The importance of thought leadership in the PR campaign

A guest blog by MD2MD member Alex Minchin of Zest Digital.

Over the eighteen months, the digital marketing industry has gone through some of the biggest changes in its short history. There are more changes, happening more frequently, that change the landscape of search more dramatically than ever.

The title of my post is meant to provoke you, as a business owner, to question your digital marketing strategy – not to make any knee-jerk reactions. As a business owner in the digital marketing arena, my team have spent countless hours changing and adapting to keep pace. It’s an almost impossible task for a business who isn’t in the industry. In my view, the businesses whoaren’t doing this will fall far behind, and very soon. SEO has become a part of something much bigger.

As brands do battle to attract awareness, visitors, shares, and followers, the sheer volume of activity has forced the digital world into submission.

Do not despair! This presents a fantastic opportunity to savvy business owners as the focus is very firmly back on true marketing. I’d like to share some learnings with you.

In this post, I’m going to identify some of those changes. I’m going to provoke the need for you to make a paradigm shift as a business owner, through strategies and tactics that you can use to take advantage and get ahead of your competitors. I’ll then summarise my thoughts into one short paragraph.

NB: If you’re short of time, scroll to the bottom and read that!


The major updates from Google have tackled two major issues:

– Poor quality link-building. This is the practice of acquiring low-quality links (back to your website) in volume with a view to tricking Google into considering the said website as being more authoritative than another.

– Poor quality content. This is the practice of generating low-quality content in volume with a view to accumulating a large amount of content around keywords related to products or services. The signals of having ‘lots of content’ and mentioning a keyword ‘lots of times’ is in hope of signalling to Google that a website is the best choice result.

As a result businesses today should focus on three key priorities:

1. Focus on what you can control

Whilst any decent digital marketing agency has known all along that shortcuts never prosper, there are plenty of opportunists out there selling big dreams at low cost. This has caught many a business off-guard and focusing on one area of digital marketing is now a dangerous game.

The market buzz phrase is still ‘page one rankings’. On average, each month, 8.5 out of the top 10 will change ranking position, and each day 78% of search results have some ranking change. One of the latest Google Updates, codenamed ‘Hummingbird’, promotes results that are less about perfect keyword targeting and more about matching the query’s intent.

Key tip: Leave the ‘page one rankings’ chase, and other 2011 things to your competitors. Your measure of success should be based on visitor numbers/quality, engagement, and ultimately conversions.

2. Fail to plan, plan to fail

Winston Churchill’s old adage rings true – ensure that your agency or in-house team show intention of a plan. This goes for your content strategy, social strategy, paid media strategy, and any other strategy you can think of. Ensure the focus remains on the marketing plan and audience, not the micro-detail such as keywords and link volume. Your plan should focus on the marketing, not the technical. Focus on who you want to reach, where they’re likely to hang out, how you’re going to engage them, and what outcomes you want.

Key tip: People still buy on emotion, so connect with them.

3. Content is King… No really!

The old days of low-quality, spammy content is long gone. I’ve seen companies sell 3, 5, 10 articles for measly sums. The output is an embarrassing piece of content that has your brand name attached to it. Be prepared to pay for good content and ask what the editorial process is (or ask your in-house team to come up with one).

A great piece of content will keep giving back time and time again, permanent and ever-relevant in the depths of the Internet for any potential visitor who stumbles across it. Compounded over time the bank of content you create begins to create momentum (targeted traffic streams) and builds upon itself.

The cost of marketing gets lower each time you publish a new piece of strong content. Conversely, low quality content  risks being penalised, devalued, or removed. Even if it dodges the bullet, are your potential customers really going to trust the brand behind it?

Key tip: Content is your silver bullet, so make each piece count.

In summary, business owners and marketing teams who want to get ahead need to make a paradigm shift from seeing the digital world as being separate from any other marketing practice. It’s not about keywords, rankings, shortcuts and silver bullets (there are none). Ensure you have an editorial calendar outlining your proposed content plan, and use buyer personas to achieve the correct tone, post length, and content focus. Research other (similar) content and spend the extra time necessary to add more value to your piece – it will pay you back time and time again.

Digital marketing is like any other marketing – it’s about knowing your customers, understanding their needs, where they are in the buying chain, and the questions that they’re seeking answers to. It’s about understanding how to reach them, how best to answer those questions, and how to direct them to a solution that can help (your business) with the least resistance possible. The practice might change. but the principles will always remain the same.

What are you doing to ensure that your marketing team, and campaigns, are keeping pace?

Alex Minchin is a MD2MD member and the founder and Managing Director of Zest Digital Limited, an exciting digital marketing agency based in Oxfordshire. Zest blend a content-driven approach to help their clients engage with consumer audiences and key stakeholders to generate value from online activities.