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B2B PR, Guests, Guides and advice, Sector knowledge, SEO

Q&A with James Roach, digital PR & marketing specialist: Driving brand growth through digital PR and link building

The demand for digital PR has increased significantly in recent years, with businesses putting in place strategies that focus on driving online presence by applying the principles of PR to digital content. With over 10 years’ experience in the SEO and digital marketing industry, we sat down with James Roach, freelance digital PR & marketing specialist, to find out about the role digital PR plays and how the boundaries of traditional and digital have been blurred.

Q: Tell us a little about you and your background, James

A: Hi, thanks for having me! I’m a digital marketer specialising in digital PR, on-site content creation and creative campaigns. Everything I do is geared towards driving organic growth for brands online through content and creative campaigns.

I’ve been in the digital marketing world for around 10 years now all within an agency environment. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the largest brands around, in a variety of industries from retail to insurance, travel and everything in between.

Q: How has Digital/SEO PR evolved over time and what has changed?

A: Well, there have been quite a few changes in the time that I’ve been involved with digital PR. I’d say one of the main changes would be that earlier in my career there was a strong emphasis on creating large interactive style pieces of content to feature in publications just for being ‘a cool thing’. In this day and age, digital PR is very much all about the story now; if you’re story isn’t compelling or newsworthy then it won’t get picked up.

Reactive PR and newsjacking opportunities are two more commonly used tactics now too. Both of these approaches can be done with a much smaller budget and sometimes require minimal content creation as there will be opportunities where expert commentary is sufficient enough to be sent to the press. 

Lastly, actually getting coverage nowadays has become harder due to the massive rise in competition within the field. Alongside that, publications have become aware of these tactics, meaning that some sites now have a no follow policy on links they include in articles.

Q: What are the main differences between traditional PR and Digital PR for SEO?

A: Historically, traditional PR would usually focus efforts on TV, radio, newspapers in order to boost brand awareness or communicate their brand messaging. On the other hand, digital PR looks to achieve the same goals of brand awareness etc but is executed online. In this day and age, traditional PR does encourage the use of digital too, so when we really talk about traditional vs digital PR, the digital PR most agencies offer is designed to specifically boost SEO performance.

With that in mind, the topics that a digital PR practitioner would cover can differ a lot from what a traditional PR team would cover. Traditional PR teams tend to work on content/press releases etc surrounding company news (acquisitions, performance, collaborations etc). Whereas digital PR rarely talks directly about the actual brand, but instead draws inspiration from wider/trending topics that the audience might be interested in.

Q: Are there any differences in digital/SEO PR for B2B compared to B2C?

A: I would say the main difference would be the topics you might cover in your digital PR campaign, determining your ideas depending on your target audience. As an example, if you were looking to increase your brand awareness and reputation to appeal to other businesses then you might want to target very focused publications within your chosen sector, tailoring the content to what they want. Whereas if you were looking to target a customer focused audience, you could choose a wider topic that could be outreached to multiple online publications.

Q: Can traditional and SEO focused PR programmes work side by side or are there any issues with this?

A: Yes, they can, similar to my answer in the earlier questions about the differences between the two. Traditional internal PR teams should not feel threatened at all by anyone trying to run a digital PR campaign alongside the traditional teams’ output. In fact, it has a greater chance of enhancing your work rather than working against each other.

Q: If you’re tasking your regular PR agency with link building, what are the key pieces of information they need to know about your SEO strategy?

A: Ah this is a tricky one as I would be inclined to say that you actually need to have someone who is well versed in digital PR and link building within that team, rather than just telling the traditional PR team what to do.

Essentially it comes down to the types of ideas that are used, digital PR campaigns tend to come from a different creative space, and they have to be made with an asset that ties into relevant keywords and correct internal linking etc.

Q: What metrics are key to success?

A: The obvious answer is the number of placements that are gained. But then each placement is not equal, we’re mostly looking for links from publications that go back to the client. Failing that, any link at all or brand mentions as well. On top of this, we need to also be tracking website traffic, keyword visibility movements in the SERPS and Domain Ranking to name a few.

Q: Where does content sit in the whole thing?

A: Well, digital PR is content, but it’s content with the added newsworthy element that allows it to be easily outreached and potentially linked to for its newsworthiness. A digital PR piece will typically sit on a blog section of a website, alongside ‘typical’ blog style content.

Q: What are the biggest/most common mistakes made in digital PR?

A: To be honest, this isn’t a very common mistake but the biggest mistake you need to avoid is creating something that relies on execution rather than the story. No matter how nice your campaign looks, if it doesn’t have the right meaning behind it or ‘that’ hook it still won’t get the placements you want.

Q: What are your three golden nuggets of advice to share with anyone looking to create a digital PR campaign to help with SEO performance?

A: Here’s my best three tips:

  • Always think story first – Would a journalist want to write about this/is this useful to anybody?
  • Don’t bury the story – Don’t mix the message by focusing on lots of different things, make it clear and easy to understand.
  • Speak to journalists – Understand what they want from you, it’ll stop you stabbing in the dark with ideas.

Do you understand the importance of relationships in B2B marketing?

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About this article

Read time:

4 minutes


B2B PR, Guests, Guides and advice, Sector knowledge, SEO

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