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outREACH Online: Q&A’s from Shannon McGuirk

Louise Ali

Louise Ali

June 30, 2020

In this latest part of series of speaker follow ups, the wonderful Shannon McGuirk, Head of PR and Content at Aira, has kindly answer the questions we were unable to cover after her session at the outREACH Online Conference. If you were unable to make the conference, you’ll be pleased to know we recorded all of the sessions, including talks from Rand Fishkin, Mark Johnstone and Lisa Myers. Take a look at them today!

Shannon’s talk was so honest about her campaign successes and failures, that it’s no surprise that our audience has a bunch of questions for her. We tried to cover as much as we could on the day, but here are the ones we weren’t able to get round to – enjoy!


How would you recommend opening the conversation around digital pr with a client that hasn’t previously done it, while communicating / managing expectations of the likelihood of success?

  • Firstly, make sure it’s definitely the right tactic for them to be investing in as it can sometimes take 1/2 campaigns to really get the ball rolling and results in through the door.
  • Communicate with them throughout the process to ensure they know what you’re working on and when as this will increase trust.
  • Show campaign examples that are in a similar niche or format and manage expectations.
  • Help educate them around what ‘success looks like’ for them and their industry.

How do you respond to a client when a campaign just hasn’t done well?

  • Get there first, be proactive in communicating the challenges you’ve had and often a phone call is the best way to talk through things
  • Get a plan of action in place to bounce back; look at your pitches, data and any additional assets you can create
  • Keep communicating with them and let them know how you’re getting on

How much time do you let pass before pivoting your idea?

  • A couple of weeks is usually about right, but it depends on the idea and feedback you’ve had
  • If you’re on 0 links and coverage within a week or so of launching, then look then but if you’ve got a few bits in through the door, it could be that smaller tweaks get you over the line

Will you tweet about the failures!?

  • Yes! I’ve shared my deck and will be going into more detail for Mozcon
  • You’ll find a few more blog posts going up on the Aira site about this too
  • I’ll also be placing a focus on the ‘steady performers’ and what positive impacts they can have

What’s the best way to figure out the things we should change in fail campaigns? Do you bring in an outside perspective who hasn’t been involved in the campaign?
We’ve got a process for this, you can learn it from a talk I did at BrightonSEO last year, ‘The Content Comeback’.

What would your top 3 tips be for anyone getting into link-building and digital PR?

  1. Be a sponge – read everything, go on case study pages, sign up to Content Hubble, find inspiring content, download The Link Building Book.
  2. Talk to people – one of the best things I’ve experienced in our industry is how open it is so go and find people in the industry to speak about how they got to where they are and what tips they’ve got.
  3. There’s no such thing as a bad idea – one thing we push is talking up in brainstorms and meetings for anyone in any position. There’s really no such thing as a bad idea, just one that needs polishing and tweaking.

Is there a certain stage where you accept it’s a fail and stop pushing outreach?
This happens really rarely, and rather than stopping outreach fully for a campaign, we’re likely to have created a ‘spin-off’ supporting asset which might have a new route and angle we’re taking. So we could stop or pause outreach on the first to allow that one to come through if it’s struggling

How would you try and address a business’ reluctance to creative ideas and the benefits of such ideas?

  • Set up a creative workshop or brainstorming session that gives insight into what you’re aiming to do and get them involved early on.
  • Find out why they’re reluctant and address it in the right why – often understanding the ‘why’ behind a challenge helps you solve it longer term.

How do you price up these campaigns? Monthly fee or one-off cost per campaign?
Aira works on a retained basis and pricing up the campaigns changes with varying niches, industries and the brand’s larger SEO/marketing goals

How much time does launching 1 campaign usually takes?
From ideation to production and through to launch, we’re looking at anything from 2 to 8 weeks as it depends on the complexity of the idea and sign off

How many hours do you spend outreaching each campaign on average?
Again, this depends on the industry, campaign and budget. On average, we’d likely be looking at a few days to launch it, do our follow ups and prospect

How would you come back from a campaign fail, from a client trust perspective?
Proactivity and communication – clients are not robots and neither are you, so focus on calling over emailing, sharing your plan to get things back on track, share learnings and how you’re going to avoid that moving forward and get a few ‘quick wins’ in through newsjacking or traditional PR tactics

Do you see Digital PR changing over the next few years, or staying largely the same?
I think digital PR will become more and more creative as we see the blend of digital, SEO and traditional PR. As we compete to get our brands seen, heard and linked to, we’re going to have to push ourselves to be more original to get cut-through

If you don’t hit targets or KPIs for a client, do you own it and move on to the next or do you keep trying to push the campaign to hit those KPIs?

  • It’s likely we’d create a smaller ‘spin-off’ style campaign, so you could argue that we don’t really stop outreaching it.
  • There is a point of diminishing returns though, when you have 500 contacts not coming back to your outreach, take note and pivot!

When it comes to reporting a failed digital PR campaign – how do you best approach it? Do you report on why journalists have said they wouldn’t cover it for example or do you just say ‘the idea wasn’t strong enough so we had no links?’

  • Yes, we’d include writers feedback where applicable and appropriate as it gives invaluable insight.
  • You could also pay a writer an hour or twos worth of their time to see if they can help you find new stories to push.
  • You need to make sure you’re giving analysis and insights with the learnings, saying it didn’t work doesn’t explain the ‘why’ which stakeholders want to see.
  • Be clear about how you’re going to avoid this again and what you’re looking into to get things back on track.

How do you respond to a client if a campaign has been successful from a PR perspective but not from a rankings perspective?

  • Take a look at why it might not be helping rankings – are there any small SEO wins to help? Is your internal linking on point? Where is the page sitting in relation to the rest of the content on the site? Is there a cannibalization issue going on?
  • You should make sure technical SEO is in a good place before building links as it can mean you don’t see good results quickly
  • Find case studies that show the time/length the client might have to wait to see a positive impact
  • Take a look at the links too – are they relevant and high quality?

Do you promise link acquisition rates for clients? like we get an average of 30% of links per outreach campaign.
We have minimum KPIs set for campaigns, however, do also we like to work on the laws of averages too.

Thanks again to Shannon time during and after the conference. The next in our series of Q&A follow ups will come from the totally awesome Expert outREACH Panel, which includes Carrie Rose, Gisele Navarro, Ruth Walker and Laura D’Amato. Get ready to be bombarded with outreach hints and tips!

And don’t forget you can still get tickets for outREACH London, which will now be held in November, but if you can’t wait until then, you can pick up the footage from the online conference here

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