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SearchLeeds takeaway: Digital PR

SearchLeeds takeaway: Digital PR

By Sophie Nightingale

Last week we attended the SearchLeeds conference for its fourth and biggest year. A few of our teams attended to listen to industry experts in SEO, strategy and PR. Have a read of some of the key takeaways for digital PR below.


Kirsty Hulse – How science can help you have better ideas

Founder of Roar Training, author and coach, Kirsty Hulse started the conference with a talk about how we can use science to improve brand marketing. Kirsty explained that we’re now exposed to over 4000 organic ads online a day and that Google is keeping visitors on its search platform more than ever with a 20% increase in no-clicks on search results.

Researching into what audiences want from brands, Kirsty found a shift to emotional resonance and aspiration. Consumer’s want brands to care as we evaluate brands using emotion and feeling rather than information and facts - we should be making this a priority when executing campaigns.

Starbucks is a great example of this as they’ve created an aspirational brand which is driven by user-generated content. Millennials want to be seen with a Starbucks takeaway coffee and have photos with it for social media. It’s a statement and an ideal, as well as the large following of pumpkin spiced lattes that fans wait all year for.

Some key points she found from studies on creative thinking include:

  • The top three things that are most important for campaign content is originality, authenticity and timing.
  •  Brainstorms aren’t always effective as listening to others can override your creative thinking and stunt ideas.
  • Green is the best colour to provoke creative thinking.


Shannon McGuirk – Making headlines: Using data to supercharge outreach

Head of PR and content at Aira, Shannon spoke about the difference of using gut feeling or data to outreach a campaign. Shannon used Screaming Frog to scrape data from 6 of the top news publishers to identify which journalists from which industries (travel, finance, automotive, technology and science) publish articles at what time and days.

The results enabled her to identify specific days that would increase the likelihood of campaigns getting covered. For instance, she revealed that automotive articles are published on Fridays the most and the most popular day for science is Monday.

Shannon’s talk raised some great points about challenging our usual outreach strategies and build a more data-led outreach approach to achieve results.

There’s more information on her talk here.


Laura Hogan – Using your competitors for SEO wins

Laura’s afternoon talk addressed the importance of analysing competitors to achieve better results for your client. With 10.5 million tags of ‘competition’ on Instagram, we’re a country that loves to compete but not one that invests time into a detailed, regular competitor analysis.

Illustrated with accurate Love Island GIFs, Laura explained tactics that will give you a clearer picture of your client’s industry and areas you can gain links for your client. She recommended using Google alerts, newsletter sign-ups, social media and SEO tools such as Majestic and Screaming Frog to keep an eye on your neighbours. Using these tools each week will enable you to spot gaps and areas where you can increase client coverage and links.

There’s more information on her talk here.


Women in Digital – panel on work/life balance

The Women in Digital panel included industry experts such as Catherine Shuttleworth who founded Savvy Marketing, Jane Rutter who is a director at Zeal and Arianne Donoghue from Epiphany.

Key points from the discussions were:

Work/life balance

  • While it’s important to get your work/life balance right, everyone’s routine is different. Everyone has different ‘normals’. For some people, this might be working late into the night, for others, this might be switching everything off at 7 pm.
  • We’re not protecting our own time as much. The introduction of apps for meditation, sleep and exercise, means that even when we’re spending valuable time on ourselves, we’re still not switched off.
  • Catherine commented that everyone is faking it when it comes to balance. Find what your reality is and what drives you.
  • Don’t assume, communicate instead. We often assume how a partner, family member, friend or colleague is feeling instead of communicating face to face and opening discussions.


  • Focusing on the positives of a business situation can help with confidence, for example before a meeting or presentation. It was also agreed that understanding the worst that can go wrong and knowing that this would never happen can also relieve nerves.
  • Know that your experience and previous roles have qualified you for this opportunity.
  • Be comfortable with failure and learn from your mistakes. 
  • Doing a power pose before a worrying situation is proven to reduce cortisol which is the hormone that raises nerves. 
  • You can be exceptional at what you do without doing public speaking or presenting on stage. You don’t need to push yourself so far that you’re out of your depth in order to succeed.




The Author

Sophie Nightingale

Sophie Nightingale

Campaign Executive

Sophie is part of the Content and Comms team at twentysix with specific interests in digital PR. She has a First Class Master's degree in marketing and had her paper on brand engagement published in the academic field.