The World of US Digital PR
With a population of 329 million people, it is no surprise the US is one of the most important countries to take into consideration when expanding your business or running a digital PR campaign. From 50 states to incredibly unique cultural nuances, the US is a vast country with its quirks and preferences. But how do UK and European-based businesses begin to find their niche amongst American journalists and publications? And what kind of content performs well?
This blog will go through the main considerations on how to angle business and PR campaigns to get the biggest impact in US publications, diving into some top tips when pitching to journalists and explaining the importance of crafting a campaign which feeds into news agendas and general content that performs well in the US.
How to pitch to US Journalists
With such a highly demanding and competitive landscape in which to contend, with thousands of publications and journalists across the states, not only is it imperative to come up with unique ideas but the construction and sell-in of these ideas need to resonate with journalists. To better understand the timing and tone needed for idea pitches, and to understand key target demographics and the publications that can help to reach those audiences, here are some top tips to help pull in links from the US.
1. Research which journalists to target in the US
Knowing the best journalist or publication to pitch your campaigns to is a must. Receiving an email that isn’t relevant (or of any interest) can be very frustrating, therefore, it’s essential to do some initial research into each person to understand what they do and don’t cover.
Whilst it might take a bit more time, pitching to someone who doesn’t cover that topic makes it not only unlikely that they will cover your campaign, but could also be damaging to any possible future relationship. Always make sure it’s relevant and exciting.
It’s also important in the United States to understand what the publications/journalists’ views, opinions, and tone of voice are. With the US having essentially 50 different countries, what lands in one part of the country might not have the same effect elsewhere. And whilst a friendly and informal pitch works for some, it certainly won’t work for all. Each state is different, and it can even be as granular as a city-by-city approach in some states, so it’s best practice to adapt pitches to reflect these subtle nuances to ensure that they land in the right inboxes.
It’s also important to understand the best ways to contact specific journalists. For the most part, it’s over email, but some US journalists have their direct messages open on Twitter, welcoming story ideas. Never be afraid to reach out through these methods, as response rates have been found to be extremely strong using these mediums.
2. Craft a media list for the US market
To ensure that campaigns perform well, make sure that your media lists are updated with current journalist information and contact details. When targeting those publications and journalists, spend some time diving into Google to find more niche contacts to improve those media lists. Make sure to use sites like Feedspot to find more journalists that work in your desired target area/topic/demographic.
3. Find unique angles for US campaigns
When creating a US-targeted PR campaign, creating a story which can be broken down by state (at the very least) is incredibly important. Breaking it down even further to regions or even cities can add much more content to the campaign and can also win more regional links too.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists and publications which are specific to one local area – so make sure to create specific and targeted angles which are highly relevant. For example, if there’s data for multiple cities in California, like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, then dig into those finer details and get a campaign that can work for multiple outlets on both a regional and state level.
4. Write great outreach emails for US recipients
With these specific angles, it’s important to ensure that all email subject lines are relevant. Aim to target journalists with what they want to hear and make them know that the material being pitched aligns with their coverage. Keep it short, mention what the pitch is about, what it’s regarding, and how it fits them.
When pitching, ensure the journalist has all relevant data upfront with links added to any further assets (and avoid adding these as attachments). This allows the journalist to jump straight into the piece with confidence and limits back and forth.
According to Muck Rack, 90% of US journalists are happy to receive one follow-up email, so allow the email to settle, but ensure to follow up on all pitches. US journalists are (unsurprisingly) busy, so respect their time/choice.
Understanding what content performs best in US publications
As stated previously, campaigns that perform best in the USA are those that have unique data specific by state/city/region. This is because the data can be broken down into individual content pieces which can be targeted to specific journalists with what is highly relevant to them.
This approach was utilised for Blacktower’s retirement index, which revealed the best (and worst) places to live out your ‘golden years’ across the states. The campaign analysed several key retirement metrics, pulling out state specific data which allowed for the creation of a ranking. This ranking could then be outreached with many different news hooks, adapted to fit the news agenda in the state in which is being pitched to. To check out the full campaign, you can visit the site here.
Touching on relevance, the story also needs to align with something topical with the current news agenda, or perhaps an awareness day, to illustrate to the journalist or publication why the piece is significant and worth publishing.
An example of where this was relevant was Pickswise’s ‘Cost of Being a Fan’ campaign. With growing concerns surrounding the increasing costs for fans across the NFL, there were worries of many fans being priced out of the experience. Therefore, the team at Pickswise revealed which NFL teams offer their fans the most cost-effective experience, ranking them from best to worst. The report aligned well with the news agenda at the time and brought in some highly relevant coverage.
When collecting unique data for the states, surveys can be a really powerful tool as they allow for the discovery of something new which can be used as a strong news hook. However, it’s important to remember that survey sample sizes must be far greater than that of the UK, as a sample size of 1500 people is often too small to make generalised statements regarding the US population.
What to avoid in US PR campaigns
As well as practices and processes that should be ingrained into all US-based PR campaigns and pitches, there are certain actions that should be avoided to ensure that there’s a maximum opportunity for success.
It’s best to avoid a mass outreach approach – sending one generic email to every journalist in a list will not only ensure that your email gets ignored by the vast majority of recipients, but it could also potentially limit future relationships with journalists and publications that are key to unlocking big audiences in the states.
It’s also important not to schedule emails to send all at once from your account, as the States have different time zones, and this could mean missing key time periods when news should ideally be hitting journalists’ inboxes. Additional research into the location and time zone of the journalists and publications you’re targeting will help to eliminate the chances of sending an email out of hours or at a time when it could get missed. This information can be found on large media databases such as Vuelio and Roxhill, but also explore make sure to explore Twitter and LinkedIn profiles if needed.
Finally, avoid pitches that are excessively long. It’s tried and tested that American journalists respond better to shorter pitches that are to the point and with all the key details noted right at the top. Remember to include, succinctly, what the campaign is about, why it’s relevant to their publication, and the top takeaways to lead with – this is a great place to put content that relates specifically to the city, region, or state that they report within.
Digital PR in the US is a fantastic opportunity for any UK/European company to expand their brands presence. Building killer links across the states can result in higher rankings, greater awareness and new leads.
It’s key to remember, when pitching across America, one thing which works in one state might not have the same affect in another. Ensure you A/B email outreach to see what performs well (and what doesn’t).
In the US, campaigns which can be broken down by state and city perform well. Make your data and pitch unique to who you’re reaching out to – local writers want something relevant to them.
The US is home to thousands of unique publications. Don’t be limited to news sites, explore the likes of local radio stations. There are numerous across each US state, often with strong domain authorities.
Make it personable. Remember, you're sending the email to real people and PR it's all about creating connections. Yes, you won't be best friends with the journalists but being polite and actually putting in the extra effort will help you in the long run.
From key pitching tips to understanding what content performs well and knowing what to avoid, we hope this guide gives you a taster of the Digital PR space over in the states, and some knowledge on how to build killer link building campaigns which will get results.