Would you like to take your local business to a new level? Launching a solid, well-planned local link building and PR outreach strategy is an effective way to generate traffic, grow your brand, and build local backlinks!
What is PR Outreach?
PR outreach is a marketing process in which a company contacts various publications in order to build coverage. It’s commonly conducted by email, although additional methods like social media messages and phone calls may also be used from time to time.
More often than not, the purpose of outreach is to gain press coverage. With that in mind, I’ll be referring to outreach targets (i.e. people you are contacting) as “press prospects”.
Define Your Goals
Depending on your goals, outreach tactics will vary. Public relations and outreach can mainly be used to:
- Generate traffic and get your local business known to prospective customers. In this case your outreach and PR tactics will be narrowed down to local publications.
- Get backlinks to rank your domain in organic search results (beyond the local 3-pack). In this case you will reach out to publications outside of your location.
You may have both of these goals in mind, but if you’re at an early stage of reaching out to press prospects then I suggest starting with location-based outreach:
- It should be easier to figure out. Local reporters and bloggers won’t be as bombarded with emails, so they’ll be more likely to reply.
- Local link building will probably send both traffic (i.e. potential customers) and link equity, so you’ll start moving forward on both of those goals.
- This will be a good learning curve on many levels. You’ll be able to identify which PR opportunities, subject lines, email copies, etc. bring in the best results. And you’ll understand your local niche once you’ve spent time researching local press prospects.
With that in mind, let’s agree that email outreach should start within your location. But before we delve into that, let’s take care of some important basics:
Do the Basic Work First
Set up and establish your email address
One of the first questions you’re going to face is, “Where should I email from? Should I use my own domain? Should I use a free email service like Yahoo or Gmail?” These are all valid questions, and I’ve been going from method to method to come up with a winning strategy:
- Don’t ever use free email services. You lose the ability to use third-party outreach and email marketing platforms and risk losing all your data. Your emails will also look amateur and unprofessional.
- Don’t use your main email. No matter how personal and human your emails are going to look, there will always be people who will choose to mark them as spam. You don’t want that to happen to your main domain, and you’ll find it harder to reach your customers in the future.
Instead, set up a new email address on a new domain. There are tons of cheap top-level domains that will look like something coming from your brand but will help you keep this part of your marketing separate. Namify is a cool service that will help you find a great cheap domain for those purposes:
Make sure you register your email address, set up a mailing server, and start using it a few months prior to starting your outreach strategy. Most spam filters will flag emails coming from brand new domains.
Also consider using a tool called Mail Tester on a regular basis. The tool will alert you if your email might be flagged as spam and include a reason why, so you can fix it and improve deliverability.
Create your email outreach guidelines and policies
Chances are your outreach emails are going to be sent by interns, freelancers or a separate marketing team, and that’s where problems can occur. When a task is moved from person to person, some of those people may not clearly understand the responsibility of communicating on your business’s behalf.
Outreach is part of external business communication and hence should be handled very carefully. You cannot allow your brand to be misrepresented, or to have your relationships with journalists ruined.
So before you launch your outreach strategy, create a clear business communication policy and make sure everyone involved is familiar with it. Note what can or cannot be included in emails, what to do if a recipient is irritated by being contacted, and which situations should be escalated to you.
- This article details what your external business communication policy may include.
- Here’s an actual example from Nordson.com
Create or beef up your “Press” page
Not many bloggers or reporters will write an article about you or your business right away. The best you can hope for is that those bloggers or journalists will click a link in your email and give you the benefit of the doubt: “Is there really a story here?”
This is where creating an effective “Press” (and possibly also “About”) page is so important. You need to spark curiosity and trigger an action on that page. With that in mind:
- Tell your story in an effective yet concise way (add visuals, list achievements, etc.) Etsy does a good job at this.
- Add links to your previous press coverage and mentions.
- Add images and videos your reporters may use for a better article. You wouldn’t believe how often I struggle to find any screenshots or even a high-resolution logo to use in my article when I am reviewing a tool.
- Include a way to contact you instantly. I like it when businesses let you schedule an interview call with them right away. Add Appointfix links into your emails and allow press prospects to instantly book a call with you.
Find Local Journalists and Bloggers
There are lots of ways to find niche and/or local reporters, and at some point you’ll have exhausted all of them and will need to find more. Here are some main sources to get you started:
Google is obviously the first source I turn to. Play with all kinds of combinations of your locations (your city, cities and counties nearby, your state, etc.) and anything from [blog] to [magazine]. Then start a spreadsheet and list all the sites that seem active:
Twitter is a great way to discover active bloggers and reporters, and the best thing is that you can start building relationships with them right away! Start by following those people, retweeting their tweets and commenting on what they have to say. These activities will help on many levels, mainly:
- You’ll understand what those people are most interested in (so you will be able to adjust your PR strategy accordingly).
- You’ll start building connections with those people who will later be more likely to respond to your email.
To find local bloggers and reporters on Twitter, try Twitter’s native search feature: simply switch to the “People” tab when searching Twitter:
Buzzsumo offers several tools to find local bloggers and reporters. Their content search feature allows you to find journalists covering your location. Keep the “Journalists” filter active, and search for multiple locations including neighboring cities, counties and your state:
Buzzsumo also has a powerful Twitter search feature allowing you to find tweeting journalists:
LinkedIn is one of the most misunderstood social media networks: some people ignore it completely, while some overuse it. I use LinkedIn as a connection discovery tool. You can open your chosen publication profile page and find reporters you are connected to:
Take note of your common contacts to get introduced and start building those relationships!
Coming Up with Outreach Ideas
Connecting to those bloggers and reporters earlier will help you better understand them and what would make them curious enough to cover your business and/or link to your site.
So spend some time listening to them, interacting with their updates, and monitoring their content. This will give you ideas on how to approach them in a more effective way.
Here are a few examples of community PR opportunities to use in your outreach:
Local charities you’re supporting
Is your company partnering with or supporting a charity? If you time your outreach to match something trending, you may find quite a few reporters willing to cover your story. Here’s one example I got last year which piqued my interest because of its timeliness:
Local success stories
Was your CEO or business awarded for something locally? Is there another success story to tell? Here’s an email I got which definitely stood out:
Local events your business is hosting or participating in
These could include local conferences and summits, festivals, or taster events. If you’re organizing or sponsoring an event, use email outreach to get some coverage. One of the most effective ways to use events as a PR opportunity is to give away free passes to press and media representatives.
Here’s a good example of event-based outreach that got me participating!
Going Outside of Your Location
Use lessons from your local PR to expand to national publications and popular blogs.
It’s easier to do when you have some local coverage to mention in your outreach. Nationwide (or even global) outreach takes lots of time because you are dealing with a much wider pool of press contacts. But it can also be really rewarding in the long run.
Once your business manages to get featured in a large publication, you’ll see press requests coming through without you having to reach out to anyone.
Make the Most of Each Email
While not specific to local outreach, this final step is always worth mentioning: make the most of each of those emails. Don’t give up too early and lose a contact!
There are lots of case studies proving the effectiveness of following-up. One of them states that follow-ups result in 22% more replies. In other words, without following up, you’re losing about one-fifth of your press prospects.
If you’re using an outreach platform like Link Hunter or Pitchbox, follow-ups will be automatically included. Just don’t forget to edit the copy! Also, several studies suggest that a magic number of follow-ups is 3 (definitely not more!)
Admittedly, I usually use a single follow-up but I think every business needs to find the magic number that yields results and feels comfortable to them.
Create additional assets
Offer your press prospects diverse materials for them to cover you! This could be anything from including “insider” photos and media kits to creating entertaining videos. There are lots of tools and easy-to-use video editors to help you out.
It’s a good idea to include these on your press page as well as mention them in your follow-up email.
Create and track additional CTAs and engagement tactics for your PR leads
In the ideal world you’d want each and every person you contact to take some sort of action:
- Request more information.
- Schedule a call with you.
- Complete a survey.
- Subscribe for further updates.
Not all people will want to schedule a call with you or request more information right away. You want these people to still hang around and hopefully get interested in your brand in the future. This is where all of those alternative calls-to-action (CTAs) help.
Obviously, don’t include all of them in a single email. Instead, spread them out, for example:
- Invite your prospects to schedule an interview in your first email (again, using Appointfix or a similar app).
- Encourage them to request more info in a follow-up email.
- Ask your leads to complete a survey on outreach tactics in your final follow-up. I have found conversational forms work best for that.
- Include on-site CTAs to get your prospects engaged once they click an email link. These may include click-to-schedule links, a contact form, or even opting in for web push notifications to get alerted of your site updates through their browser. The idea is to get your prospects engaged through something other than an email and develop closer relationships with them.
Of course, you need to monitor all those CTAs to identify best-working ones:
- Use Google’s UTM tool to add URL parameters to the URLs you add to your emails. This way you will know for sure what is being clicked more. Always use a descriptive campaign name to be able to tell one link from another.
- Use Finteza to better understand how your prospects are interacting with your site after they click a link in the email. Finteza allows you to build and compare your conversion funnels including any specific traffic source or link, the initial landing page, etc.
Finteza makes it incredibly easy to identify best working CTAs and the most effective landing pages.
Track your mentions and links
Finally, keeping an eye on your inbound links and brand mentions is important, as not all bloggers and journalists featuring you will reply to your email.
- The aforementioned Buzzsumo has a great content alerts feature notifying of your new business name mentions.
- Google Search Console has a neat free report showing your incoming links.
- Google Alerts are free and while they are pretty basic, they’re easy to set up and use.
- Majestic has had a cool new link alert feature emailing you whenever there’s a new link to your site.
Finally, to organize those links and keep track of them, Link Checker can help you monitor your links as well as visualizes your progress:
PR outreach is a great way to get your local business known, and to discover new exciting growth opportunities. It takes time and effort to create an effective outreach and local link building strategy, but I do recommend keeping it in-house (at least partially) because all those contacts you build are priceless. Good luck!