This article was originally published on Business2Community and is republished here with permission.
Graduating with my master’s degree in communication studies was both exhilarating and terrifying. There was the satisfaction of knowing that I was finally done with academia but also the fear of being unemployed for unforeseeable amounts of time.
Luckily, I quickly found a temporary job and a few months later transitioned into a role as a marketing outreach specialist at Clearlink.
If you’re wondering what that entails, you’re not alone—I wondered the same thing myself when I accepted the job. The clearest way to explain outreach is to think of it as digital public relations (PR).
While both digital and traditional PR require persistence and strategic communication, there are some significant differences that come with working in digital PR. You must connect and build relationships with key influencers, bloggers, and the media in order to supply them with timely content that helps fulfill their need to push out fresh, interesting stories for their readers.
Thanks to the endless questions I’ve asked and the patience and help of great coworkers, managers, and mentors, I quickly grew into my role and gained a clear grasp of how to increase a brand’s digital presence.
Within two years, I was promoted to a manager role at Clearlink. Now, I teach new outreach specialists how to create and promote content that will rank in search engines. As I train a new generation, I think back often to the lessons I’ve learned about digital PR since I first entered the field.
If you’re thinking about becoming a digital marketer or outreach strategist, here are ten things to keep in mind as you get started.
1. It Will Feel Overwhelming at First
During my first weeks of training, I definitely felt overwhelmed. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with my eyes open at one point. New outreach specialists I hire have the same look of pure panic in their eyes for the first few days (or weeks) on the job.
Prepare yourself to learn about BuzzSumo, BuzzStream, Google Analytics, and other reporting platforms your company may use. Get ready to be schooled in how to read analytics to see if your PR efforts are driving traffic to your client’s websites. And finally, be prepared to learn the history and current state of search engine optimization (SEO).
Pro Tip: Digital PR affects SEO in more ways than one, so you’ll need to know SEO fundamentals in order to understand how your work contributes to the bottom line. If you have an SEO specialist on your team, work with them closely to make sure that your outreach strategies align with the team’s SEO needs.
2. You Will Send a Lot of Emails
Email is today’s ultimate communication tool, and if you’re trying to spread awareness for a client, you’re going to send a lot of emails. I’m not talking about five or ten—I’m talking about 15, 20, 25, some days even more. Prepare to craft multiple versions of the same pitch for various sites and influencers every day.
Pro Tip: When sending so many emails a day, it is critical that you periodically take breaks and come back to your emails with fresh eyes. I made some embarrassing typos when I first started that wouldn’t have happened if I had just slowed down a little.
3. Relationships Are Everything
It is a truth universally acknowledged in the world of PR: whether you’re in traditional, digital, in-house, or agency PR, relationships are paramount. Relationships can make or break your efforts, both with your clients and with your coworkers. You can’t do everything on your own. As a manager, I help my team brainstorm and think of new angles to take on topics—and I rely on them to help me, too.
Pro Tip: Don’t be stingy with your expertise and don’t be afraid to ask for help shoring up your weaknesses. Freely offering and humbly requesting help can be a great foundation to build future relationships on.
4. Twitter Reigns Supreme
When creating relationships with journalists and online contributors, Twitter has been an amazing tool. It can be next to impossible to find journalists’ email addresses online. Use Twitter to connect with people who might otherwise be difficult to contact. Twitter is a great way to genuinely build relationships and then ask for email addresses once it seems appropriate. Many times, you’ll even find an email address right there in the user’s bio!
Pro Tip: My general rule of thumb is to spend at least a month building a Twitter relationship—retweeting and interacting with their account as naturally as possible—before asking for an email address or sending a pitch. Your efforts to build a relationship need to be natural in order to be reciprocated.
5. Building Trust and Brand Awareness Is Huge
You may have guessed this one already given my focus on relationships, but building trust is key to successful outreach. If you’re trying to convince an editor that you have a compelling story to share or telling a journalist that your brand is amazing, why should they take your word for it? Forge strong relationships with your contacts and prove that you are a valuable resource that can be trusted to create great content whenever it’s needed.
Pro Tip: One of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your contacts is to spam them with irrelevant or unwanted content. Instead, build trust by reaching out only when you have valuable, newsworthy content to offer.
Forge strong relationships with your contacts and prove that you are a valuable resource that can be trusted to create great content whenever it’s needed
6. You Will Read Everything and Anything
Depending on your clients, you are probably going to become very familiar with their brand and everything related to them and their services. For example, if you represent a brand that deals dark chocolate, you will want to become an expert on chocolate and anything even remotely related to it (cocoa beans, fair trade regulations, cookie recipes, etc.). You should stay current by regularly reading about the latest developments in the field you need to cover and keeping up with articles written by your favorite journalists in the field.
Pro Tip: Dedicate at least a few hours each week to reading and research. Appearing (and being) knowledgeable in your industry will help you build relationships of trust with other industry professionals and influencers.
7. Sometimes, People Just Don’t Care
This is a lifelong lesson. Sometimes, your parents just don’t care about your novel plan to have ice cream for dinner when you’re six years old. Sometimes, Ivy League colleges don’t care about the scholarship application you spent six weeks on. And sometimes, people just don’t care about the content you are pitching to them. It can be annoying and downright disheartening some days, but it is important to persist. Eventually you’ll find the right person that cares about your pitch and can help you build your strategy better than anyone else.
Pro Tip: Editors and influencers receive hundreds of emails a day, and it’s easy for your email to simply get lost among the masses. Don’t be afraid to send a friendly follow up email—unless their submission policies specifically say not to. Even if they don’t have a specific policy, I recommend sending only one follow-up email per pitch. If they don’t respond after that, your attempts at additional communication may be seen as frustrating and could ruin your chances at building future relationships.
8. Creating Great Content Takes Time
When you are trying to contribute content to influential sites with high domain authority, it can be a lot easier to interest people when you actually have an article written instead of sending them a bunch of bare-bones pitches. However, creating good content takes a lot of time and effort, so you’ll need to learn to pick your battles. If you are going after some really big websites and news outlets, it will be worth the extra time and effort if your content gets placed with a mention of your client.
Pro Tip: Writing skills aren’t necessarily something that PR specialists think about needing to do their jobs effectively, but writing is a huge part of the job. Spend the time learning best practices for writing effective copy as you get started to find the most success.
9. Timing Is Everything
Even if you have the coolest news, sometimes it all comes down to luck and whether or not your pitch is timely. Yes, it may be amazing that your client recently launched a new swimwear line—but if it’s the middle of winter, you need to think of a unique angle to take with your PR to make it relevant. It can really make or break your pitch if you take the extra time to think about how you can pose your idea as timely and useful for the sites you’re pitching and their readers.
Pro Tip: Timing is everything, but you can make almost any timing work for you if you’re strategic. Think ahead and look for ways to beat your competition to upcoming events, premieres, or trends. If you missed the first wave, look for new angles to take to push your content back into the spotlight.
10. It’s Really Rewarding
Despite all the challenges and various frustrations that come with the start of any job, I can honestly say that I love mine! It’s especially rewarding when my carefully crafted pitches turn into stories or when one of my employees gets accepted as a contributor to a reputable website on behalf of the brands they represent. There’s never a dull moment in PR, as long as you continue to build and maintain valuable relationships every single day.
Pro Tip: Clearlink has a team of more than 20 digital PR specialists, and growing! If you’re interested in learning more—or joining our team—check out our services and current job openings.
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