With mass-mailing software and "click to buy" media lists galore, it can be tempting to blast out pitches in the hope of them finding their target.
But that does not for sustainable growth make.
If we want long-term success that compounds over time, we need to build reciprocal relationships with the right people.
We're thrilled to be joined by Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro and former CEO of Moz, to talk about how to use modern tools to find the best audience for your stories, build a reputation for trust & authority, and achieve organic growth for your comms.
Recording and show notes below.
01:50 What is audience discovery and what led you to focus on it with SparkToro?
06:15 TOTORO CAMEO
07:00 “I’m just here for the headline!” How PR has moved from being ego-driven to something more data-driven over the past decade.
09:00 What digital marketing tools can we use to demonstrate that our PR has value? There is often a misattribution of value to Google Ads and SEO or “direct” traffic, when in reality it's PR that's responsible. You can only truly measure this at scale by turning off your ads. Airbnb did this in 2020. They turned off all their ads but continued to see people coming to their site.
12:50 "Always ask yourself: Is the ad showing me returns because the ad platforms have an incentive to make it perfectly trackable and attributable, or is it showing returns because genuinely it is outperforming all these other channels?" (It’s usually the former.)
“That perfect tracking is undercounting the value of being known, liked and trusted, and that is exactly what PR does for you.”
15:00 What strategies is Rand using to promote SparkToro? Indie-style approach, no advertising. Nobody searches for the problems SparkToro solves, so Rand's small team concentrates fully on content and PR, largely by collaborating with others in their space and earning amplification through the audience that those people have already built.
Taking part in others’ podcasts, webinars, etc
18:00 We need to expand the definitions of PR in our own minds so that we can communicate that to our clients.
19:00 Rand has a huge following. How did he build his audience?
By writing for my audience, I gained more experience in empathising with them and learning what resonated
One of the best ways to learn is to teach
Doing videos, events, conferences, getting up on stage – it all exposes you to more people on a personal level
24:00 Every time you use a shortcut tactic – advertising, stunts, sales, “growth hacking” – you get diminishing returns over time. It works, but it’s not sustainable. Instead, work to understand your audience and create a flywheel that amplifies success.
"Find something that you can repeatedly do and that each time you do it, you get more and more value out of it."
Examples of long-term investment channels:
27:40 “PR + emails is my favourite example of this.” Collaborate, show up for someone else’s audience, bring some of that audience to you by empathising with them and giving them something of value.
30:30 Buying a media list vs audience discovery tools.
Buying a media database can work better for if your goal is to get coverage; use audience discovery if you want to make the maximum impact on a particular audience.
Some tools for audience discovery:
35:30 A great example of using audience discovery tools for writing an awesome pitch.
An independent PR consultant used SparkToro to understand the audience of a particular publication they wanted to pitch. They plugged in the publication’s social media accounts into SparkToro and find out what that audience is interested in. Their pitch to that publication was essentially...
"Hey, we looked at your audience, here’s data abut your audience, here are things they are interested in that you don't have content about. And here’s a story that fits."
38:00 How Rand’s approach to SEO and creating content has changed over time.
41:20 Question from Gil: owning your content is great, but social media has so much more reach. How do you resolve that?
Answer: publish big content on your own platform, snippets everywhere else that bring people back to that content .
44:20 "You need to have your own platform where you can publish your content, that you control, that can at least capture email addresses."
46:00 Question from Chip: can you tell us how to use data and research to create content that doesn't just perform well but also serves the audience?
There is always a challenge between being data driven vs data informed.
Data driven = our audience searches for these keywords, so let's write an article about those keywords.
Data informed = you use keyword research to investigate what problems your audience may be facing and work to create a unique solution for that problem, and empathise with the people that have that problem to tell stories around it.
Empathise with those people, build up thought leadership around that problem, build something that solves that problem.
54:10 Question from Krishna: Hey Rand, I am a huge fan and I wish the best for you. My question to you is – I miss the White Board Fridays from your Moz days and I sincerely feel there is a need for your voice to be heard for learners like me. I know it is a lot of work, but still! Do you have any plans of starting a podcast or a YouTube channel?
Short answer? Yes! Follow Rand on Twitter for updates on that later this year :)
SparkToro & Moz
Rand Fishkin is cofounder and CEO of audience research startup SparkToro. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his writing, speaking, startups, and his book, Lost and Founder.
When Rand’s not working, he’s usually cooking a fancy meal for the love of his life, author Geraldine DeRuiter. If you bribe him with great pasta or great cocktails, he’ll spill big tech’s dark secrets.
Jesse believes that you cannot have great PR without meaningful relationships. And while new tools open up huge possibilities for building those relationships, those same advances in technology can cheapen our work. Mass-mailers, database peddlers, social networks that make money off the back of your content creation...
It's time to take back control of your content and own your relationships with your fans.
It's what Prezly stands for.