What is Digital PR & How Can it Help Your Brand?

You’re a business owner and you want your site to be more visible when people search for topics relevant to your brand. You’ve optimized your website’s content, and you’re still not satisfied. What’s missing? 

This is where digital PR can help. Digital PR can increase your brand’s visibility and reach online while also earning valuable links and brand recognition across the internet through a variety of different tactics. While it shares a similar name with traditional PR, its aims and approach is very different from its analog cousin. 

We’ve written the ultimate guide to digital PR: what it is, its different tactics, common tools, how your brand can use it- and a free quiz to see if digital PR is right for you. 

What is digital PR?

In the broadest sense, digital PR is a type of public relations that involves promoting a brand, product, or service through digital channels such as social media, websites, and online news outlets. Digital PR is a rapidly growing strategy used within search engine optimization (SEO). 

Digital PR often includes tactics like media relations, content marketing, influencer outreach, and social media engagement. In the SEO world, digital PR sits at the cross-section between traditional PR and SEO, with the main focus of earning high authority backlinks to your website through earned media coverage.

In turn, these backlinks provide SEO value to your website, including increased visibility in search engines and brand awareness.

Electronic screens with news articles

Digital PR versus Traditional PR

Digital PR is frequently confused with traditional PR or “public relations”– especially by those who are relatively new to SEO and its goals and tactics. 

Fundamentally, digital PR exists primarily and intentionally in the digital media space; it is less concerned with print publications or even broadcasts. 

While similar to traditional PR in its desire to increase brand awareness and visibility, rather than use press releases and all available media channels to promote a brand and secure coverage, digital PR uses everything from influencer marketing to media coverage of brand-commissioned studies to garner digital attention– and links.

traditional vs. digital PR venn diagram

In fact, one of the primary differences between digital PR and traditional PR are its tactics and approach to building brand awareness, particularly when focusing on link building. 

While traditional PR leads with the brand or individual that contracted services, focusing on improving public perception and increasing positive sentiment, digital PR is primarily focused on establishing authority of a given website within the eyes of Google to boost its performance in search rankings. 

How Can Digital PR Help Your business?

Digital PR is a tool of SEO– the business of helping your site rank high in Google’s search results. A higher rank in search means more organic visibility, which leads to more users on your site, which leads to increased business. 

Digital PR and its specific goals of building a robust backlink profile and increased authority of a given page will improve your business by helping it rank higher– and generate more leads and conversions. 

graphic of a laptop with inbound links pointing to it

Think of each backlink as a signal of trust. The more backlinks your website has, especially when they’re from highly trusted media outlets and journalists, the more trustworthy and authoritative your website will be assessed. 

“The businesses who see the biggest successes with digital PR use it as part of a more comprehensive digital strategy. We are intrinsically linked to SEO. We view every authoritative and relevant link as not only a “win” for building brand awareness and securing digital publicity, but as “win” for their larger organic visibility goals. We love backlinks, they’re a foundational metric to track for our clients. From there we can see the impact of a large link building campaign on things like organic and referral traffic, as well as residual shifts in keyword rankings. 

As rankings factors continue to change, we’re looking at how search engines evaluate not just inbound links, but specific brand mentions, quotes, and other digital PR opportunities when assessing a website’s expertise on a given topic.”

– Tricia (Harte) Miller, Director of Digital PR, Digital Third Coast

When done well, digital PR can be a powerful tool to boost your business in a fairly short amount of time.

Types of Digital PR

Digital PR has many tools in its toolbelt, allowing it to be agile and easily adapted to best fit the goals of a client or the realities of any kind of situation. There are many types of digital PR, but here are some of the main ones:

Link Building

Link building is the art of building a robust backlink profile that features several backlinks from high authority sites, most frequently journalistic entities. Whether it’s CNN and The Hill, or a link from a local television station, each one imbues tremendous link equity on a given site and is a great way to boost rankings and overall authority in the eyes of Google. 

It also happens to be our own preferred type of digital PR. 

laptop screen with CNBC news story

Within link building, there are several types of content, but the two primary types are  newsjacked content and evergreen content. 

  • Newsjacked content refers to a campaign that is rapidly developed in response to breaking news; for instance, our campaign on how Americans consumed news in the early days of COVID-19 earned news coverage because it was so timely. While this content has the potential to go viral, it requires an agile team to produce in a very speedy fashion-  the window of timeliness can be extremely brief. 
  • Evergreen content, meanwhile, is less tied to the breaking news cycle and can instead look at annual occurrences (Tax Day, holidays, etc) or broad-strokes consumer trends. While less inherently likely to go viral, it can tap into broader aspects of news narrative (the economy, assorted forecasts around travel) without needing to be truly “of the moment.” 

Unlinked Mentions/Brand Mentions

Unlinked mentions or brand mentions get a brand’s name in the news, while not necessarily driving traffic back to a given page on a site. 

This is not a bad outcome, however: brand mentions are still indexed on Google, and the more familiar a brand, the more likely it is for a user to head to that site. Increasingly, as Google’s Helpful Content Update shows, trustworthiness and authoritativeness are important factors for any brand– and media placements and brand mentions are a great way to show Google your brand’s name is both trustworthy and authoritative. 

Guest Posts

Thought leadership can go a long way to showcase expertise on a subject. Guest posts- or posts authored by you or someone from your client’s brand- are a great way to demonstrate thought leadership on other sites that then can help drive traffic to your client or brand’s site. Through guest posts you can spread brand awareness and better establish brand authority– not to mention show the human side of the brand. 

Directory Inclusions

Directories still exist beyond the phone book! Oftentimes directories are high-traffic sites that help guide a user towards a specific service; thus, directory inclusions are a great way to make sure your business is among the competition in any directory and increases traffic to its site.

Press Releases

Sometimes a press release still gets the job done- posting a release to a newswire like Cision’s can amplify the information within the release and send it to newsrooms nationwide– if not worldwide.

Influencer Marketing

Influencers have immense followings on social media, and a simple brand mention or product placement can drive waves of traffic to your business. Finding the right partnership and leveraging your brand’s strengths in tandem with the right influencer can make a huge difference, particularly in the ecommerce realm.

Common Digital PR Tools

To execute truly great Digital PR campaigns, you need the right tools at your disposal to effectively ideate, research, and then conduct outreach for each campaign. While there’s too many to necessarily name in this post (check out our full guide here), there are three main buckets to consider: ideation/research, outreach, and finding/monitoring links. 

Top 5 Ideation/Research Tools

  • SEMrush: A comprehensive platform for SEO, PPC, and content marketing, useful for keyword research, competitor analysis, and SEO audits​​. We like to use it for keyword research that grounds all of our digital PR campaigns. 
  • Exploding Topics: Provides insights into viral Google search trends through a weekly newsletter, offering inspiration and trend analysis​​. Especially for newsjacking campaigns, this is a great tool to see what’s trending.
  • Google Trends: Allows for tracking public interest in various topics over time, on a national or local scale​​. We use this for executing trends campaigns- for example, the most popular candy in every state. 
  • Chrome Extensions: Various extensions like Glimpse, MozBar, SEO Meta in 1 Click, NoFollow, Pinterest, and Grammarly offer insights, metrics, and content inspiration​​ wherever you browse, keeping those creative juices flowing.
  • SparkToro: An audience research tool that analyzes social media networks to understand audience interests​​. So much of digital PR is figuring out what the people want to see: this helps us understand that.

Top 10 Outreach Tools

Whether it’s press releases, targeted pitching, or social media marketing, digital PR outreach is a must-have. Here are some of our favorite paid and free tools: 

  • Business Wire: Offers press release distribution and access to a vast network of media outlets and journalists​​.
  • BuzzStream: Useful for research, pitching, contact management, and reporting, with features like automatic list building and automated follow-ups​​.
  • Cision: A comprehensive tool for building and curating contact lists, sending targeted pitches, and managing contacts, with a database of over one billion contacts​​.
  • Critical Mention: Provides monitoring across various media and houses a database with millions of contacts and outlets​​.
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out): Connects subject matter experts with journalists looking for quotes​​.
  • Muck Rack: A search engine for media contact information, useful for building media lists and sending pitches​​.
  • Meltwater: Offers media relations, PR reporting, and newswire distribution services​​.
  • Prowly: An all-in-one platform with a media database, press release creator, pitching software, and contact management system​​.
  • Prezly: Provides tools for managing contact lists, email outreach, press release distribution, and creating online newsrooms​​.
  • ChatGPT: Assists in writing tasks like creating subject lines, angles, and pitches– but always requires editing​​.
laptop with cision on laptop screen

Best Tools for Finding & Monitoring Links

Digital PR isn’t just about coming up with viral campaigns and doing press outreach- just as important is capturing your results, through monitoring and finding inbound links and reporting them to stakeholders. 

Every page on a site has a backlink profile– a list of other sites that link to said page. There are several ways to check your site’s backlink profile, both paid and free. Here are some of our favorite free and paid link monitoring tools:

Free Backlink Checkers

  • Backlink Watch: Offers basic metrics like URL, anchor text, and a few others but only shows the first 1,000 backlinks​​.
  • SEO SpyGlass: Provides domain authority, anchor text, and link status (dofollow/nofollow), with three free reports per month​​.

Paid Backlink Checkers

  • Cognitive SEO: Distinguishes good and bad links, assists in backlink tracking, and includes profile authority metrics​​.
  • Ahrefs: Known for its extensive metrics like domain rank and Alexa rank, requires a paid subscription but offers a free trial​​.
  • Open Site Explorer/Moz Analytics: Offers Domain Authority, linking domains, and allows filtering by various factors, with a free 30-day trial of Moz Pro​​.
  • Majestic SEO: Provides a comprehensive backlink report with metrics like Trust Flow, useful for understanding your site’s authority​​.
  • Buzzsumo: With a paid subscription, offers unlimited access to backlink information and social shares of those links​​.
  • Semrush: Features backlink analytics for checking, analyzing, and comparing backlinks, suitable for SEO and digital PR campaigns​​.
  • Muck Rack: Recently included backlink tracking, useful for PR professionals to monitor articles and journalists linking to their content​​.

How Your Brand Can Use Digital PR

Digital PR is a great way to take your brand’s site to the next level through intentional content campaigns that increase visibility and garner a more robust, high authority backlink profile. But how can your brand use digital PR?  

image of computer

Refreshing existing content

Every site has content; so often you can use that content as a basis to turn into a digital PR campaign. Whether it’s adding current Google search trends about a subject to a blog post on the same subject, or running a survey that will work well in dialogue to a different page, there are tons of ways to use your already intentionally created and optimized content towards the purposes of digital PR.

Media outreach for link building

If you have data you think the news would be interested in, be it a dedicated digital PR campaign or simply proprietary data that journalists would appreciate, media outreach can go a long way to using digital PR tactics to leverage even better performance in search. By creating targeted press lists and pitching journalists directly about your data or campaign, you’ll fast-track earning high authority backlinks for your website 

Build brand awareness

We know that backlinks improve SEO results. But did you know that backlinks are also great for increasing brand awareness?

The more customers that see your brand’s name out there, the more that will know about you. This can send referral traffic to your site, drive organic search, and build your credibility as a source for journalists.

Even if your brand isn’t well-known, Digital PR can be the first step to getting exposure for your brand, while simultaneously climbing the ranks in the SERPs so customers can find you on the web.

Is Digital PR right for you?

Now you know the ins and outs of digital PR: but is it right for you, right now? Take a moment to think about your brand’s site, and then answer these questions:

Is your site representative of what your brand does or offers?

The most fundamental necessity for a site to be ready for digital PR is for the site to be the best it can be, which harkens back to meeting core SEO principles. Are you able to tell in a few seconds what the purpose of a brand’s page is?

Do you have content on your site that might be relevant to the news?

If you don’t, that’s ok- but it will save you time and money to consider content you already have as possible candidates for a bit of digital PR work. Think about any interesting data or services to be included in a directory- what do you want to expand the public’s awareness of?

Does your brand offer a service that isn’t hyper specific or very niche?

We sometimes struggle finding digital PR campaigns relevant to niche brands or businesses that are also appealing to news outlets: a financial advisory company has broad appeal in the way that, for example, an electric diode testing company might be harder to find broad purchase among journalists.

Is this a good time in the news cycle?

Think about the content you’re offering and consider timing: don’t run a survey on grilling in mid-January, or a ranking of holiday decorations in March.

Do you have the time and resources to execute a dedicated digital PR campaign?

Digital PR does require time and resources, between strategizing how you will use content (and whether you need to make more) and finding the best digital PR tactic for your goals: if your brand doesn’t have the bandwidth to execute itself, it might be best to bring in specialists (like us).

If you feel as if your site is ready and has content- or can create content – appealing to the masses while still maintaining relevance, the time is right to dip your toes into the wonderful world of digital PR.

Want to take that next step, but don’t have the bandwidth to do it yourself? We offer industry-leading approaches to highly effective digital PR for clients across industries. 

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Lyndsey Maddox

Chief Executive Officer

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