In over eight years of running Digital PR campaigns I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some of the greatest minds in the industry, learning the craft and understanding where to avoid some of the pitfalls that Digital PR campaigns can present.
The brands I have worked with have been fortunate enough to be able to bring in experts and agencies to run this type of work for them, but for some companies this isn’t an option, and so internal resources are used instead. For some, this likely means learning on the job, which can be intimidating and overwhelming.
This guide is for those people.
Being an organiser and team and project manager at heart, one of the ways I have found it best to work on campaigns of this type, is to have clearly defined processes that can pave the way for every campaign you work on. And although no two campaigns are ever the same, some of the things I will talk about in this blog post will hopefully allow you to spend more time being creative, producing great content and impressing your peers, and less time worrying about the logistics and the admin.
This blog post will cover
- Section 1 – Connect with your internal stakeholders
- The importance of an Intro call and who should be on it
- What you need to cover in the call
- What you need to request from each internal team
- Section 2 – Ideation
- What types of ideas work?
- The importance of the creative brief and what questions to ask
- Judging your ideas (the 123 meeting)
- Pitching your ideas internally – tell a story
- Section 3 – The production process
- The Croud 5 step production process
- Key milestones to consider
Section 1: Connect with your internal stakeholders
So you’ve been asked to create your first Digital PR campaign for the company, great news, now’s your time to impress and have some fun along the way.
The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure everybody is clear on why a Digital PR campaign is being produced in the first place. For this reason I recommend booking in a kick off call with the appropriate internal teams to go over exactly what you are there to do, and let them know what you’ll need from them as support.
This usually includes:
- Brand/Design & Marketing
- Tech/Dev team
The intro call will be a perfect time for you to run through why you are working with them (for those unaware), so start from the beginning.
Some key things you might want to cover are:
- State of play – why the need for Digital PR? (competitor analysis, link opportunities etc)
- Clarify KPI’s (links, brand awareness, social engagement etc)
- Measurement for success
- Explain the approach (How do these campaigns work & the process?)
- What each team member maybe required for throughout the process (see below)
What to request from each team
Section 2: Ideation
Ideation is key to the success of any Digital PR campaign, and to make sure you are set up for success you need to understand both yours and your wider supporting team’s ability to produce ideas.
Although this might not be an option for an internal team, freelance support here can be invaluable. If you do have to rely solely on internal resources then it is key that you pull together some of the more creative individuals to help brainstorm, but even more important is you being able to brief them and make them understand the types of ideas and angles you’ll be looking for.
A lot of people who have never ideated for Digital PR purposes before tend to generate ideas that are all brand focused, these are the ideas that tend to have the least success unfortunately.
We’re lucky in that Croud has a bespoke tool (Croud Control) which houses over 2,500 specialists that we can call upon to help depending on the client brief. Working in this way gives us the ultimate flexibility to ensure we always cherry pick the best people for the brief.
The creative brief
Before starting ideation you need to pull together a brief that will make the ideation process clear for both you and the wider team supporting. I recommend creating a templated briefing document that you can run through each time you embark on a campaign.
Some of the things you’ll want to answer are:
- Off limit topics/timings
- Wider topic areas to consider (non brand or service related)
- Desirable publications to be featured in
- Target keywords to consider
- Target section of site
- Internal data availability
- Regions for campaign (where are you trying to get coverage from?)
- Any technical restrictions on site
- Internal PR schedule/calendar
Feel free to download my template for your own use here.
The 123 meeting
Once you have your longlist of ideas it’s a great idea to run it by your wider support team for sense checking. Something we had in place at Distilled where I was the Creative Team Manager was the ‘123 meeting’. It was a simple premise, it was a place for ideators to pitch their top level ideas to the wider team and allow time for feedback and discussion. At the end of the meeting we would all rank each other’s ideas, and our own with either a one, two or three.
Scoring system key:
- One = Great idea (should progress to validation and further development)
- Two = OK idea (maybe more thought required on certain aspects)
- Three = Shouldn’t be considered
It’s useful to have a templated spreadsheet where one person can tally up everyone’s scores alongside each idea. The ideas with the lowest points are the ones that progress to the next stage of development and validation.
Template can be downloaded from here.
I’ve mentioned validation a few times here, and it’s vitally important at the ideation stage. For me the validation stage is about:
- Validating an idea can actually be created
- Is the data available that you need to tell the story? And does it tell the story you need?
- Do you have enough budget?
- Do you have the right people to get what you need?
- Do you have enough time to do what you need?
- Validating the hook/story with working journalists
- Run the idea past working journalists and get their feedback and recommendations
- Tweak the idea as needed to ensure you have every chance of success
Pitch for your life
If you’ve followed the above steps then you should be confident that you’ve got some ideas that both align with your company’s ethos, as well as serve the journalists who are ultimately going to be your target. When pitching the ideas back to your internal teams, ensure you create a story around your ideas, offering insight into why the idea would work, and how it ties in with the newscycle right now, why it is relevant to the company and where it would be featured. If you can, creating a mock up of what it could look like is one of the best ways to sell your idea, as well as showing a snippet of data that may be required to tell your story.
Section 3: The production process
You’ve pitched your big ideas and everyone is excited to get going, so what’s next?
You’re going to need to understand what your process looks like for getting projects completed, and although there will be some differences depending on the idea that’s been selected, there usually is a framework you can follow to get the campaign going.
Below is a simple 5 step process that I tend to follow, from ideation right through to outreach:
It’s important to inform internal stakeholders of the next steps along with key dates for certain deliverables, and most importantly, key dates for when you’re going to need their input. After ideation has been completed the key junctures you’ll most likely need to map out and inform everyone of are:
- Research & Data phase
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on raw data set with key stats and facts clearly outlined
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on methodology statement (how you gathered your data set)
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on initial design concept
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on final design concept
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on initial wireframe/working prototype
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on final version of build
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on prospect list
- Sign-off from relevant stakeholders on outreach email and press release
At any of the stages above you should be aware that there may be feedback and amends that need to be made, and this should be built into your timelines. It’s also worth noting that the outreach preparation stage does not have to wait until the end, it can get going from a lot earlier in the process, once the main hooks and angles are developed, usually before design. Getting this done ahead of time means that outreach can commence as soon as a piece has been deployed.
It’s best to share the above plan internally, in a tool or spreadsheet that’s easy to view and understand. At Croud we use a project management tool (Forecast), which integrates seamlessly with our in house time tracking system and Croudie management tool, Croud Control.
By this stage all the building blocks are in place, and you’re well equipped to make your Digital PR campaign a success.
From here on in you’ll need to call upon all your people and project management expertise to ensure you can keep the campaign running to time, and be clear with everyone involved about the impact of missed deadlines etc. Where a campaign is particularly time sensitive then these particular project management skills will be put to the test like never before, making it even more important to have a clearly defined process that you can follow each time you embark on a project.
Digital PR can be great fun, but it doesn’t come without its own set of unique challenges, making sure you are prepared and have a well oiled process is key. It doesn’t alleviate all issues, but will certainly minimise the majority, allowing you the time to do what you do best, be creative and lead from the front.
Thanks for reading.