Merging SEM and PR Fundamentals to Put Your Brand at the Forefront of Digital PR

October 13, 2015
Aaron Polmeer

By Today’s Industry Insider

You’ve got the product, you’ve got the service, and you’ve also got a team of intelligent minds covering the operational and promotional efforts. So, what’s keeping your brand from being top-of-mind when consumers have a need you can fulfill? If you haven’t implemented a solid digital PR strategy, you need to fill that hole, sooner rather than later.

Digital interactions influence 36 cents of every dollar spent in the retail store, or approximately $1.1 trillion total. The interactions you have with consumers in the market for your product or service are more valuable than you may think. This is why it’s important for your brand to cover every potential touch point with legitimately helpful content. The trick is figuring out how you can successfully leverage the power of digital PR to create and distribute awesome content that actually gets seen and talked about by your target audience. Check out my eight tips for building a digital brand with authority and clout in your industry.

Stay on Top of Trending Topics

A great way to make your content stand out from that of hundreds of others who cover your topic is to come up with posts that are not only timely, but that also offer unique insights, alternative perspectives, and interesting data. This is where the tools come in.

You can use Google Alerts and BuzzSumo to stay on top of trending topics within your industry and review top performing pieces. You can also use your Google Analytics account to see what topics consumers are typing into the site search bar in order to create content specific to your current visitors’ needs.

Here’s how you can use BuzzSumo and Google Alerts:

Google Alerts

With Google Alerts, you can set up email alerts for news surrounding your topic(s) of choice. Alerts with news articles related to your chosen topic(s) will come straight to your Gmail account. You’ll get an alert every time Google pulls news related to your keywords. You can adjust your alerts to come in either as the news is pulled, once a day at most, or once a week at most. You can also adjust your alerts to fit your preferred language, region, source, and quantity per email.


BuzzSumo helps you search your industry keywords to find out what’s trending and why.

Give Readers What They Want

Your customers are already telling you what they want to see on your blog. You can find these topics with a simple Google search. The search engine’s autocomplete feature fills in the blanks with popular searches to help you figure out what your audience wants to know about when it comes to a particular topic, product, or service.

I want to know what I should write about in my branding piece. Aha! Small biz branding it is!

Once you’ve used autocomplete to determine your broader topic, it’s time to get more specific.

Tools like Quora allow you to find questions that have been asked surrounding the topics you’re looking to cover. You can use these questions to provide increased focus and value to your upcoming post. Check out my example for a small business branding post below.

Now, you can title and write your post to answer real questions surrounding small biz branding.

Take Your Blogging Strategy Offsite

Contributing valuable content from your expertise in a given field is a fantastic way to build your brand’s credibility within its space. This is where guest posting comes in.

The first thing to note as you create a guest post strategy is that your content should be consumer focused. Your main objective for contributed content should be creating something that actually helps the reader or customer and gives them honest, digestible information to help make their buying process easier.

The second thing to note is that you should only be seeking out quality sites. Start your search by using the following method to find sites that accept guest content on your area of expertise.

From here, check to see which of these sites are high quality, authoritative, and relevant. The best way to identify a quality site is by checking out its stats. My team uses the Moz bar for this, focusing heavily on the domain authority (DA) and spam score for each site. You can download a free version of the Moz bar for Chrome and Firefox.

Sites with a DA of above 50 and spam score below 4 will offer your best opportunities. Once you’ve found a few sites of value that cover topics related to your industry, find their contact info and pitch away!

Be sure to look for contributor guidelines prior to pitching as some sites ask that you follow a specific pitching process. If a site doesn’t provide pitching instructions, focus on creating a concise pitch that effectively explains your article idea and credentials as an expert on its topic. Get creative with your pitches, play around with different subject lines, and switch up the layout and content of each email to figure out what works for you.

Just a heads up, there will be A LOT of rejection with guest posting. The good news is that the more you pitch, the better you get!

Create Partnerships With Other Brands

Influencer marketing is blowing up among major brands, and for good reason! The strategy forms mutually beneficial partnerships that foster growth and establish authority for both the influencer and the brand. You can use this to boost the reach of your brand’s social accounts and/or your blog.

At my last firm, I used influencer marketing to build an Instagram account from the ground up within a month. I bypassed spammy follow/unfollow methods in favor of this method as I wanted to build an audience that would actually engage with my brand (a local shopping mall) after following its account.

I found five established Utah fashion bloggers within the area of the mall, and asked if they’d be interested in working with us to promote an upcoming giveaway. This gave them the opportunity to share something awesome with their fans, and helped us leverage their influence to reach our exact target market. Win-win, right?!

Here’s how you can pull it off too:

  1. Identify influencers in your industry
  2. Select a handful of influencers with engaged followers who match your target demo.
  3. Create partnership terms and identify potential incentives for the influencer (vanity, exposure, free product, etc.).
  4. Reach out to your list of influencers to explain the opportunity and solidify relationships with those who are interested.
  5. Implement your strategy and monitor success weekly. Try new things to use this opportunity to test your content on their large follower base.

A larger scale example of this would be Madewell’s influencer marketing strategy that used just five influencers to promote the anniversary of their signature tote to over one million targeted consumers.

@Stephsterjovski helping Madewell reach the masses with just one fabulous tote

Use Your Influence for Good

As a brand, you can create content pieces for your blog that serve a greater purpose. This helps to humanize your brand while making great content that connects you with consumers who care about the same things you do. For example, a brand within the tech sphere could discuss the positive influence of women in tech or highlight a charity that provides online access to inner-city schools.

Start by finding a cause or initiative that aligns with your brand’s core values. Once you’ve got it, check out who is already working to make a difference in this area and highlight their work on your blog, or simply write about the cause and why you think it’s important.

If you’d prefer, you could also get hands-on and help out with the charity or initiative, then blog about your experience later. You can use a site like for this. Just be sure that no matter what you choose to do or highlight, you remain genuine and focus on the cause rather than your brand in the article.

Don’t Be Afraid to Shake Things Up

Using your blog or social media influence for good is important, however, sometimes it takes a little controversy to keep things interesting.

To create some controversy, try presenting a controversial angle on a timely topic to generate more interest in the content. Maybe take a stance that others haven’t dared to take, or ask critical questions on a topic from the position of Devil’s Advocate. Check out Google News to see what stories are hot in your market. Then set up a brainstorm to gather ideas on how your content team can create a report that goes against the grain a bit.

One important thing to note here is that it is absolutely essential to remain ethical and transparent when addressing potentially controversial posts. Be sure to acknowledge and respect the opposing opinion. Also, be clear and honest with stats and facts, regardless of whether or not they work in favor of the point you’re trying to make. Controversial topics are great for a little boost in clicks, but never worth damaging your brand’s reputation with a disrespectful article.

Roll With the Punches

Not every piece of content will perform as hoped. This holds true for social posts, contributed content, and onsite content. Although rejection from editors or strikingly low page views might make you want to give up, it’s important to realize that this is all part of the process.

Larry Kim in one of his recent webinars presented one of my favorite theories on this. In his presentation, he explained what he calls the “unicorn content” theory. According to Kim, only the top 4% of your content will be a unicorn. Kim adds that this content will generate 40% of traffic, 70% of social shares, and 80% of links and blog comments.

So, maybe most of your content will perform moderately well at best, but once you get that unicorn, you’ll be happy you didn’t let a series of subpar results discourage you from producing more content!

Never Stop Evolving

Constantly keep an eye out for opportunities to learn and grow from others in the digital marketing field. Look for online videos from large conferences like MozCon and Search Love if your budget doesn’t allow for travel and attendee fees. Some videos will require a purchase to view, but they’re well worth it.

I would also encourage you to seek out and follow influencers outside of conferences. Keep an eye out for their blog updates and guest contributed content by following their fan pages on Twitter and Facebook. Some of my favorite influencers are Lexi Mills, Wil Reynolds, Avinash Kaushik, Larry Kim, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

It’s Your Brand’s Time to Shine

Having a great product or service is the first critical step in building a solid brand. What really sets you apart from your competition once you’ve got the product covered is having the know-how to move your brand to the forefront of your consumer market’s attention.

By creating and implementing a solid digital PR strategy, you can make some serious strides in taking your brand to the big leagues within its market. It’s time for your PR and marketing teams to step it up, incorporate these tips into your online marketing strategy, and finally get Baby out of the corner!

Have a question? Something to add? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author: Cosette Jarrett earned her BA in Mass Communications with a PR emphasis from the University of Utah. She has worked in digital marketing and PR for 6 years, holding in-house, agency, and nonprofit roles. She’s currently with some of the nations top brands as an Outreach Strategist for CLEARLINK. In her time away from the office, Cosette enjoys freelance writing, hiking, and obsessing over Instagram and her cat.

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