Navigating the US Digital PR Landscape – tips from the experts

Facts: US brands are increasingly looking to Digital PR as a channel for building both SEO authority and brand power within one hit.

Also fact: There is a misconception that America has all of a sudden, just overnight woken up to Digital PR and its value, but that’s not true.  We speak to industry experts to get their tips on how to best navigate the US Digital PR space.

Navigating the US Digital PR Landscape - tips from the experts

Facts: US brands are increasingly looking to Digital PR as a channel for building both SEO authority and brand power within one hit.

Also fact: There is a misconception that America has all of a sudden, just overnight woken up to Digital PR and its value, but that’s not true. 

The reality: I’ve known awesome people like Chris Lewis who is Associate Director of PR over at US based digital agency, launch Potato, Nicole Deleon , founder of North Star inbound, Collin Czarnecki who founded Noble Digital Studio. I also regularly speak to a range of specialists such as Hannah Swanson for a very long time, and so I know that good things have been happening there for a while now!

The term might be new but the concepts aren’t

Digital PR as a term has only recently been used in the US, but link building via PR has been happening there just as long as it has in the UK – they simply called it content marketing.

The silos

As Chris Lewis of US based Digital agency Launch Potato explains,  “much like it was in the UK at one time, PR for brands existed on one side, and PR for link building was being done on the other, but very much in silos. 

This is (slowly) changing for the better but there are still, but the same challenges exist there when it comes to getting traditional PR and SEO content marketing teams to play nicely together.”

Tips to consider when considering getting into the US Digital PR market

America is huge with a diverse range of audiences

Seasoned Digital PR specialist, Hannah Swanson,  makes it clear that you need to consider that there are a diverse range of fragmented national, regional and local markets in the US.  A story that appeals in New York may not resonate the same way in Texas. Tailoring your pitch to regional interests can be beneficial.

She explains that each has its own audience and editorial focus. Tip: ensure that all campaigns have a good mix of regional and national stories that can be used to appease different fragments. The upside of this will be a greater number of links.

Lawsuit culture can impact ideas

I worked as a Digital PR for a decade, and I can recall hairy moments myself. I once naively launched a campaign that ranked towns and cities by how ‘disgusting’ they are. Understandable backlash ensued.  

But the US in particular has a very prolific lawsuit culture and so ideas tend to need to be on the safer side.

Journalists are overworked and underpaid, so make their lives easier

Chris Lewis describes the US journalism ecosystem as a ‘behemoth’ and complex. Like the UK, journalists there receive hundreds of emails a day and so it can be a challenge to stand out.

Collin C tells us “As a former journalist, I can tell you you need to make their job easier. This can pay off. “

 “A few ways you can do this: ensure your pitch is relevant to what they cover, include bullet points of key takeaways within your pitch, and start your pitch off with a hook that mirrors the tone and writing style of a news story. (A clear sign that you wrote a great pitch is when the journalist uses your opening hook or parts of your pitch within their story)”.

Do your homework and personalise but don’t overdo it

Although slightly different to some of Europe where reporters don’t care if you know about their work and just want you to get to the point, US journalists appreciate the efforts made to research their past work. 

Collin Czarnecki tells us not to overdo that part though. Yes show that you know what they write about, but go into details on shared pastimes and hobbies – just get to the point of why they will like what you have.

Journalists in the US mainly like to stick to email

Although some may respond to Twitter DMs to give you their details, many will see it as a violation of privacy, and linkedin pitches are a no no. Make sure it’s a professional Twitter though vs a personal one.

Most journalists will have editors so pay close attention

Although not all, many journalists will have to submit a story to an editor, and so just like in Germany for example, it can pay to pitch to editors directly to get on to their radar.

Syndication is massive

Although syndication brings about challenges for reporting on KPIs, the upside is that networks there are a huge deal. For example, coverage on CNN will be replicated in a vast number of publications.

Pros of the syndication: more eyeballs on your campaign/content and larger amplification and numbers of subsequent coverage and links.

Data is everything, and it needs to be new, unique and credible – don’t try stunts or moonshots

Much like in Germany or Spain and now increasingly in the UK too,  unique data is everything and much more likely to secure coverage than sensationalist headlines or PR stunts.

Chris Lewis says that  “It’s all about putting the”new ” in”newsworthy.” New data, new questions answered, new approaches taken. 

Much like countries like Europe for example, data needs to be authoritative and watertight. Chris tells us that journalists have a very strong ‘BS barometer’.

Adding further weight to this: Collin Czarnecki strongly recommends that you avoid hypothetical,  what if ” concepts and stick to facts such as surveys, data analysis or proprietary data.  He also explains that Out-of-the-box “moonshot” digital PR campaigns may sound good on paper and might impress your client, but they’re less likely to resonate with journalists compared to a data-driven campaign.

Don’t expect quick results and clients need to be very clear on this too

Unlike in the UK, even the strongest of campaigns can take weeks vs days to reach the media and the right journalists. Much like in European countries like Germany,  clients need to be made aware of this in order to manage their expectations with regards to KPis. Do not promise to meet UK targets.

Journalists in the US love additional exclusives to sweeten the deal

Chris recommends offering carrots along with your data – expert quotes, interviews, whatever you can to give yourself an edge. But if the data isn’t going to cut it, those things are mostly irrelevant. Echoing this, Nicole Deleon who is the founder at Texas based North Star Inbound tells us that “US writers are much keener to respond to pitches with questions and interview requests.”

If you’re going to follow up, make sure you are offering something of additional value

Follow ups are fine, but make sure there is a reason for the follow up. Offer additional stats, assets and supporting information.

Consider social communities and large influencers in your strategy 

In fairness, the UK is also onto this, in particular the likes of Rise at Seven who regularly beat the drum here,  but Hannah Swanson explains that the integration of digital and social media is key to success with Digital PR today. Influencer marketing is also more prominent in the US, and so digital PRs need to have an understanding of how to best engage them as well as journalists.