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Brand awareness in digital PR

In traditional PR, managing your reputation and garnering media buzz is essential. Digital PR takes a different approach, though, as its primary goal is to build an authoritative backlink network from top-tier news websites that would otherwise not be attainable via standard link-building and guest post services. Overall, digital PR is a complex service that combines content marketing, data research, PR outreach and even social media. 

Content is where your brand can shine and earn extra credibility without losing the valuable technical benefits of earning backlinks. But how do you go about this?

What is brand awareness

When we turn to the all-powerful Google for a definition of brand awareness, this is what we get:

While that definition is correct for non-digital marketing and consumer goods, the online realm presents a unique landscape. 

To get a clearer picture of what marketers actually mean when talking about brand awareness, we surveyed 176 heads of marketing on LinkedIn. These experts work for SMEs and conduct their business online. We asked them to pick two of the options listed below that align most closely with their perception of digital brand awareness. 

Here are the results:

  • Thought leadership and expert references 54%
  • Promoted publications and citations 48%
  • Social engagements and mentions 41%
  • Consumer knowledge of your product 31%
  • Branded searches 19%
  • Direct traffic <5%
  • Brand’s visual identity recognition <5%

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of brand awareness is clearly different from that of the marketers we polled. As the survey indicates, digital brand awareness doesn’t imply consumer knowledge of your product or service when it comes to online business. What’s more, online brand awareness has very little to do with consumers at all. Instead, marketers seek attention and mentions from third-party online media outlets (e.g. news websites, magazines, blogs, social media).Therefore, it would be wise to refine our definition of the term: Digital brand awareness is the extent to which media outlets mention your brand.

How to measure brand awareness

After exploring existing content on brand awareness and surveying digital marketers, we finally have an answer for how to measure brand awareness:

Jokes aside, the truth is brand awareness doesn’t come with any of its own metrics. Furthermore, it’s not a marketing activity at all but a combination of different marketing services and tactics that, in turn, have their own metrics.

Let’s refer back to our survey. 41 percent of respondents associated social engagement and mentions with brand awareness. Social engagement, or social media marketing, does have its own metrics (reach, impressions, engagement rate, etc.).

What about branded searches? According to our survey, marketers assume that consumers are so familiar with brands that they prefer to search for them directly rather than searching for a product or service term. Branded searches are a fairly straightforward metric in SEO, which revolves around website visibility on search engines.

If you wish to measure your brand’s digital awareness, your best bet is to combine different metrics that you’re aiming to perform well in. Generally speaking, any work you do towards placing your brand as a niche authority and gaining media attention should help your brand awareness.

However, there are some cases where you do want to set metrics for brand awareness. One of them is “categorical search terms.” As an example, think about how HubSpot monitors its brand awareness for core product search keywords. Let’s say it wants to track its visibility on the highest-ranking websites for the term “best form builder.” Out of the top 20 websites in this category, five of them (or 25%) mention HubSpot. If you want to delve deeper into this topic, Alex Birkett does just that in his article—and he even built his own tool to measure this specific metric. The example above validates our definition of digital brand awareness. It’s the frequency with which media outlets refer to your brand as a leader or expert in your business niche.

How digital PR can increase brand awareness

With that in mind, the burning question is not how to increase brand awareness but how to position your brand as a market expert. The answer is simple: It’s the content that leads your digital PR campaign.

Insights are the key

Positioning your company as an authority in your business niche is vital to earning trust from your audience and the media. The most common tack to that end is creating data-led campaigns. Journalists and editors love numbers and reports that they can turn into coverage. 

If your business is big enough (relative to your niche) to provide valuable business insights, that will automatically draw attention from people and journalists in your industry. The key is to find a proper way to deliver the information. Should you go with infographics or data visualisations? Leave that to your PR agency. Its job is to draft newsworthy and authoritative reports with the numbers it’s provided.

Newsjacking and thought leadership content placement

Technically, these are two different things. Newsjacking is a PR tactic that you or your agency can use to align with a current event or breaking story in the news. It consists of scouting publications on which your brand can act as an expert and engage in the story.

Meanwhile, thought leadership is a type of content (usually between 800-1,200 words) that educates and engages the market around a specific issue. 

The reason we’ve grouped these together is that they serve to increase brand awareness the same way. Both newsjacking and thought leadership content will establish your brand as a market leader or expert on top-tier media outlets, leading to increased brand mentions and citations. That’s how you obtain digital brand awareness.

Repurposing content for social media

Regardless of its type, you want to get the most out of your digital PR campaign. Seeding content pieces and adding them to your ongoing SMM campaigns is a great way to engage your audience and gain attention at no additional cost. With that said, the most effective tactics may vary depending on which channels you utilise and your posting style. If your data-led PR campaign was carried out in partnership with another company or you legally obtained some data from a third party, a smart option would be to tag them on social media or even make a series of posts dedicated to the results that were mutually achieved through the collaboration. These results might lead to unexpected social media buzz. As it turns out, that’s often exactly the kind of brand awareness companies are looking for.

How do I know if brand awareness brings value?

If you don’t have clear criteria or the need to set specific metrics for measuring brand awareness, here are some signs that will help you understand whether you’re moving in the right direction:

  1. News and magazines refer to you as an expert in your business niche.
  2. Third-party websites from SERP for specific categorical search terms choose to link to your brand more than others.
  3. Your brand gets organic engagement and citations on social media.
  4. Direct traffic and branded searches are increasing proportionally more than organic traffic.

Should I put effort into increasing my brand awareness?

If you’re an SME doing business online, then you’ll want to generate greater brand awareness sooner or later. But even if you devise your own method of measuring it, is running a dedicated marketing campaign worth the cost and effort? The answer is no. You should, however, be trying to get the most out of your content marketing and PR outreach to improve your brand awareness. 

Digital PR, content marketing and SMM can all bring value to your brand. Study the survey results above to determine which activity you want to focus on in order to maximise the impact of your campaign and content.

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