Digital PR is not a link-building bolt on

26 July 2020 5 min read
Written by

Jay Evans

Following on from his first article on Digital PR, Head of PR, Jay Evans looks at why digital PR isn't a link-building bolt on. 

I have been working in PR agencies on and off for nearly two decades. The agencies of today are vastly different to how it was when I started out – I was still faxing press releases to news outlets as an account exec. Digital PR has been one of the biggest evolutions during this time.

I have been concerned with a plethora of new agencies popping up, claiming to be digital PR agencies. I find this disturbing. As I have written previously, digital PR is a staple in the PR diet, not an expensive snack to bolt on, or to replace your current PR agency. I have reviewed said companies, and the people behind them over the years. Barely any of them are PR professionals, in fact, they are digital marketing experts who have seen a way to dupe companies into believing that what they do is real PR.

ARE DIGITAL PR AGENCY SERVICES EFFECTIVE PR

No, it isn’t effective PR, it is quite the opposite. Many are using digital marketing techniques to post articles and press releases, as they would paid-for content. Don’t get me wrong, this is good for improving SEO, website traffic and ultimately it will have some effect on sales.

But and this is a big but, some are using websites that pay heavily for their Google ranking. Some digital PR agencies spend a fortune for the content to be placed and guarantee a click through link to a client’s site – well that is the primary objective - but I pose two questions on this…

1.    Does this agency know if Google consider these links (which they are more than aware are paid for) as credible sources - therefore improving Google ranking? 
2.    Is it achieving anything? Are the links doing anything to build credibility, trust, and reputation with the key purchasing audience?

Public Relations, by definition, improves reputation, trust, awareness and credibility for your company, brand or even people within our organisation. It is a known fact, that people will more likely purchase, oftentimes at a higher price than a competitor, because they trust the company they are buying from. Does having 100 links on obscure websites achieve this? What is it doing for your reputation? Is that person ultimately going to trust your brand over a competitor? Probably not! Therefore, what is being offered by these agencies is Digital Marketing and should not be confused with public relations.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

An article, written by a reputable journalist, from your carefully crafted press release and posted on The Independent website is worth 50 SEO friendly links. With the right relationship with editors – which PR agencies have been developing for decades – a link from this website is credibility gold. There are thousands of credible websites out there that PR professionals do not pay for – because they produce content that editors want and is right for their audience. Digital PR alongside a radio, television, print and social affairs activity is something only your PR agency can offer.

DITCH LOOKING AT DIGITAL PR AGENCIES - TEST YOUR PR AGENCY

Why not hire a digital PR specialist, they seem all bells and whistles and legit? My argument is, what have you done to challenge your own PR agency? Have you spoken to them about your digital aspirations? Do they offer everything that’s being offered by these emerging micro-agencies? If you haven’t asked – you will never know. The PR industry is often given a hard time for its lack of progression and futureproofing. I would argue these people have limited experience with agencies and should perhaps do their research before writing scathing articles in marketing press.

I have worked in - and with - some of the UKs top London agencies and regional hubs too, and I can wholeheartedly assure you that they are capable of so much more than you will give them credit for. I know too many PR pros I could name that are experts in SEO, link-building and digital marketing strategies and these are ingrained in the retainers they have with their clients. The difference between your incumbent PR agency and a digital PR agency is that your current agency does not charge extra for digital – it is just part of what they do for you every week. 

KNOWING WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GOOD PR AGENCY

If you have limited experience with PR agencies, you may not be aware that often they will work with your multiple agencies as a hub – all working with the same goal. At Mobas, we have experts in business transformation, business strategy, marketing planning and implementation, web design and build, and public relations. We therefore have a wider understanding of the marketing landscape and what can affect a client reaching their ultimate business goals. Our expertise allows us to work with multiple agencies, in multiple disciplines effectively, ensuring a working relationship with one objective – to transform your business to where you want it to be. In the case of my team – by transforming your reputation through effective public relations. It is unlikely your reputation will be positively affected by 40-50 links - but could be incredibly improved by just one – the right one! When choosing an agency my advice would be to review case studies, and ask yourself “What can they bring to the table that others cannot? Do they have synergy with my current agencies? Will they help me to transform my business to where it needs to be?” – not be led by over-promising and exaggerated results by agencies who “claim” to be PR specialists.