The United States of Digital PR
By Rebecca Wright
9 min read
Friday, 26th February 2021
Hi, I’m Rebecca. And I am leading the Digital PR offering here in the US. Let me tell you… digital PR in the US (in comparison to the UK) is a whole new world. In fact, it's not even called Digital PR out here! Not yet anyway 😉. Let me explain the difference you NEED to know regarding UK and US outreach and how your business can gain links (and I mean REALLY awesome links) the Rise at Seven way, but stateside…
Here is a deep dive into what digital PR looks like stateside - and the convergence of US and UK talent to take over earned media and digital relations.
In 2021, the media landscape looks bleak like a post-apocalyptic video game screen. That’s why we’ll unite what we know about digital PR, SEO, content marketing, and link building to fuse UK media relations and US media relations.
Here's what happened in 2020
Groups coming together for seemingly similar needs, such as unionizing and preserving their creative autonomy from massive publishing conglomerates. Popular websites are dissolving because there is no money to back them up… or, a major media conglomerate is about to take the reins. There’s a lack of funding for good, authentic, investigative local journalism so papers are dying. News deserts exist, and they’re expanding almost as fast as super megapolis cities. Furloughs from COVID-19 continue. Beats dissolve as newsrooms shrink and changes of coverage areas impact both PR professionals, marketers, and journalists alike.
Not to mention paywalls.
Safe to say, there is a massive shift in online communications, especially for digital marketing professionals. Once upon a time, you could create an outreach list that had 150 writers - knowing you’d find success somewhere in the rows of your Google Sheet filled out with lifestyle writers covering anything from entertainment to viral food trends. It didn’t quite matter, yet, if you hadn’t ever spoken to one of those writers before. Their inboxes weren’t flooded with 14 other pitches very similar to the one you had crafted.
Suffice to say: things are different.
But change can be good. And so can comparison, because looking at the market for digital PR in the United States versus the UK, digital PR efforts can teach us more about digital marketing, search, and earned media.
Besides, what’s better than a good old fashioned comparison?
What's similar in the US and the UK?
For the most part, the idea behind digital PR is the same, and so are a lot of the do’s and don’ts of outreach...
- You must watch the news (or read it, really) and understand where people consume their news about different topics from.
- You must understand the nature of online publishing: writers are looking for clicks and traffic to their stories. Same in the UK right?
- You must provide value in order to receive value.
- And… timing doesn’t matter when you’ve got the right story.
UK and US timing
There is all sorts of research about what time to send a pitch. What time to share the assets... But realistically, if you are working as if there’s a human at the other end of the email, your promotional efforts are going to be effective. Especially when you believed in your idea enough to pitch it in the first place. But of course, we dont wake up at the same time as you in the UK. And actually we (Americans) have different time zones too. The time you launch the campaign is dependent on the states you're targeting and the below image will help.
This is the UK time that each state wakes up. So if you’re outreaching to Chicago Tribune - 2pm UK time is when Chicago wakes to send your pitch.
On the note of pitches, they aren’t the only way to build links. There are relevant opportunities everywhere, from newsjacking commentary to social media influencer engagement to podcasts. We aren’t just building links - we’re building a buzz that’s fuel for a reciprocal relationship.
Where there is a will, data to support a comment, and an email address (or a tool to find it), there is a way.
But still, our perspectives matter in how we consume news, what is considered newsworthy, and what organic news finds its way to trending positions - which is how we determine what exactly is newsworthy based on where you live.
What's different from the UK in the US
Did you know, there is a lake in Chicago bigger than the whole of the UK? Yes, that's Lake Michigan. The UK at its longest is 300 miles whereas Lake Michigan is 307 miles long.
Put it this way. The United States is SO much bigger than the United Kingdom - in fact it's about 40 X bigger! And that includes publication opportunities too. And most people don't know that! Your seeding list should be atleast 10X bigger in the US than the UK because there’s so many more link opportunities across the country, and regionally too.
At Rise at Seven, we have created our own master sheet of US press and you should too. Break it down by niches, tag up their topics, know the authors. And that’s a great place to start. But… it does take time. In fact 4 years I've been building this up personally. It's that BIG!
State by state angles are good - but not always enough…
3,937% larger than the UK, the US has a whole host of differences in not only regional lifestyle, but state-by-state life. Some states are broken down even further, with regional differences within the state. The coastal Carolina accent and lifestyle is different than someone living in the Appalachian mountains; that’s just one state.
If that doesn’t make your brain spin…
This will: there’s a niche for anything and everything, if you know where to look. Riches come from niches, meaning there is treasure to be mined when you pitch different types of websites, industry blogs, and more. Creating relationships with writers in their respective space will help you not only grow to understand what their audience needs, but it’ll also help you create better campaigns.
But what about Digital PR?
Let’s set the record straight: our grammar is different. So is our slang. First things first: it isn’t digital PR (yet). For the most part, it’s known as content marketing, the act of marketing your content to relevant outlets who might want to use your statistics, assets, or information.
Secondly, digital PR isn’t link building, but link building is a goal of digital PR. Content marketers use digital PR techniques to get their content seen - but agencies, brands, and organizations aren’t utilizing these techniques to own their reputation online.
Research shows PR Professionals in the US are 6:1 with writers. I don’t like those odds much, especially when you consider all of the changes in the media landscape. That’s why you need to understand a few things about the writer or publication you’re sharing stories with before you write your pitches (or strategize your campaign):
- Where are they based?
- What’s their overall perspective and position? Some news outlets are far more conservative, some won’t touch politics, and others still won’t publish internet surveys.
- How is their staff broken down? Maybe you can find several different channels (broadcast producer, staff writer, news director) to pitch from. Each channel, too, has its own window of opportunity.
Sometimes, coming at a campaign or a story from an international perspective is going to be worth all stock you put into it. But to land consistent coverage in different areas, you’ll need to be aware of the differences.
Each State is Different.
This is probably the hardest pill to swallow.
Each state is different, so understanding regional lifestyles is important when you’re delving into US media. There are, in fact, news deserts all over the country so when you’re creating digital campaigns for clients in the US, you really need to dig to find out who is going to cover your content, and why. Just because a city or state makes your ranking, doesn’t mean they’re really going to be interested. Why? Because different media groups tend to publish different types of news, opinion and all.
Think Outside of State Rankings and City Rankings.
Gone are the days when a state-by-state ranking is enough. Local news writers focus mainly on their distribution area, so the next closest big city hitting a ranking list may not matter. And yet, if you can find it in your data to promote a story that ties-in to the news in the state as a whole, you could find your “in”.
For example: say your data shows you 3 cities in Florida are on your city ranking. This means you have 3 city pitches, and an overall state pitch.
Fast facts for enthusiastic PRs
There’s a lot to digest and find a united front on, so with that being said, I wanted to share some fast pitching facts for enthusiastic pr’s who want to learn how to pitch writers in the United States better and more effectively.
- If you haven’t gotten an email reply, that doesn’t mean you didn’t get coverage. Check for links regularly.
- There are publications you don’t know that exist. Do your research using news.google.com to find better sources by location.
- Each state is different. Sometimes politically, sometimes culturally, sometimes by lifestyle … and something, because of all of the above.
- A/B testing your email outreach is one of the best ways to figure out what works fast. However...
- ...Don’t change your pitch or approach too quickly. You need time to let it breathe. You’ll know after a good two weeks of consistent pitching if what you’re doing isn’t going to work.
- Look for like-minded communities. Is it on Facebook? Twitter? Reddit? Follow the conversation, and then you’ll understand how to insert your content into it -- if it’s a good fit.
- Get attached to newsjacking as a big opportunity, not a quick win. This is how you show writers and publishers your expertise, and let them find you later when they need something.
- If you need to see search results show websites and how they appear in another country, find a VPN. Hit google with all your keyword searches, and you’ll see what kinds of websites or writers who would cover your content if you’re really new to a niche.
- Americans love Reddit. That includes journalists too! Use it for stories and data hooks. And PR promotion too
- Product PR isn't the same in the US - a lot more affiliate links AND writers expect samples. Make sure you can give them
- Data is key at the minute - but that's because creativity lacks. Or did until now ;)
Inspired? We are.
Using our bank of international digital expertise, we’re ready to rise on the stateside publishing scene.
Looking to generate a buzz, topple search results, ignite your brand, or get in the press? Let’s build links together - drop us a line.