Subscribe to our blog

PR is somewhat of a new thing for many SEO businesses – many of whom who have become content marketing agencies. They’ve shifted to real distribution, content strategy and the like, and because of that, they’re slow on the trigger in terms of really assimilating the skills that experienced PR companies have spent 10,000 hours picking up.

Despite the many bouts of negative press many PR companies have received, for every bad egg there are several extremely talented companies out there that do an incredible job of getting pickup for their clients through big publishers.

These companies have much to teach SEO companies transitioning into content marketing, and through a year plus of doing content exclusively full time, I’ve learned about the advantages these companies have over much of the “SEO” content marketing that is still being done today.

Your E-Mail Signature is a Necessary Resource

When pitching big content, you are pitching an entire story. You are attempting to get publishers to write an entire article dedicated to your piece, to an audience with extremely high standards.

Not nonchalantly link in a roundup, or post in an embed code with fifty words of text in a blog post nobody will read. They need to do a ton of work. And because of that, your approach must change – and it starts with the signature.

What real companies do in their signature, PR or not, is post their phone number. Yes, their contact information. SEOs come from a background of secrecy and fear, so the likelihood that they would post a phone number, much less use their real name in a signature, is something most would not consider.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 2.56.07 PM

But for PR companies without that fear, pitching real content, it’s a no brainer. These journalists quite frequently need additional detail to create a unique spin on this content, and they also know that time is precious – so they need to get ahold of you immediately. They do this through a phone number.

Like an embed code for an infographic, your phone number reduces friction for the journalist so that they may easier write a piece and therefore, link to you.

By including a phone number, and a legitimate, trustworthy looking signature, you not only immediately establish trust, but you also give these reporters immediate access to you so they can take advantage of the timeliness breaking news reporters know is so crucial to a successful piece.

Press Releases are a Calling Card

Again, SEOs are used to hiding behind the companies they do work for – mostly because they are doing work they aren’t proud of, and also for the reason that they fear a manual review by a Google engineer. PR companies don’t care. When they do a press release – they, shocker, actually list their contact information on the press release.

ON the press release! SEOs wouldn’t dare even ever link to the companies they represent, but PR companies literally spit it out the second they contact someone to cover them.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 3.32.06 PM

The reason for this is twofold. First, it again serves the aim of allowing press people to immediately contact them should they have any information about the piece that’s being released – lowering coverage friction – and that’s most important. But second, these press releases, when in connection with successful pieces of content, serve as an easily-formed inbound marketing channel.

Want to know who was behind some great campaign? Look up their press releases – the representative companies will often be stamped all over that thing. No doubt, that drives business, and it also serves as another level of credibility to the publishers looking to write about that content.

Outreach Does Not Have a Singular Modality

Something we’ve realized when doing outreach is that the outreach fundamentals of one market will often bleed into the next. If we’ve done saturation-bombing in one space, the fundamentals of those emails and communication style will tend to rub off into the next set of emails we send for traditional press outreach.

For pieces that we mass-send to a big market, we normally go with the “ASSET for WEBSITE NAME” format. But as we blended in PR, we realized that this format doesn’t necessarily make sense.

For most traditional PR, we build surveys/other data around the S.U.C.C.E.S. framework – that is, interesting statistics worth sharing, and because of that, these almost always fit in the subject line.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 3.37.08 PM

But because we were stuck in the “framework” of bulk outreach, we lost the opportunity to offer these great statistics immediately in the subject line. Big publisher outreach is not small publisher outreach. Similarly, when we had been in a mode of doing a lot of PR outreach, our subject lines would bleed into our bulk outreach.

We would use subjects like “Story Idea for X” – when regular bloggers don’t run “stories”. They write blog posts, and occasionally link – and they called us on it in our emails. It didn’t make sense.

Exclusively PR people are lucky enough not to have this problem, but for people moving across the scope of the smallest blogger to the biggest web publisher, how you approach them all can’t have a singular identity. Yes, certain fundamentals (cutting the B.S., keeping it short, letting the content talk) will always speak, but there can’t be a sole way of contacting people across a broad market scope.

Content can win the day, yes, but it is our job as marketers to make sure our method of outreach doesn’t prevent the content from ever opening its mouth.

SEO Experience Makes You a Better PR Specialist

While we do have initial setbacks as SEO companies that must do PR more than we ever have before, the fact that we’ve done outreach to the smallest and biggest bloggers across many different industries makes us more likely to have the empathy we need as marketers to truly know what content these publishers want – based on our own failures with that outreach.

Many PR companies still blast releases out to publishers that have no reason to receive them. Many SEO companies do the same with their outreach to bloggers. The best of both worlds will find the intersection, combine agility with empathy, and make for an extremely potent content marketing package that will generate outsized returns for their clients and companies.

Related Posts


  • josephjrobison

    I haven’t tested it, but I have started including my phone number during outreach, especially for blogs/sites that are high quality. It just seems like another trust indicator and shows them that I’m not afraid to reveal my name and contact info. Have you done any split testing on email signatures?

    • rosshudgens

      We haven’t. I saw the power of the phone when someone called me and I was actually shocked by it, I didn’t realize it until like three-four days later and when we followed up by email/phone again, we got a no response. Clearly that “friction” of time delay caused them to not want to cover us.

      Perhaps they would have emailed too if I never included the email, but it showed me that not having the phone number there that we were attentive to A) would lower trust and B) cost us links.

    • Agreed that this helps based on what I’ve seen, but it would be awesome if someone did the experiment.

  • So glad to see SEO use of releases going away. The emphasis on the document has always annoyed me. Glad to get back to people and relationships


    good read, ross. i just filled in my email signature, which was lacking. thank you – you gave me an awesome (well, i think it is) idea. one could include social signals (link to complimentary tweets) and kind comments on one’s blog as an image to add authority to a signature.

    i also like the press release idea (i used to suggest the client do one, mentioning increasing their efforts, while the marketing agency’s would be a welcome and overview of new client. the man i worked for at the time experienced a few competitors ‘under selling’ him, so we ceased that practice.

    • rosshudgens

      Interesting about the undersell technique. That makes sense, but sense we’re not a commodity that goes to the lowest bidder, having our name out there is a worthwhile activity for sure. If I knew my competitor could sell our shoes at $5 less per pair, I’d be worried. 🙂

  • Especially in this generation, when everybody’s on their phone all the time, the power of a simple phone call or allowing yourself to be called is so underestimated.

  • Traffic at the intersection of SEO and PR is growing and doing what the client needs us to do is what’s making it happen. Today’s nascent PR, SEO, SM agency will have an advantage over tomorrow’s latecomers.

  • Traffic at the intersection of SEO and PR is growing and doing what the client needs us to do is what’s making it happen. Today’s nascent PR, SEO, SM agency will have an advantage over tomorrow’s latecomers.

  • Great post Ross – Love the tip about having a professional signature on your email. It’s a simple concept but one that can make the world of a difference.

    • rosshudgens

      Thanks Ross (nice name). I agree. I love the professionalism and quality a well-designed signature projects. A correctly done signature can make me trust you without ever seeing anything else.

  • ronellsmith

    As a former newspaper and magazine writer/reporter, I can say you are spot-on with this piece. There are many elements of PR that can, will and should inform, benefit SEOs.

    The outreach component–something many PR firms, too, get wrong–is where the hay is made in link building, and even if we employ the techniques you mention by themselves, we’re way ahead of the rest of the field.


  • I think every PR specialists should have some knowledge of SEO especially if the focus is digital. Good SEO in a press release can allow that piece of content to travel that much further.

  • Great post Ross and I completely agree with you on all points. I find the hiding behind things a strange tactic but I remember the days of having meetings where people didn’t want to answer where links were coming from. I have been doing PR for 16 years and I started out in Tech PR and started blogging in 2007 – the way SEO has moved into our space has been interesting. Even in the last couple of years things have really changed. I remember chatting to people about the positive effect blogger relations could have back in 2007 and people didn’t seem to grasp it but now many more agencies are doing it – some well but many terribly. Outreach by numbers doesn’t work but outreach extremely tailored can also be very time consuming and have zero results. It’s all really down to the quality of the content and the relationship.

    However, the one thing that really is different is the reputation management factor. PRs have always been the guardians to reputation and when the S**t hits the fan it is us they turn too. I think a clever SEO and a smart PR can work together alongside each other and then the best results will come out. This isn’t a war – it’s just a changing industry.

  • tompick

    Great post Ross. As SEO is increasingly absorbed into web presence optimization (WPO), which is about maximizing a brand’s total online presence, SEO professionals will have to work more in concert with PR pros; as well as experts in content development, social media, and even online advertising. SEO companies are likely to pick up a few tricks for themselves as this happens, including the tactics you’ve noted.

  • Spook SEO

    Hi Ross,

    PR strategies are sometimes taken for granted and a lot of SEO Companies suffered from failing to address this basic aspect of internet marketing. Connection with the people interested in your product or services is so valuable. In this connection, these tips that you’ve mentioned are really helpful.

  • I was actually surprised to read the bit about SEOs being afraid to include real names and contact information on that massive scale. I guess I’ve been living in a bubble with blinders on, or I’ve been fortunate enough to work for clients and websites I’m not ashamed to be working on. Interesting.

    In other news, you just gave me a baller idea for a PR outreach. Thanks! Love it when that happens.

  • Jacqui

    All good points, along with remembering that we’re talking to people – whether it’s bulk or one-to-one outreach, every receiver is an individual. Like you. So have a conversation.

  • Thank you Ross for your insight and you are 100% correct that SEO’ers need to learn from good PR folks. We’re always working to improve our outreach processes and our content creation. We really have to figure out a way to do it at a higher quality without slowing down on the volume we are doing for so many verticals. Your insights are a great start in the right direction in thinking. Thank you so much!!