Dmitry Dragilev, Founder, JustReachOut
Dmitry Dragilev’s One-Two Punch
Dmitry Dragilev has a typical entrepreneurial story, but maybe a little more extreme. Bored in his dead-end, corporate job, he was fearful of ending up like his older, unsatisfied peers. One day, Dragilev read in a magazine about what was going on in Silicon Valley, and up and quit.
He sold everything he owned, hopped in his car, and made his way to California. Equipped only with a knowledge of coding and a drive to succeed, Dragilev had made a decision that changed the rest of his life.
But rather than just firing up a startup, or taking a job with a tech giant, Dragilev would become a major catalyst for growth at multiple other startups. His creative approach to marketing has skyrocketed page views, domain authorities, and site traffic for a variety of businesses, some of which have been acquired by names as big as Google.
As a coach and the founder of a PR software platform, Dragilev has helped to redefine content marketing and public relations for businesses of all sizes, from freelancers to major companies like HubSpot and Airbnb.
Climbing the Tech Ladder
Dragilev’s first job in California was with CrossLoop, a remote desktop service that allowed users to share their screens and collaborate with others online. Primarily using PR as a growth strategy, he helped build the company from zero to 5 million users. CrossLoop was eventually acquired by AVG.
He then moved on to ZURB, a product design company, as the only marketer. Dragilev again used PR and content marketing to grow their domain authority (a search engine ranking developed my Moz that maxes out at 100) from 30 to 85, which boosted their daily traffic by 10 times.
Dragilev’s career then took him to Polar, an online polling company. Before Polar was acquired by Google (yes, Google), Dragilev grew the company from zero to 40 million page views using—you guessed it—PR outreach and content marketing.
Today, Dragilev owns and operates the PR-focused SaaS called JustReachOut as well as coaching program PRThatConverts. He’s helped over 500 entrepreneurs gain invaluable exposure and has written over 1,400 articles that have been published all over the web.
But, like most entrepreneurs, Dragilev wasn’t always so sure of how to tackle the wide world of web marketing.
How did an introverted computer science major with little to no journalism experience skyrocket three different startups using PR and content marketing? In short, by trial and error. By taking risks and testing out new approaches to PR, Dragilev changed the trajectory of numerous brands and continues to do so for businesses today.
Redefining Content Marketing
Over the years, Dragilev discovered that getting mentioned in the press wasn’t actually that helpful in the long run. Investors would always push for publicity, and companies would pay for expensive PR firms. “It was cool to be in Fast Company. It was nice to be in Inc. Magazine, but we weren’t moving ahead, and our numbers weren’t growing exponentially,” Dragilev says.
He mulled over the idea that there needed to be more to a PR strategy than what he’d been working with. Perhaps there was a way around the inconsistent results of press mentions and article backlinks.
“I was like, ‘How can I keep getting more traffic with those links?’” Dragilev says. “I started thinking about SEO…and because of my development background, I was thinking, ‘How do Google and YouTube really rank content?’”
Dragilev decided to run some experiments around the topics in his content. In his articles, Dragilev didn’t mention his product or brand, nor did he try to sell anything. He simply wrote material, focused on one particular keyword, that his readers would enjoy reading.
Over time, Dragilev noticed that his article started to gain traction on search engines. People were linking to it on Quora, Twitter, their own blogs, and more. Soon, his article was ranking high for its chosen keyword, all because Dragilev produced content that people liked to read and share.
At that point, he ran another test. He later returned to his ranking article and added a call-to-action to encourage readers to sign up or buy, and keep them in his funnel.
The results were fantastic. Dragilev realized he’d hit a conversion gold mine with his article, and it was a valuable process he could replicate with other content. But to ensure it would be just as effective, he’d need to be strategic.
“I didn’t want to just rank for any keyword loosely associated with what I do; I want to rank with an intentional search that will convert into a paying customer,” Dragilev says.
For his own efforts, Dragilev tested out topics like “The Definitive Guide to Pitching Journalists” and “How to Pitch Journalists.” These articles converted well for his PR coaching program and business, so he started applying a similar approach for his clients.
“For other companies, you always want to think, ‘What are the really pressing issues? What is annoying people that they are searching for and that Google is really under-serving in terms of content?’” Dragilev says.
By taking this SEO and content strategy, and marrying it to his strong PR strategy, Dragilev finally found the formula for consistent, sustainable growth. He applied this approach in order to beat the typical PR “spike up, spike down” traffic and steadily grow the companies he worked for—and his own.
Dragilev’s PR Approach
Dragilev’s growth formula seems straightforward, but the PR approach can vary a lot when applied to different companies and clients.
To brands first embarking on PR, Dragilev says to start by defining your goal. “In terms using PR, are [they] looking for short-term gains and installs of their app, are they looking for more email subscribers? Is it traffic, or is it brand recognition?” Dragilev says.
To jumpstart the strategy, he encourages businesses to outline where they want to be in one month, five months, and one year. The approach will depend on your forecast.
Dragilev uses a Kickstarter campaign as an example of short-term engagement as a goal. “You just want to get as many eyes on your Kickstarter page, and that’s all. You want to figure how much traffic you can get to the page,” Dragilev says. “From there, it’s reaching out to people who’ve recently covered a similar campaign and striking up a relationship. Your job would be to close them and get a fun story about your campaign.”
On the other hand, for those looking for a long-term promotional strategy, Dragilev encourages clients to mix content marketing into their PR approaches to bolster pitches.
Through his company JustReachOut—a software platform that aims to make PR more accessible—Dragilev has found that most pitches to journalists contain a short greeting and then a long description of the business or campaign. Few marketers bother to connect with the journalists or offer something in exchange.
“Most of the time our app will ask users, ‘Hey, did you read this out loud? Would you say this out loud to [the journalist] if you met him at a conference?’ And most people click no,” Dragilev says, laughing.
Dragilev says that instead of pitching a simple description to a journalist, read three of their articles and start up a conversation. “See how [the articles] are related to what you’re pitching, and maybe there’s some type of overlap.”
That’s how JustReachOut’s software discovers new journalists for his customers to pitch, by perusing articles and finding relevant topics.
Dragilev himself likes to use Quora to connect with journalists and discuss topics related to their articles. He finds this creates a much more authentic, mutually beneficial relationship with a journalist, one that lasts longer than one article.
To Dragilev, PR is much more about quality than quantity. When connecting with journalists, he encourages businesses to consider not only the value of the article, but also the foundation and future of the business-journalist relationship.
Strategic, explosive growth happens as a result of lots of experiments. Between Quora, social media, guest writing, SEO, and good old relationship-building, there are countless ways to gain traction with PR.
For folks looking for any golden rule of PR outreach, there just isn’t one. The same goes for the storyline your brand can produce.
What’s Your Story?
Each business has a competitive edge, a storyline that’s unique to itself. This is what gets the attention of journalists and publications.
It all depends on the product or service offering and how companies use PR and SEO to gain exposure. Dragilev encourages experimentation to see which approach yields the best boost.
“In the case of CrossLoop…we went from zero to 5 million customers in a matter of three years or so,” Dragilev says. “What I found was that pitching the story of, ‘Hey, here’s what we do,’ it was just too shallow of a story. It wasn’t making waves.”
Instead, Dragilev told stories about screen sharing, which was still a new phenomenon at the time. Stories of how customers used CrossLoop performed better for both publications and Dragilev, so he continued to brainstorm different angles. “It was powerful to use that story to come up with possibilities and offshoots off of screen sharing,” Dragilev says.
Tackling PR for Polar wasn’t as easy. Dragilev struggled to come up with relevant, impactful stories and had a hard time gaining traction with journalists and publications.
Finally, he took a step back and shifted his focus away from what was relevant for Polar and onto what was relevant for everyone else. “I said, ‘Well, what is the news right now? What is the hottest news today?’ I’d go on whatever publication was trending and create polls on these topics and I’d promote them to get some data,” Dragilev says.
Then, Dragilev would reach out to the press and offer the data from his polls to journalists for their articles. He found that a data was a great way to get the attention of journalists and he continued to offer it as a means to land coverage.
Regardless of what he was working on, Dragilev’s strategy was simple: Figure out how his product or service connected to journalists, bloggers, and publications and how it improved their storytelling and day-to-day lives.
CrossLoop, for example, embarked on a fresh territory of digital communication, which gave journalists new and surprising topics to write about. Polar provided valuable data that helped bloggers write with more authority and impact.
You’ll not that this approach is similar to that of content marketing. What are pressing issues, and what is your audience searching? Ask yourself the same questions regarding journalists and publications in your industry, and you’ll define your story in no time.
Understanding Your Limitations
Defining your strengths and weaknesses as a business is an integral part of establishing a marketing strategy. For Dragilev, it was writing. But he didn’t let that stop him from making waves in the content marketing and PR fields.
“So, I was not great at writing when I first started out,” Dragilev admits. “I’ve published over 1,400 articles in 10 years, and I’ve probably employed close to 30 different writers. I’ve published in most major publications at this point.”
Starting out, he spent a lot of time on writing and piecing together his posts. He’d often send it to others for feedback, further drawing out his content creation process.
Today, Dragilev routinely works with six writers. He outlines the topic based on his research, and his team fills in the content.
“When I’ve got to rank #1 for something, I always want the article to be the best article for this key term. I look on Google to see what’s ranking and if the term is being under-served, then I write down the points I think are important that aren’t included in these articles,” Dragilev explains. “That’s really where I start my writing process.”
Dragilev views each piece of content as a product. He finetunes each topic and promotes it as the competitive advantage each article offers its readers.
But his article topics aren’t Dragilev’s only priority. He also focuses on the user experience of his readers. “When does it get boring in the article? When does it get dull? When do people glaze over the article? Where do I lose them?” Dragilev says.
It’s these questions that motivated Dragilev’s most recent site improvement. To keep his readers around, he added a clickable table of contents to the right sidebar of his blog. He’s found that this addition alone has improved his session time by almost two minutes.
Optimizing his blog content and readership is important to Dragilev because it’s his only source of customers. With only 20 articles to convert readers, he has to ensure each one is doing its job.
Dragilev also faces limitations within his SaaS business, JustReachOut. Currently, churn is the biggest issue facing the company. “In PR, I think churn is generally pretty high,” Dragilev explains. “I think people give up. They don’t have the time, or they don’t think they need PR. People leave for all sorts of different reasons. I’m always struggling to provide a service that keeps people on for years and years.”
Dragilev and his team have tripled their revenue since last year. Their focus this year is on decreasing churn, and Dragilev is shooting for a rate of 5 percent.
“Now [JustReachOut] offers a do-it-for-you, white glove service where instead of you using our software to pitch journalists, we do it for you,” Dragilev says. “That seems to keep people on much longer.”
They’ve also starting to intercept users with messages at their most prominent pain points inside the application. “We’re just sending them a note saying, ‘Hey, we see that you’re having an issue,” Dragilev says. “We’re trying to all sorts of notifications so that people are improving their pitches as they’re sending them out.”
Dragilev knows just how discouraging it can be to send pitches and not receive responses right away, so he and his team work to provide feedback and ways to improve.
These updates have turned JustReachOut into both a valuable tool and a training mechanism for users. Through his SaaS product, Dragilev continues to teach and inspire others about the power of PR to build and grow businesses.
- Dragilev’s unique growth marketing approach for building sustainable, consistent traffic
- How to build quality relationships with journalists to increase your brand’s exposure
- How Dragilev helped two companies skyrocket sales with two PR strategies
- The quick website fix that resulted in a two-second improvement in user session time