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Attending brightonSEO for the first time

Attending brightonSEO for the first time

Recently I had the opportunity to experience brightonSEO for the first time!

For a little bit of backstory, brightonSEO is ‘the ultimate event for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in talks from the leaders in both Search, Content and Influencer Marketing.’

BrightonSEO even give away a number of free tickets each year through a ballot! Surprisingly, one of those tickets ended up in my inbox out of sheer luck. I had signed up for the PR and Link Building Conference, as this is super relevant to the services that we offer at Hive19.

brightonSEO: first impressions

Going into brightonSEO, I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

I knew that the event was mainly targeted at experienced marketers and SEO managers, but I was surprised to find a number of attendees who were still early on in their careers, which I found to be highly refreshing.

For reference, I began my role at Hive19 in April this year. Read more about my first few months at Hive19.

As I entered the building, I was greeted by a member of staff who provided me with a personalised lanyard that stated my name and my role at Hive19, and a bag of freebies.

The place was buzzing full of marketers and professionals, and everyone seemed very keen and energetic to learn.

Keeping SEO at the heart of your reactive strategy

I quickly made my way up the stairs to my first 20-minute session at the PR and Link Building Conference, which was entitled ‘Keeping SEO at the heart of your reactive strategy’ by Abbie Johnson, of the digital PR agency, NORTH.

This talk was highly engaging and reiterated the importance of relevance within link building to achieve the highest quality result.

Abbie explained that reactive PR is the process of researching relevant and upcoming trends within data and news to achieve high-quality relevant backlinks.

Abbie also highlighted that reactive PR and SEO strategy should be looking into objectives, E-E-A-T, and reporting, alongside being completely tailored to the target audience.

The talk provided the audience with a useful checklist when ensuring that SEO is consolidated within a reactive PR strategy. Abbie said, “ask yourself the following questions, and if the answer is yes, then the answer is yes!”

  • Is it relevant to the target audience? Are they interested in this and is it supported by what they’re searching for on Google?
  • Is it a topic the brand has the authority to discuss? Will it drive topical authority, does it link to relevant target keywords, is there existing content that is relevant? If the brand is not relevant to the topic then you lose trust.
  • Is it an original angle? Is it original content, is it useful and is it going to evoke emotion?

Search-integrated influencer marketing: a creator-led SEO future

Next up was a talk by Ashley Liddell of Reprise, entitled ‘Search-integrated influencer marketing: a creator-led SEO future’.

Ashley broke down what search-integrated influencer marketing is by explaining that it is a combination of creator-led SEO, E-E-A-T, and demand generation content and demand capitalisation.

Breaking down the different types of marketing and how search-integrated influencer marketing can lead to increased sales.

Influencer marketing is instant, has a short-term value and is high cost over time, yet on the other hand SEO takes a longer time but has long-term value and a lower cost over time.

Search-integrated influencer marketing or SIIM is where audiences are spending time, building communities, and growing audiences.

Ashley stated that by utilising SIIM, you can make the content work harder. Publications go out of their way to build links about influencer conversations, as that’s where the audience is!

Using AI to come up with creative ideas

The next talk was hosted by Luke Cope, of Bottled Imagination, entitled ‘How to use the same process as an AI to come up with creative ideas.’

Luke shared some amazing insights with the audience on how to use AI correctly, as AI cannot replace creative ideation at this stage, as it does not have the ability to consider what the publisher hasn’t already covered.

At their agency, they use BuzzSumo for thematic analysis, then manually go through and pull out various tropes, and then they map these tropes with high press and low press interest.

Luke highlighted that it’s crucial that the content makes people feel something and has layers to it.

He talked about reverse engineering for creative ideation by researching what hasn’t been done, what would make people stop and think, and then go back and do the research.

After this, we had a short break and a chance to mingle with other attendees in the large main room for the event, which was complete with video games, exhibition stands, tea and coffee, and an ice cream van!

Growing a department without disruption

It was time for talk number four, hosted by Beth Turner, entitled ‘Make changes and grow a department without disruption.’

Beth discussed how making changes ensures that you stay competitive within your industry and can also improve client and employee retention.

They highlighted the importance of confidence, clear communication, and asserting yourself in a way that is comfortable for you.

Leading your PR team as a young manager

Following on from this, Thea Chippendale from TLC Freelance discussed ‘How to influence and lead your PR team as a young manager.’

Thea’s talk focused on the challenges of becoming a young manager and the resources that can help along the way.

They described the challenges of being a young manager as:

  • Misconceptions
  • Experience gaps
  • The dynamics of leading more experienced teams

Thea described the benefits as:

  • Providing fresh perspectives
  • Adaptability
  • An eagerness to learn

They discussed how they use the following acronym (LEAD):


The key to Thea’s success as a young manager involved:

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Effective Communication
  • Resilience and perseverance
  • Leadership by example
  • Continuous learning

Thea shared some resources with the audience that they found to be useful as a young manager:

Radical Candor by Kim Scott
The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
Start with WHY by Simon Sinek

The role of digital PR in your E-E-A-T strategy

The next speaker was Lauren Hewitt-Crabb for Blue Array, ‘How digital PR plays into your E-E-A-T strategy and why it’s important.

They discussed how digital PR can support E-E-A-T, as digital PR is focused on creating external credibility.

How do they create external credibility at Blue Array?

  • They use proactive PR, Expert commentary, reactive and campaign.
  • Always think about the people behind it and what they want.
  • Position the brand as the authority in their field. Establishing the authority, create a calendar of key dates which will help to improve coverage.
  • Identify the key press topics and use the tools to create stories on the trending topics. Tools for topic identification include Glimpse.

Ask yourself:

  • Brand relevance – is it relevant to your client?
  • Consumer interest – do the press want to cover it, is it an ongoing story?
  • Accurate data – is it valid data?
  • Adding to the conversation – are you adding anything? Why do people care?
  • What’s the hook – Why is it interesting and engaging?

Cultural appropriation in SEO

The next talk was with Megan Wellman from Watch This Space, entitled ‘Recognising cultural appropriation in SEO to avoid PR problems.’

Megan referenced a survey by YPulse showing that 64% of young people agree that cultural appropriation is an issue and that brands should take this into consideration.

How does SEO come into this?

  • Inauthentic keywords
  • Language insensitivity (phrases or idioms from a culture).
  • Insensitive storytelling (such as calling things exotic).
  • How to identify this? – Cultural sensitivity and research before using any cultural elements within your marketing.
  • Consult the experts and form long-term relationships for campaigns.
  • Avoid stereotyping as this could offend your target audiences.
  • If you’re considering a cultural trend then make sure you understand the trends and the roots of this culture, and be mindful of what language you’re using.
  • Ethical keyword usage – ensure keywords are accurate.
  • Audit your content and your campaigns to ensure they are ethical and align with your brand values.
  • Feedback and review with others, and look at other perspectives.
  • If a mistake is made then acknowledge it, be transparent and apologise.

How to incorporate EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) into your SEO strategy?

  • Research and understand your audience and their cultural backgrounds.
  • Keyword research for inclusivity.
  • Create content that resonates with your audience.
  • Visual diversity.
  • Adopt an inclusive tone and language within the content.
  • Think about how the website and the content are accessible to those with disabilities, e.g. use appropriate headings and captions.
  • Inclusive link building, seeking inclusive partnerships.
  • Optimise local SEO with diversity.

Corporate social responsibility is not PR

The next talk was with Sangeeta Waldron from Serendipity PR & Media entitled ‘CSR is not PR.’

What is CSR?

CSR (Corporate social responsibility) is the relationship a brand and a business have with the local community and the wider planet and environment.

Sangeeta explained that CSR has changed, the data and the research are better, and the consumers want businesses to do better. It is accelerating the need for authentic ethical and sustainable brands and comms.

What is greenwashing?

When marketing tactics are used by big-name fast fashion companies to advertise their new supposed sustainable lines of clothing, the process of conveying a false impression for marketing results.

CSR starts with storytelling, authentic storytelling. Internal communications. Is your supply chain sustainable, is your board?

When you let CSR lead the PR campaign and strategy then. Authentic and loyal messages to the consumers, e.g. LEGO packaging will be sustainable by 2025.

Imposter syndrome in digital PR

Amelia Selby was next up, from SEO Travel. Delivering their talk on ‘Imposter syndrome in PR’.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a fraud in some area of your life despite achieving success in that area.

Why is it so prevalent in PR?

  • Always on culture, 24/7 news culture.
  • Fear of ridicule (by journalists or publishers, etc.)
  • Constantly comparing ourselves to others.

How to deal with imposter syndrome:

  • Study the evidence.
  • Look at the situation from a flipped perspective.
  • Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset.
  • Have compassion for yourself and cut yourself some slack.
  • Success does not require perfection.

The inside scoop from a journalist

Next up was a talk from Zoe Burke from Hitched, entitled ‘Why I’m ignoring your pitches.’

Zoe shared some really insightful tips on how to improve pitches:

  • 1:1 Personalised basis
  • Send the pitch before noon
  • 300 words maximum
  • Exclusive stories, case studies or first-person accounts
  • Bespoke to the niche
  • Use a polite follow-up after 3-7 days

What to avoid with pitches:

  • A lack of personalisation.
  • Bad timing, e.g. at the end of the day or on a Friday.
  • A pitch that is too broad or too niche.
  • Irrelevant topics for the target audience or journalist’s niche.
  • Data without crediting the source.

The rise of black hat digital PR tactics

The next talk was with James Hayward-Browne from Bottled Imagination, on ‘The rise of black hat digital PR: our responsibility to the industry.’

James discussed 3 black hat digital PR tactics:

  1. Disinformation for coverage and backlinks (spreading false information whilst knowing that it is false)
  2. Irrelevant campaigns. A relevant campaign is in the sweet spot between what you want to talk about, what the journalists want to talk about and what the consumers care about. Irrelevant campaigns only care about what the journalists want to talk about.
  3. Spray, pray and hope. Mass media lists, mass sending emails, etc.

Why is this happening?

James described that no one wants to build organic growth slowly but short term gains tend to end in long term detrimental effects.

When a measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure. We’re typically measured by a link KPI, and we have little control over dofollow, nofollow or affiliate links.

James highlighted some areas of focus:

  • Focus more on strategy and ideas.
  • Brand growth requires trust and credibility.
  • PR will be around after Google.
  • The 20% rule, one day a week do creative and strategic stuff.
  • We can diversify our promotion tactics by using ALL available platforms, TikTok for example.
  • Don’t cave to any links by any means.
  • Be creative!

The power of strategic outreach in link building

The final talk of the day was by Andrea Piackova from Legacy Communications. Now I must say, this was my favourite talk of the day!

Andrea discussed the importance of manual and automated outreach and how to achieve the perfect blend between the two. Andrea discussed two steps to take:

Step 1: Identify or create a linkable asset that others want to link to such as interviews with CEOs or finding insights or statistics.

Step 2: Targeting and narrowing down your media list means that you then have quality over quantity. Do this by being picky about the publishers that you choose and finding keywords that are niche to the client.

Andrea stated that outreach for link building should be:

Client email – Are you reaching out to the correct or most relevant person?

Compliment – Make this specific to the brand and not just ‘I like your content’

Case study – Use case studies but don’t make it about you, make it about what you can do for THEM.

Your request – What exactly are you asking for?

What’s in it for them? Value – always think about what is in it for them, whether it’s easy for them, and what it’s going to bring them.

Give, give, give then ask!

Digital PR outreach should be:

  • All in one.
  • Country – is the spelling and currency correct? Are you sending outreach within their working hours?
  • Concise intro about the press release.
  • Contact information.

If a journalist has not placed your client link in the material, ensure that you:

  • Ask within 24 hours.
  • Be specific about where and which link needs to be added.
  • Say, ‘thank you’.
  • Then, be detached. This leads to many wins if you simply say something like ‘If you can’t, then no worries, have a great day.’ Be human and be approachable.

Final takeaway

I personally found all of the talks to be very insightful, educational, and even entertaining in parts! I feel very inspired to continue learning and developing my knowledge of SEO.

If you’re considering going to a brightonSEO conference or just want to learn more about the bones of the event, then I hope this has been a helpful resource. Perhaps you’ve even learned a thing or two from the talks I have shared, or perhaps you’ll even be lucky enough to win a ticket at next year’s ballot!



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Imy Hill

Digital Marketing Assistant

Imy is a digital marketing specialist, and helps manage the digital PR strategy for clients.

Meet Imy
Email Imy

Imy is Digital Marketing Assistant

and is a digital marketing specialist, and helps manage the digital PR strategy for clients.