Why you should link your PR with your digital strategy for epic wins

Posted on March 20, 2014

Recently MountainBase – a small independent chalet company in the awesome resort of Morzine – had a coup with their PR.

Thanks to an offer posted on their Facebook page to pay the fines for UK families who took their children out of school for a holiday, they suddenly found themselves being spoken about by some big media outlets including Radio 5, ITV, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, the BBC,  the front page of The Times and many more. For a small unknown business operating a single chalet in Morzine it is the stuff of dreams.

Whatever the feelings about the content, It was great to see a little chalet company from my home town of Morzine leading a charge in the press.

Today  I am not commenting from a PR point of view  as I am not a PR professional. However from a digital strategy perspective sadly they missed a couple of tricks with this push which I wanted to explore today. Hopefully next time around they can go one step further and deliver digital awesomeness as well as exposure.

Some context:

A small chalet operator in Morzine, MountainBase recently rebranded from SkiChamois and it would be fair to say they are at the start of building some strength into their site. They have a pretty weak profile as it stands right now so building up their DA has to be a priority if they are to gain a greater share of the search traffic available.

mountain base domain authority
Elsewhere they have a Facebook account which at the time of writing has around 1952 likes, but then, as we know, this is just a vanity metric and really doesn’t give a true insight into the value of this community. For that the best I can do without a gander at the Google Analytics is look at levels of engagement on their page. Most popular posts seem to be based around offers, so their audience is responding to these. But engagement is limited to a handful of likes or the odd message per post, it’s fairly low I think we’d all agree.

Lastly, their website also links through to a Twitter account which seems to no longer exist.

Twitter  MountainBase

Their digital profile is rudimentary but certainly not a-typical. It matches well with the profile of a small chalet company who are just getting going (post a rebrand) and have limited resources.

Where the digital strategy was lost.

In my opinion they missed the big opportunity here to make some headway against the goal of building DA for their site by posting the offer on their Facebook page. In so doing they ensured that their Facebook page became the focus of attention for the campaign and even the focus for any inbound links they might have garnered (as we see below with a screenshot from the Guardian):

mountain base guardian link

This link, and others like it, would have been gold for them (or any site) but it has gone begging. In fact at the time of writing only 1 direct link to the site has been generated from this. Yes they have got coverage from some great media outlets but for the most part these outlets haven’t given them a single link.

Mountain Base freshlinks

The issue here is that MountainBase seem to have misunderstood the relationship between their site and social outposts such as Facebook. Below is a quick diagram to show how I believe, given the fact they are a small business with limited resources and a clear business need for building site authority, they should view these two platforms working together:

content hub

Don’t get me wrong, using their Facebook community to amplify their message is, of course, a good tactic. As mentioned earlier engagement rates are higher for their offers than any other posts they make, so their audience here are naturally open to these types of messages. Also this really is the only channel they have at their disposal right now, aside from their own site, and so it offers a ready audience for them. They seem to have invested time and effort into building their fan base there and this is a topic close to this audience of interested skiers (and no doubt parents in many cases).

Ultimately, Facebook provided the access to the interested journalist who picked it up initially and from there it spiralled. So Facebook was a good place for amplification of the offer, no doubt on that.

But for me it shouldn’t have been where they focused the details of the offer, this is where they missed a key opportunity.

Why should they care about building their site authority?

A couple of immediate reasons.

We know MountainBase have a weak domain authority and backlink profile. Their site has relatively few pages and is, in effect, a brochure site for the business. No problems with starting from here as a small business with limited resources. However if they are serious about their web presence they should be investing as much as they can into building up the strength of their site, otherwise they are forever going to be reliant on WOM, intermediaries and advertising spend for new bookings. Over reliance on one channel for traffic acquisition is never a strong place to be, so every opportunity to mitigate that and build a more rounded traffic acquisition profile should be maximised.

Additionally they have an issue of a competitor in Chamonix with the same name who outrank them in the SERPs for branded queries. This issue is underlined by the fact that the Chamonix competitor are actually reporting a spike in traffic from this publicity.

Quality links from domains such as the Guardian website are incredibly difficult to get and should not be passed up ever, but sadly here they have lost a golden opportunity. And don’t forget any other links that could have come their way from this offer, not just from the big media outlets but blogs like this one and others within the industry. I have at least linked to their homepage, but others may just point to the Facebook post where the details of the offer are. All of these represent missed opportunities.

Links don’t just help with site authority either.

They also generate traffic as well, as visitors flow through from the big media pages directly to their dedicated landing page. This has lead to wider lost opportunities as per the below.

  • Social signals aid the SEO - A dedicated landing page would also have allowed them to provide various options for social sharing and amplification to further advance the SEO impact of the PR. But as it stands any social sharing that does occur has been of the original Facebook post and does not provide any real value to the company’s site.
  • Great SERPs visibility by targeting a relevant topic – “Morzine chalet” or “Ski holiday Morzine” are going to be pretty competitive terms for search traffic. MountainBase could have used the landing page to rank for different, yet still relevant, terms around this PR through a well constructed landing page. Something like “holiday in term time” would have been good
  • Remarketing - Alternatively how about re-marketing? Having successfully driven all these people to the landing page to see the offer, if they had a re-marketing pixel on that page they could start building that pool and the process of conversion through re-marketing with hyper-targeted ads as well.
  • Building permission assets -  I would have thought, but have no way to tell, that they managed to build their Facebook fan base through this activity. With a well thought through strategy these people could over time be drawn through to the site and perhaps moved further down the funnel with signing up to emails. But here again they lost some opportunity to speed the process up and make it more effective, The landing page would have enabled a clear CTA to join a mailing list and helped them to build up this powerful permission asset as well. They are already trying to get people to sign-up to an email, this could have been a big boost to that.

Of course I am speculating here as to what their sales funnel looks like and it’s fair to say that they probably didn’t envisage it exploding as it has. But even so once it had started to gain some traction this page should definitely have been created.

All is not lost though

There is some action they can take retrospectively to help save the situation to an extent. I have created a file with links to a number of the recent mentions of the story online. What they now need to do is go back through this list and request the sites add a link through to their site. They won’t get them all to comply, but I would have though they could save some of the lost links this way

MountainBase mentions download
Disclaimer: this list has been tidied up a bit but not fully validated.

I applaud MountainBase for having the balls to go through with this idea, from a digital strategy perspective it’s just a shame they hadn’t thought the whole thing through to make the most of having got some very difficult exposure.

What are your thoughts? Please do comment below.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. I did approach MountainBase to aid in writing this post and requested some statistics to help throw light on the actual impact this has had on their site performance and Facebook group. Sadly no response yet, I shall update the post accordingly if I get the stats through.