URL with "#vegetarian" when referring to our plant-based food usage statistics. This came from the ID tag and meant the journalist could refer directly to the research relevant to his article.
We could also send semi-personalized links to journalists. This is a win-win situation and a best practice for users and search engine crawlers to navigate your long-form content anyway.
This is a literal manifestation of your creative diversification process from the start, as it has now been created and each hash url is an additional asset directing journalists to the data most relevant to them.
Creative diversification in action
The campaign I mentioned in this article was a lengthy but simple survey campaign for a fin-tech client asking Americans about their spending habits during the pandemic. We picked up a lot of information, but the top three rankings we landed (BBC, CNBC, and USA Today) all covered different angles and data points from each other, but from this one poll, and that wasn't an accident.
In the production phase, we knew we needed to focus on the fundamentals of the campaign: spending during the pandemic. Our related issues led us to grocery store spending, and another leap encouraged us to consider food choices (did Americans eat more vegetables during the lockdown? Hmmm). These topics were still closely tied to our core focus (finance) and therefore useful for our public relations work in terms of securing relevant and high quality connections.
In the outreach strategy, we prioritized landing placements that are directly linked to the campaign fundamentals. The related topics were then fed into the successive rounds that we selected based on the strength of the data obtained from the survey.
If in the production process you think that there is too much going on with too many angles, you may have just created several mini content campaigns for yourself.
We've found time and time again that the simpler stories and leaner, more targeted outreach emails land far more placements than bloated emails trying to deliver way too much content at once.
That's not to say you should auto-split larger content, but your reach should be the final step in diversifying your content. A data analysis research piece that covers multiple sectors should simply highlight the most relevant information for the journalist in bite-sized sections. We shared food spend data with retail journalists, vegan food consumption data with food writers, and outside employment data with those writing about the latest employment trends.
The next time you create a content campaign, let your team (even if you are) ruthlessly find new sectors, journalists, and audiences to make sure your next piece is as diverse as possible. Creative diversification = more hooks and less risk.
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