To some people, Public Relations seems like this mysterious and intricate job reserved for people that have spent their careers making a lot of important and influential connections with big names in various industries and professions. And although that may be true for some in the business, even a PR expert like Dmitry Dragilev promises that you can actually do it on your own and still achieve similar success.
If you have a compelling story, you can get the interest of journalists. And once you have that, there are some tried and true strategies that will help you gain access to personal contacts, backlinks, and leverage yourself as an expert.
Rich: My next guest has spent over a decade in the world of marketing. Recently he grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views through press outreach, and then got acquired by Google.
After that he translated his know how into Just Reach Out, a SaaS launched in early 2016, which is now used by over 5,000 businesses and startups to pitch relevant journalists and get press coverage without the help of PR firms.
Besides Just Reach Out, he runs PR That Converts, a PR coaching program teaching entrepreneurs how to reach out to journalists and get consistent coverage.
He’s a columnist for Entrepreneur and Forbes, and has published closed to 1,500 articles, most =-=notably on Wired, The Next Web, Business Insider, Inc., Fast Company, as well as Moz Blog and many others. I’m very excited to be chatting with Dmitry Dragilev. Dmitry, welcome to the show.
Dmitry: Thanks, good to be here.
Rich: So tell me a little bit about how you got started with all this.
Dmitry: Well I was kind of not very happy at my job as an engineer. I quit my job and my wife was thinking about moving out to do a graduate degree in California and I said I’d tag along. So I moved with her to kind of see about business, because I heard that people were starting businesses in Silicon Valley and they were raising money just by having an idea and generating lots of cash.
The annoying thing about that, I was a computer science guy and was stuck doing coding. So that was the initial start. And 2 weeks into my MBA I met a guy names Reynald Desarmes, he was #20 at LinkedIn – this was 2007 – he had just left LinkedIn to start his own startup, and he was a DIY PR guy.
So he was a guy that just kind of did PR on his own. I thought all of this was just insane and crazy and I thought I gotta figure this out, I gotta figure out how to do PR, and marketing, and build businesses. So he said he’ll give me a test and let me work there for free if I put up a Wikipedia site for them. I said I didn’t know anything about Wikipedia, and wondered if they even had a company yet. He said, “Kinda, we just Incorporated”. So I said, “Isn’t Wikipedia for people that have something to say?” And he’s like, “Well, I’ve been in a few articles.”
So I put up a page and I just fought the editors like crazy to keep it up. Competitors said it was complete spam and wanted it taken down. And I was like, I’ve got a job to keep here. So I looked up his LinkedIn profile and saw that he was #20 at LinkedIn, I saw some of his accomplishments. So I said this deserves to be here because it’s a new venture and I think that it will be worth the while for people to know that this guy has moved on to something new.
And meanwhile they still have the site, it’s up there now. That company got sold 3-4 years after. But that was a wild ride and that was my first foray into the whole PR space and marketing and all that.
Rich: So you were relentless. Well I’m glad that it worked out for you. Now I’ve been doing SEO for a long time, longer than I like to admit. And there was a time when PR was touted as a way of getting inbound links, and therefore would help you rank higher. But then that idea seemed to fall out of fashion. Why do you believe that PR is still a good way to improve business’s search engine visibility?
Dmitry: Well I stumbled into that notion in 2007/2008 as I started doing PR, because it was DIY PR, and there wasn’t any PR firms or anyone else that was doing this for us. It was smart PR. So essentially I was building links to pages that I wanted to rank. That was the whole notion behind it.
From day 1 I never thought of PR as, “Hey, let’s just get on Wall Street Journal”, because I was like that traffic is going to die someday, and that someday is going to come 24 hours after you’re on there. Or maybe a week. But I just busted my butt to try and get on this thing for months. I got it, and the only thing I have to show for it is a week worth of exposure. No, I want to rank.
And so I started thinking about it that way, so the type of PR that I was doing wasn’t huge like huge launches, but it was a guest post on a domain authority fifty site that would link to a specific post.
What I found is that back then in 2007, links were all the rage, and people were buying them. There were link farms, there was just insanity going on with link acquisition, and they were actually pushing ranking. Google has smartened up and it’s no longer a driving factor, it’s one of these factors, but it’s not a driving factor anymore.
Content itself, how often you update that content, how well you design that content, that content has basically become a product. Basically people are building products with this content and they’re competing with other products who are ranking higher than themselves.
And so I think PR right now should be focused on that same methodology. I was focused back then, I’ve been focused since 2007 on that. Just making sure it is aligned with that content. But nowadays it’s the content itself that needs to be paid attention to a little bit more than acquiring those links. But yeah, it moves it. I’d say links that get clicks move the ranking.
Links that do not get clicks do not move the ranking. And I don’t care if it’s a follow or do not follow, this site or that site, I don’t care. If it’s getting clicks, and off that click a person is spending time on your site, then that’s helping you rank. If it’s just sitting there – you got a link on Wall Street, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, Entrepreneur – and it’s just a link and nobody’s ever clicked it, it doesn’t do anything for you.
Rich: You’re not seeing any value for that. I mean there’s obviously value anytime, even away from just SEO. If people are coming to your website that’s fantastic that there’s value right there. But what you’re saying is your experience is that links that get clicks have more value than links that don’t get clicks, strictly form an SEO standpoint.
Dmitry: Yeah, exactly.
Rich: Ok, so talk to me a little bit about what’s your process for that then? You have this PR experience, so let’s say that there’s a page out there that you want to raise up in the search engine. So what are some of the PR tactics or approaches that you’re going to then take to make that happen?
Dmitry: Well I look at the page and I’m going to start inserting data insights and examples that I can link to from other websites I write articles on. Because the only way to get another website reader to click on a link that you put into an article, is if you have something very detailed that you cannot talk about in that small article.
The majority of articles that you write for Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Insider, whatever it may be, they’re not 2,000-3,000 word articles. Very seldom do you see Small Business Trends blog or Business.com blog featuring a 2,000 or 3,000 word article. They’re mainly 800 words. So the only way you’re going to get somebody to click on the link in that is if you specifically site an example that you can’t put into an 800 word article.
And so the first thing that I do is I go back to my page that I want to rank and I say what examples or insights can I put in there that I can backlink when I write for other pages, and I can backlink in a way that I will get a click.
Rich: So let me just pause here because I want to make sure I’m understanding you. Because I’m thinking back to the bio where we talked about the fact that you’ve written over 1,500 articles. So let’s say it’s your website or your client’s website that you’re trying to drive traffic to a specific page. Are you actually the one who’s writing these articles for these different magazines and so you’re able to insert a link to your website or to a client’s website in a relevant way?
Dmitry: Yeah, yeah.
Rich: Ok, so you’re basically, you are your own journalist. You’re playing both sides, and I mean that in a positive way, you’re the PR person and you’re the journalist creating this content.
Dmitry: Right. And even if you’re working with a PR person or a PR consultant, you need to train them to do that for you. So if they’re trying to place you into Entrepreneur or wherever you want to be, they need to know this. They need to know that it’s not just a link to my homepage. It’s a link to a specific example within my site on a blog post that I want to rank high.
Rich: Can you think of a client or your own stuff that you’ve done, just an example right now to anchor this in our listener’s minds? Give us an example of some of the kind of content that you’ve been promoting.
Dmitry: Whoever is listening right now, go on Google and type in “sales management”. The word “sales management” will pop up a featured snippet. I hope that the latest update hasn’t killed that featured snippet. But as of a week ago Pipedrive will be ranking for the word “sales management”. And it took us a while to get there. We kicked out Hubspot, we kicked out Forbes, we kicked out Wikipedia from the first page, and we got the snippet for “sales management”.
And “sales management” does 70,000-80,000 searches a month. It’s a very highly competitive keyword. The way we bid that is precisely this. We wrote a piece of content, and then what we started doing to get links, there’s a tutorial which you can link up in the notes that I wrote up on how we did this specifically with the LinkedIn blog, Top MBA, Fast Company, and Inc. Those are the four articles that we published. And you can see the backlinks, all of that in that tutorial that I wrote up on Moz. Moz actually stills runs ads on that article. Its two years old when I wrote up that case study. For two years they’ve been running Facebook ads on that article from Moz. It’s a case study basically on how I’ve done it, but it’s a good example and kind of gives people a perspective on what needs to happen to get a page to rank. And it talks about adding those pieces of content inside it and writing for other publications.
There’s other ways to gain links, of course. But this is one that I kind of go to as my first.
Rich: And so you’ve done this perhaps because you were a successful writer, you’ve got all this experience. But, is there any opportunities to get other journalists to link to it? Like if small business owners or entrepreneurs just don’t have the time or the access to the kind of publications you get to write for, what should they be doing?
Dmitry: My business, I run Just Reach Out, and I help people pitch press and I help people who don’t have any PR at all and have never done it ever in their lives. And so what I say is, respond to press opportunities. These are journalists who put out inquiries every single day.
So an example is Help A Reporter Out (HARO). We index all of these and we’ll let you search by a keyword. But if you respond to them every single day on #journalrequests on Twitter, these are people looking to interview someone because they’re writing an article and you can be one of them if you qualify. If you do the right keyword searches with those hashtags that are inside those newsletters, you can be on their show or in their articles.
There’s PodGuest, a newsletter that comes out for people looking to podcast guests. There’s lots of these different places, we aggregate all of them, but you can sign up individually an answer their queries, and that’ show you can start getting featured in press and build up your online portfolio. It’s the easiest way, it’s the lowest hanging fruit, and you should be doing that pretty much daily. I’d say 30 minutes a day all of our customers I tell them 30 minutes a day just answer these press opportunities to really get the ball rolling and get yourself in there.
You might not get that initial link to where you want it to be, but you’ll tie that conversation and you’ll start that relationship.
Rich: Yeah, absolutely. And making positive relationships and journalists in your industry is just smart business anyways, and I love everything you’ve said. I’m kind of curious how much you might recommend pushing journalists to link to a specific page. So you follow up on HARO or any of these others, you get in touch with a journalist, they want to use you in a story for example. How do you say, “Hey listen, I’ve got a lot of information on my website, here’s the URL you might want to link to”? Is that an approach you might take, or do you have a better way of doing it?
Dmitry: No. Because that just doesn’t work a lot of times. Because “more information” means maybe I should add it but maybe not. It kind of has to be a ‘must have’ example. So you and I are recording this interview, are you not sharing my Moz case study at the end of the interview? Which would be a disservice to this whole audience that are listening. Because then you’re like, I can’t not link to that case study because I mentioned it so many times. You’re doing the same thing when you’re giving your expertise or your opinion or whatever you’re doing.
You must reference your own examples on your own blog, and say, “I have a blog post on how to do PR on your own”, and send that to whoever is talking to you. Like I can send it to you now and it would probably be very relevant because we’re talking about it. And so essentially you want to reference it as you’re giving the answer. And so that’s where the magic of it comes in. You’ve got to work it into your answer in that example.
I’ll give you a cool example. So we were just doing this article and it’s a company in telecommunications – SMS Marketing – and so the article hat they wanted to be referenced in was Parenting. And so the guy who was giving a quote was a parent, and so it was an article about keeping kids off phones. And he said, “I don’t know how to get my marketing business SMS Marketing, into that.” Well think about it, kids spend all their time on their phones and they’re being marketed to all the time. You deal with businesses who are trying to market to consumers. What is the overlap there?
Well you’re striving for attention. Do you have examples on your own blog of where consumers are spending all their time on their phones but they’re missing your customers because they don’t have the right channel. SMS Marketing is the right channel. So I asked if he had an example of that and he did. And I said in your quote when you’re answering this question about parenting and keeping your kids off the phone, maybe give an analogy of how it’s similar to businesses, and reference your example. Because obviously you’re not going to spell out the whole example in those 500 words.
And so he did that in the email and he got featured in USA Today. But it’s like, how do you draw that parallel to what you have, and how do you explain what you’re trying to answer and take the time to make it a speech. Like when you’re writing a speech you’re going to take 5 or 7 rewrites to make sure it’s amazing. Well same here. If you’re answering a journalist as an expert, think about it. How are you going to reference your own examples and make it kind of a must have.
Rich: In that example it sounds like this is an opportunity where there’s an email back and forth, so I can really craft my message. That’s not always going to be the case. Sometimes a reporter might call us up. How might you transition them, I mean obviously hopefully you’ve got your patter down, but do you say, “Let me follow up with some additional information”, or how might you work that?
Dmitry: I’s say if you’re on the call think very fast if you have anything on your site right now to what you’re speaking, and mention that on the actual interview, “Hey, I actually have a whole breakdown on this. We’re not going to get into detail but I’m going to send it to you and this is going to break down this whole thing that I just told you.” So I would do that.
You know, an example comes to mind. So a friend of mine, James Sinka, he was in the New York Times very recently about dopamine fasting. It was a big PR story. If you Google “dopamine fasting”, whoever is listening this you’ll find James Sinka and the article. The backstory of that is that this New York Times write who flew all the way across the country, there was a whole sequence of events that happened.
So this woman flew out and I told him this was going to be a face to face interview, you’re going to name drop big boys that you want to play with; Tim Ferriss, Arun Nayal, all these people. It’s going to be a big story and you’re going to need to get those relationships going if you want them mentioned in the story, and you want to name drop your own services as well and examples of it.
So that’s what he did. And as he was talking he thought of who he wanted to mention and refer to in this story, and who would help him later down the line. So as he was speaking to the journalist on the call, he just looked up who the journalist has covered that he might referenced in the conversation and thinking about it that way so you get the most out of it at the end.
Rich: Absolutely. Now you mentioned case studies as the kind of thing journalists might want to sink their teeth into and create a link over to go into more detail. What other elements in the articles on our own website should we consider to make it so necessary to a reporter’s article that they’re just going to be, “Yes, I’m absolutely going to link to this”? Any recommendations around that?
Dmitry: Yeah. Templates are very good. I was in Business Insider because I wrote up an article of old email templates. They loved them so much that they did a showcase of five of them. So any kind of example templates on how to do something or assets around that, that’s great.
When I worked at a design firm in the early days and we were building that up, we created stencils for designers to use. We created plugins for designers to use. We had a little playground area where basically designers would come and take blurbs of code you use in the industry and make their job a little easier.
So any kind of little template, little plugins, little extensions. All that stuff is of course very linkable. It takes time and effort to create them, it’s like a major investment in content. So the first thing is just content like little templates for people to use in whichever field you’re at.
And then the next level I’d say to start creating plugins, little dummy tools. We want people to use our software all on their own, so we have an email analyzer tool. It took us about a week to create it. People type in their email and we’ll tell you if it’s too long or has bad verbs in there, whatever it is. It’s a quick little checker tool. It draws people in to check it out and it’s a linkable type of an asset where people can say this is a great little tool for people to use if they want to know how pitchable they are.
Rich: That’s great advice. Where do you want people to check you out online? You’ve got Just Reach Out, you’ve got PR That Converts. Can you give us those domains and maybe other places where people might want to reach out to you?
Dmitry: Yeah, sure. So Just Reach Out is my SaaS platform where I spend most of my time. And then you mentioned PR That Converts, that’s my core site where I teach people how to do PR all on their own. I love people to check out my blog. I have a personal blog, criminallyprolific.com, so prolific that it’s criminal. And most of those posts are ranking, so if you if pop criminallyprolific.com into Ahrefs, it will give you an idea of kind of like all the keywords that are ranking, the positions and the CPCs so you can see. And even the backlinks, too. So you can see what has happened and how well those links work, so you can put a face to the name. Yeah, reach out on Criminally Prolific, all of it goes to one email.
Rich: Awesome. Dmitry, this has been fantastic. I’m definitely excited to test out some of these techniques as well, and of course we’ll have links to everything Dmitry mentioned as well as the Moz case study. So if you want to check that out, check the show notes. Dmitry, thank you so much for your time.
Dmitry: Awesome. Great to be here, thanks for having me.
Dmitry Dragilev is a PR expert that has taught hundreds of startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs how to do their own PR. Learn his strategies and ideas by checking out his podcast, his website, and that case study he talked so much about.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.