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The prevalence of tools available to guide more strategic decisions in the tech SEO space is huge. From crawling tools like OnCrawl to ranking monitors to keyword analysers and more, there are plenty of frameworks from which to derive insight and create actions accordingly.
For those working in areas like digital PR or content marketing though, it can feel a little less ‘scientific’, and arguably more ‘creative’. What works in one campaign won’t necessarily work in another when it comes to digital PR and content. What we were able to use successfully last year just won’t cut it today.
With that said, we can still take a structured approach to generating digital PR and content ideas. This is especially pertinent for those of us working in an agency setting, or in house where stakeholder buy in is essential. In this article, we will explore the theory of Circles of Focus and how they can be used to guide your PR and content strategies.
As any PR worth their salt will tell you, the first step to any successful digital PR or content marketing relationship is to really understand the brand you’re trying to promote.
Knowing that ‘we sell to businesses’, or ‘we’re a family product’ simply isn’t enough. This is about really digging into the brand; who are you trying to appeal to but, perhaps even more importantly, how are you trying to appeal? Essentially, we’re talking about creating a brand persona.
A persona at any level is a tool used by UX designers and brand strategists to provide a common language with which to describe complex sets of characteristics or motivations. Rather than talking about our “business owner” or “18-25 years old” audience (both demographical points with little value in actually telling us about who that person is), we develop fictional people to represent those segments – complete with motivations, multiple demographic points, information around pertinent data points and even backstories and photos.
By creating a persona to represent a segment of our audience, we can better equip ourselves to talk about that audience in the shorthand and to make better decisions to appeal to their specific characteristics.
Now, an audience persona will be derived from a lot of audience research. Similarly, we can create brand personas to conceptualise our brand as a person, but unlike the audience equivalent, this can be a simple workshopping exercise conducted with key stakeholders in the project. The question we want to answer is “if your brand was a person, what would that person be like?”.
To give a practical example, here at Impression, we pride ourselves on taking a very transparent approach to the delivery of digital campaigns. We don’t use jargon too much, but we also recognise the knowledge of our clients and don’t try to undermine that. We are happy to play the role of a ‘critical friend’ by advising on decisions even if we disagree, but at the same time, work as part of our clients’ marketing teams and spend time really getting to understand their business decisions and goals.
If our brand was a person, they’d probably be quite young, wearing jeans and a shirt (rather than a more corporate suit) and enjoy a good discussion of the latest marketing techniques over a game of table tennis. You can learn more about creating personas here.
We’ve started to really conceptualise who our brand is, which is going to be really helpful in crafting our ‘circles of focus’ from this point on.
The central areas of focus for a business are typically the things that they sell. These are the topics that are most relevant to the brand, and for which they want to be known. If we imagine this as an archery target, the core areas of focus are the bullseye – they’re the areas that, if someone gets to know you for those things, they’re most likely to convert as a result.
Using Impression as an example again, we’re a digital marketing agency so our core areas of focus are digital marketing related – SEO, PPC, PR, CRO, web design and so on.
Note these down with your team/client and, if you like to work this way, put them into a central circle in an online visualisation or even on a big piece of paper (this works really well in a workshop setting).
From here, we can start to extrapolate out. What are the subjects or topics of focus for your business that don’t necessarily sit at the core level, but which are still relevant to your audience and brand persona?
The secondary level for Impression would be those things related to marketing and our business offering, but not specifically what we sell – so things like more general marketing topics.
The tertiary level is that which is the furthest out from the core, but again, still relevant to the business and its audience. This, for Impression, would include subjects like business management, recruitment, maybe topics around our office locations of Nottingham and London, and so on.
Visualised, this looks like this:
Note how each additional layer of focus allows the circle to expand to a larger overall size.
The size of each circle is no coincidence. If you consider the potential reach of those topics that appear in the core area, it’s going to be far smaller than that of the outer circle, purely because the closer to the core we get, the more specific/niche we are being.
That means that we can, theoretically, expand our reach through digital PR and content marketing by utilising those topics which sit in the tertiary layer. There are more people interested in business management ideas, than there are in SEO, for example – which means Impression would achieve greater reach by exposing those outer layer topics in our own PR and content work.
We can use this framework in discussions with our stakeholders, be that in house teams or clients. By exploring those outer options, we can identify broader appeal topics. But do so with caution…
The thing with focusing on the outer circle of focus is that we can inadvertently miss opportunities to speak directly to those very specific audiences who would really want to know about our core topics, given the chance.
Much like the basics of SEO long tail optimisation, the theory here is that those items at the core are the long tail – those with less potential reach, but a greater propensity for conversion. If someone finds out about Impression due to a blog post about digital PR, they’re much more likely to buy our digital PR services than someone who has been reading about how we’ve grown our agency in a general business story.
This can be visualised like this:
The further away from the core topics we are in our stories or content pieces, the less likely we are to see a conversion as a direct result of that interaction.
This means that those campaigns which do draw on the topics in the outer circle must have a clear conversion path laid out. We must have a plan to ensure that those people who first engage with our brand embark on a journey to conversion.
How this looks in a practical sense will require some of that creativity that PR and content marketers are known for! Utilising further content or stories to guide people back to the core topic would be one option, whether that’s by opening your story with a broad topic and then delving into something more niche (e.g. a story about business growth in the UK which incorporates data around the growing reliance on digital marketing, might work well for Impression), or using a multi-channel approach such as remarketing through PPC as a method of bringing those people back.
However you choose to craft your circles of focus, this framework should provide you a way to prioritise and plan your digital PR and content strategies.