Working in Digital PR -The Good the Bad and the Ugly

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Digital PR is one of the fastest evolving facets of marketing. But what exactly does it involve? Here is a warts-and-all breakdown of what a digital PR’s day to day work entails.

A digital PR’s role involves getting your client’s brand featured on websites where their target audience is likely to visit. It is one of the fastest-growing areas of digital marketing, not least because having hyperlinked mentions of a brand is vital to search engine optimisation. 

Due to the relationship between PR and SEO, any job that has public relations, search engine optimisation, or “earned media” as part of its responsibilities will likely see you engage in some digital PR activities.

Many people’s perceptions of PR see it as a glamorous industry, where you spend much of the time networking with journalists and other “media types” (often over boozy lunches). 

While fostering relationships with people in the media is a key part of the job, much of the networking involves helping these people with their own jobs (publishing popular articles) rather than indulgent shmoozing. This makes the job tough, but highly rewarding.

Here are some pros and cons of working in digital PR, to help you decide if it is the right career path for you.

The Good

Digital PR is genuinely creative

Although there is a lot of “grunt work” involved in running a successful digital PR campaign, there is a large creative strand that runs through everything that you do. Ambitious PRs will be looking to create stories that have the potential to “go viral”. This involves taking creative risks and creating content that has never been seen before.

Digital PR is one of the few industries where spending a half-day kicking around ideas and trying to out-do each other creatively is a good use of time. Of course, your ideas will have to be bottled up into a plan that is actually executable, but these constraints add to the creative element of the job as being innovative where others are out of ideas is how you gain a competitive advantage.

The creativity involved in digital PR means that its an industry that attracts a lot of interesting people. Consequentially networking can be a lot more fun and informal than in other lines of work.

Your work is highly visible

Working in digital PR can see you put together stories that end up getting published on  some of the biggest websites in the world. This includes national newspapers, global magazines, and industry-leading journals.

It’s intoxicating when your work ends up creating the news or going viral. Being able to put a name to such visible work can also help you create your own personal “case studies” that are vital for career progression.

The importance of relationships can see you become very powerful in the industry

The hardest part of a digital PR’s career is at the start when they have to build up relationships with journalists and publishers from scratch.

Once you have a track record of providing publishers with stories and angles that are popular with their website’s audience (after all that is what they want from you), they will begin to give you preferential treatment, and even start to seek you out for stories. 

This not only makes your work far easier, but it can also make a hot commodity. If brands know that you have connections in publications where they want to be published, they can seek you out personally. Over the course of the early part of your career you can develop a unique set of connections that can be a perfect fit for certain companies.

This gives you tremendous scope to work on a freelance basis, or huge leverage to help with your career progression.

The Bad

Competition for coverage is fierce

In the UK in 2020 there are more PR professionals than journalists. The upshot of this is that journalists receive far more story pitches than they can actually write. 

How much more? Well, it is not uncommon for journalists to receive upwards of 100 pitches a day. This can make the PR’s job a nightmare, particularly when clients are looking to secure coverage in top tier publications where competition for column inches is at its most difficult.

You will deal with rejection a lot. Resilience is definitely important in this role.

For every part of the job that is creative, there is a part that is as equally as tedious

While the outcome of a successful digital PR campaign can be glamorous, getting a campaign off its feet is a game of repetition and trial and error.

Perhaps the biggest example of this is the work that is involved in “generating media lists” – essentially lists of journalists, writers and publishers who may want to run your story.

This involves trawling through the internet to find stories similar to the ones that you are planning on publishing, and discovered who has written them. Once you have done that you then need to stalk…I mean “research” them on Linkedin and Twitter to find out if they still work at with your target publication and might have any interest in publishing a similar story. Then you have to hunt down their contact details and verify them.

You then need to repeat this task anywhere from 20-50 times. Not fun.

It’s worth remembering that nearly every role in all industries have their fair share of unglamorous work. Just do not go into PR thinking that being in a “creative” industry will negate this.

The ugly

Digital PR is as target driven as any sales jobs

Without a doubt, the biggest stressor in digital PR is the target-driven nature of the work.

Clients will want to see reports of all the coverage that you have gained in a campaign, and given the creative and human nature of the job, success is never guaranteed.

This can result in anxiety while at work, and even the temptation to bend morals just to your target. “Don’t let the truth spoil a good story” is a fitting cliche to describe these types of temptations.

Although the target-driven nature of the work may put some off, it is precisely this pressure that breeds the levels of creativity and innovation that make digital PR one of the most exciting industries to work in.

So would we recommend working in digital PR?

Absolutely yes. Despite the targets and deadlines making the job tough at times, digital PR is one of the most exciting industries to work in. It is above all a young industry, meaning that the scope for innovation and opportunity rivals any other type of work.

While there are certain downsides to the role, no industry is perfect and the positives easily outweigh the negatives.

Oli Graham is the Marketing Manager for RightlyWritten. He has previously worked in a number of agency roles in PR and SEO.

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