7 things I’ve learnt in my first year in digital PR

Sorry, your parents will never understand what you do.

Lessons learned from a year in PR

Alice Lang is a senior digital PR executive for Marketing Signals

This month marks my one-year digital-PR-eversary.

When I started building links for my blog, I got a major buzz when I saw something go live in a publication I loved. I craved that feeling in my day-to-day role, which is why I moved from content to digital PR.

It’s only been a year, but I’ve learnt a lot.

  1. You’ve got to be fast.

Coming from an in-house content marketing background, I was used to working to deadlines like,: “Write email by 20th April’ or “Upload blog by March 21st.”

But digital PR is a different ball game. Now, it’s more like: “I’m a journalist and I need answers to these 42 questions within the hour.”

Within that hour, you’ve got to immerse yourself in the subject, write the content, send it back to your client for feedback and pitch it to the journalist.

The take home? Get ready to research and write fast.



2. You’ve got to keep your head in the news.

Keeping up to date with the news is a digital PR essential.

As well as helping you understand what makes a good story, you’ll pick up on potential hooks that you can use to land links and coverage.

Last year, for example, it was announced that the energy price cap would increase in January 2024, resulting in higher bills. I spotted this while skimming the headlines in the morning.

I had an energy client, so I created a speedy expert comment on how to reduce your energy bills. I pitched it to journalists who were writing about the price cap. The result? Links in both national and regional publications.

If I hadn’t read the news that morning, I wouldn’t have known about the increase – and I wouldn’t have secured that coverage.

Wondering how to keep up to date without spending all day reading? Here’s how:

  • Listen to the radio or watch the news while you’re getting ready.
  • Set up a bookmarked folder with quick links to key publications for each client.
  • Set up Google Alerts for key topics relevant to your clients.
  • Sign up for the Onclusive daily round-up for a top-line view of the headlines.

3. Building relationships with journalists really is key

When I did my first round of outreach, I expected journalists to sit down, read my email and send me a nice reply. Ha, one word – nope.

I realised that no matter how great your idea, how targeted your list and how personalised your pitch, journalists are often too busy to reply.

One way to increase your chance of hearing back or even better, have journalists reach out to you directly is to build rapport with them. This can be as simple as:

  • Following them on social media and engaging with their posts when appropriate.
  • Sending them an introduction email that details who your client is and what expert insights they can help with.
  • Giving them what they need and when they need it,
  • Sending them a thank you when they’ve featured your client (and letting them know you’re happy to help with future pieces).

4. You’ll need to be an expert in, well, everything.

Since starting in digital PR, I’ve written as a personal finance expert, car expert, antique appraiser, guttering expert (yes, really), a gardener and more.

You’ll need to get comfortable doing research and creating concise, authoritative comments in the tone of voice of your client – sometimes, to a very short deadline.

Still, expert comments are one of my favourite parts of the job. I’ve learnt a lot about random subjects I never would’ve had an idea about. (My partner isn’t quite so keen though, now that I’m continuously nagging him to clean out our gutters and consolidate his pensions.)

If you’ve never worked in digital PR before, you might be shocked to realise that the expert tips aren’t directly from said experts. But don’t worry, the information is accurate and always verified by the client.

5. You’ll get rejected – a lot.

There are only so many journalists, who can only write so many stories. Worse still? They each receive hundreds of pitches per day.

So, I’ve learnt that you’ve got to be resilient. Not all of your campaigns will land with journalists and not all opportunities you’ve completed will result in coverage.

I’ve even heard digital PRs use the term “link drought.” Sometimes, those links are just so slow to roll in.

When this happens, take a step back and analyse how to improve. Is there a hook you can use to make it more relevant? Does it need some data to make it more credible? Could you improve the headline or pitch?

Sometimes switching up the angle or finding a new hook can instantly upgrade your content and result in coverage.

   6. X is the place to be.

Aside from my colleagues, X is, hands down, the best place to gain digital PR tips and tricks.

Following people in the industry means it’s easy to stay in the loop, see what campaigns are working and pick up some handy resources.

While there’s an endless number of talented people in the industry, here are a few that I’d recommend following:

It’s via these accounts that I’ve signed up for – and always make time to read – the following resources:

X is also a great place to keep up to date with key journalists. You’ll find that many post when they’re looking for expert insights or to receive new pitches.

7. Your parents will never understand what you do

In my first few months, I remember excitedly telling my mum I’d got coverage in Women’s Health. It’s a magazine I’ve read personally for years, making it extra exciting. My mum was equally buzzing and asked me to send it to her.

Her response? “Alice, why does it say it’s written by someone else? That’s fraud!”

I explained that although this was my campaign and lots of the words within the article came from me, I was writing on behalf of my client and it was the journalist who ultimately wrote and uploaded the article.

Still, she didn’t quite understand – and now refers to me as a ghostwriter. Hey, I guess I’ll take it.

Topics: PR


One Response to “7 things I’ve learnt in my first year in digital PR”

    BroBex Marketing says:

    You made a great point about needing to be fast-paced and responsive in this role. Journalists often work on tight deadlines, so being able to quickly pull together expert comments and pitches is essential. It’s quite an adjustment coming from slower-paced content marketing roles.
    I also couldn’t agree more about the importance of staying on top of the news. Those relevant, timely media pitches are often the ones that land. Setting up alerts and having an efficient morning routine to scan the headlines is key. You never know when a news hook will emerge that you can capitalize on for a client.
    Building genuine relationships with journalists is also hugely important. Going beyond just pitching them to providing value, engaging with their work, and showing appreciation when they feature your clients helps strengthen those connections over time. Playing the long game really does pay off.
    The part about needing to become an instant expert on random topics made me chuckle. I think anyone in digital PR can relate to suddenly having to write authoritatively on niche subjects way outside our wheelhouse. But it keeps things interesting and we’re always learning!

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