Getting to know... Stella Bayles
In our new ‘Getting to Know’ interview series we will pick the brains of some of the biggest and most influential minds in media and marketing. This first instalment is powered by iProspect as we get to know Stella Bayles, the author of ‘PRs Digital Resolution’ and Director of SEO-PR tech brands CoverageBook.com, AnswerthePublic.com, AnswertheClient.com and CoverageBot.com.
Prior to PR tech, Stella worked agency-side in digital communications for 13 years, building and leading an award winning comms team specialising in search marketing.
In 2014 she was awarded Rising Star at the Brand Republic Digital Awards for developing the SEO-PR industry and now we’ve asked her about the future of the digital landscape, journalist relationships and the strategies PR’s should be adopting to translate great content into tangible results.
So, Stella…what was the biggest influence driving you into PR tech?
The move from traditional to digital was the first step. I was driven by the need to be able to measure the results and impact of my work. For example, whenever were in an all-agency client meeting we’d show our coverage reports and the client would be really impressed but there was never that element of attribution and hard results that directly affected the bottom line like there was in Search.
The drive for me to get into PR tech from there was that I want to make people’s lives easier through automation. When I moved from a traditional PR role to a search team it was clear that digital marketing teams were using so many more tools and tech to help them in their day-to-day and there just weren’t the same tools out there that solved PR admin challenges which is where www.coveragebook.com was born.
Because I spent six years doing traditional PR I know what the main pain points in work flows are within a team and that continues to help me solve problems through new tools we develop.
The digital landscape is changing every day - how do you find time to keep up with the changes and still get the day-to-day done?
What we’re trying to do is automate where we can but my advice to anyone in a comms or management role is to review workflows on regular basis. If you do this often you will start to notice the tasks your team are spending the most time on and from there identify if any of these could be automated or completed quicker using a new tool. I’ve known some places have ‘workflow week’ where they focus on productivity and upskilling.
For me it’s also about work life balance and flexibility – if I need to write late at night because I know that’s when I’m likely to be most productive or in the right frame of mind then I allow myself time off in the morning the next day. I think that’s important for businesses too, so they ensure they offer flexible working. At the end of the day, every person works differently so the workplace needs to adapt to match.
How can someone make their voice heard in the sea of content where everyone is a publisher in their own right?
Be super targeted with who you’re trying to reach. Don’t let yourself get blinded by big traffic figures and a high authority because what it really depends on is if the readers of that site are likely to engage with your brand.
And of course, you have to know your audience. Know what they want to engage with, what they’re interested in and most importantly make sure you answer their needs. This will result in higher engagement and shares as well as the benefit of what happens next, whether the end goal is a sale or a lead. Just keep coming back to the objective of what you’re trying to achieve.
In the past, phone calls and face-to-face meet-ups were the best way to get your client in front of a journalist and get them excited to write about them. Nowadays, journalists are inundated with branded content, how can Digital PR’s make sure their content stands out?
Be super targeted and go niche.
Yes, it’s important to get high DA links but some of the best campaigns are successful because they are so focused on getting coverage and link from one specific type of influencer or within one niche area. Then add creativity to it by answer what people are searching for but also be super creative in how you communicate with that audience. Except that you won’t be the first to answer that question and instead focus on how you serve that answer and the format of your content.
With the likes of Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. now adding nofollow attributes to their articles, it seems to be a growing trend that publishers are stricter about the links they give out. What advice can you give to and PR’s to ensure their content is link-worthy?
You’ve got to start any outreach strategy with great content before speaking to influencer sites.
Also, be aware of these changes to how publishers share your content, whether that’s with a follow or nofollow, but don’t let it control who you speak to. Coverage on authoritative sites is still a great PR result as it drives increased awareness and it’s more likely that other sites will then pick up the story and they might then include a link if it’s been featured on a top national.
In your opinion, what is the one thing people should be focusing on or one thing people should be doing to succeed?
The biggest thing that helps me is stepping out of your silo. Remind yourself to do that regularly at all levels, whether you’re an exec or a CEO. If you work in comms take yourself to a paid search or UX conference. You’ll be surprised by the number of lessons and ideas it will give you and leave you inspired for your own line of marketing. Not only that but it will help you understand how you can integrate your work with other specialists and drive creativity.
In 2015 you wrote the ebook ‘PRs Digital Resolution’, on the digital future of public relations. Have you seen your predictions come true, if so, which?
It’s been slower than I anticipated. I thought integration between PR and SEO would have been quicker, which we’re seeing more and more now with search agencies hiring traditional comms people and on the flip side PR’s moving over to digital to do outreach and link building.
I also don’t think agencies have kept up with brand budgets as I expected, for example link building expanding into brand building and reputation management. I think hiring a mixture of specialists and generalists, integrating new roles and upskilling current teams could see agencies going after more integrated marketing budget.
Where do you see the industry going?
Further integration of on and offline marketing. We’ve already seen it in paid search, with TV sponsorship and targeted paid ads working together, serving users the ad whilst watching that programme or channel. There’s also a lot going on in the retail space with paid attribution, like if you go into your closest store it’s possible to see if that sale can be attributed to a paid ad. I’m really interested to see how owned and earned media is going to get in on this and develop in a similar way.
Also, I see chatbots having a huge influence on brand communication and storytelling so it will be exciting to see how this becomes more integrated into digital strategies. No doubt in a few years it will be the norm.
Keep checking back for updates on our next ‘Getting to Know’ session.