5 PR Approaches That Can Earn Editorial Links

Winning PR coverage and the editorial links they bring are an increasingly important part of SEO. But to get coverage, you have to understand the types of stories that journalists write about. There are patterns in these stories and in this article, we describe five taken from mainstream press over the last week – including the story of an SEO who gained major coverage and sold a new site he’d created for $85,000.

There are important PR challenges to overcome. Not least:

  • To get PR coverage, you need to come up with genuinely newsworthy stories and that takes creative time and effort
  • No matter how newsworthy your story may be, there is no guarantee of coverage
  • And if you do get coverage, there is no guarantee that you will get editorial links
  • You need to have a strong relationship with the client so that you can move quickly to create and exploit media opportunities

But the advantages are real:

  • Links that you do get will come from strong authority sites
  • Media coverage has a cascade effect – other journalists and bloggers are likely to pick up on a good story and link without being asked
  • Media coverage enhances the reputation of your client and leads to more brand searches and click-throughs

Pictures and Conversations

There’s a great quote in the first paragraph of the book Alice in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll: “‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?'”

It sums up what’s needed in a news story – “pictures” – something visual that adds to the story and “conversations” – first-person quotes from the people in the story. Check that those two elements are in the news stories you create and you’ll increase your chances of getting coverage.

In this article, we’ll look at five news stories from the last week or so. Each example shows a different type of story and should act as a model for your own PR.

From Customer Service to News Coverage

The Top Rank Blog had a great story on how customer feedback could be turned into brand storytelling and attract media coverage as a result.


Locally Laid sells eggs from a small, family-run farm in Minnesota. They received a complaint from one of their customers and decided to respond to it via a blog post, “An Open Letter to the Man Offended by Locally Laid.”

The blog post was first picked up by a local journalist when it was published on January 21 and the story quickly spread as this timeline screenshot from Majestic.com shows:


[Disclosure: Majestic is a client]

Lessons from LocallyLaid.com

  1. The blog post spoke from the heart about a real issue that the business felt it had to address.
  2. The post was consistent with the brand values that are pretty obvious for the website.
  3. While the post was not written for the media, it was picked up by a local journalist and the story quickly spread. (This is the cascade effect mentioned earlier).

Questions to ask your client:

  • How clearly defined are their values in doing business?
  • Are they clearly expressed on the site?
  • Do they have potential for PR and link-building coverage?

An Innovative Answer to a Problem

News stories are about people, as this article from The New York Times shows: “An Online Jeweler Creates Links With Brick-and-Mortar Shops.”


Note how the article starts off, “Craig Rottenberg worked as an investment banker and started a tech company, but a decade ago he returned to his family’s roots.”

The story then describes an important problem: “The business just wasn’t large enough to support the kind of marketing it would take to compete online…”

And then quickly gets to the solution: “A partnership suggested by one of the business’s long time suppliers, Ritani… it enabled customers from the Boston area who shop on the Ritani site to have their jewelry delivered to Long’s store.”

It’s this model of “background,” “problem,” and “solution” that makes an attractive media story.

Lessons From Long’s Jewelers

  1. Long’s Jewelers is a relatively small business with five stores in Massachusetts – yet, they made The New York Times because of a tie-up with a supplier based in New York.
  2. While Long’s Jewelers themselves did not have strong media contacts, they partnered with another company that did.

Questions to ask your client:

  • What relationships does your client have with suppliers and distributors?
  • Is there an unusual business story that could be told?

Reporting on a Contest

Twenty U.K. businesses got coverage and editorial links from TheGuardian.com in this article: “Guardian small business trade mission: shortlist revealed.”


This contest is sponsored by The Guardian themselves: by publishing a shortlist they involve each shortlisted business in their promotion, and of course also encourage the businesses to promote the fact they’ve made the shortlist.

Lessons From The Guardian

  1. Entering competitions does take time, but it’s not particularly difficult to make the shortlist and that can bring editorial links.
  2. Once selected, the media has a vested interest in discovering positive stories.

Questions to ask your client:

  • Are there contests, awards or other events that your client could enter?
  • If they do enter, have they maximized their potential for coverage by telling a compelling story?
  • And have they thought about how they might re-purpose their contest entry if they’re unsuccessful?

Commission an Artwork or Something Spectacular

In this example, Scottish whisky producer Ballantine’s sought to partner with a graffiti artist, INSA, to create “The world’s largest animated GIF.”


Journalists and bloggers just love stories about “the world’s largest…” and in this story Ballantine’s choose to partner with graffiti artist INSA to create the massive GIF. The gif took a team of 20 people six days to create.

Lessons From Ballantine’s

  1. This sort of exercise can be expensive and more than a little risky if it doesn’t attract the expected publicity. However, if you have the scope for risk taking this approach could be one to consider.
  2. Media coverage is never guaranteed, no matter how much you invest in creating a story.

Questions to ask your client:

  • Fancy a gamble?

Media Manipulation

Ryan Holiday wrote the book on media manipulation, Trust Me, I’m Lying. And in this article, “Exclusive: How This Man Got the Media to Fall for ShipYourEnemiesGlitter Stunt,” he explains how one man used his advice to great effect.

The man in question is Mathew Carpenter, who has an SEO background and created the site, ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com

He succeeded in getting media coverage and editorial links from Time, FastCompany, the Telegraph, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and many others. As a result of all this coverage, he managed to sell the site for $85,000.


According to Holiday, this stunt reveals two things, “how great the demand for weird, funny start-ups actually is and how desperate and derivative the online media is these days.”

Lessons From ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com

  1. The techniques described by Holiday both in the above article and in his book are certainly controversial – but they can also produce fantastic results. But the journalists I’ve spoken to about such tactics loathe them: so if you want to build long-term relationships with journalists, this is probably not the route to go down.
  2. You could see journalists as lazy and too incompetent to properly check stories out OR you could see journalists as people under real pressure who have to produce more stories with fewer resources than ever before.

Questions to ask your client:

  • Are we in this for the long haul?

Final Words

These types of stories may not be strangers to what many link builders do – but it takes it to a different level in targeting mainstream media. The question to ask is of course how can you make that relevant to your clients.

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