Media relations is a thing of the past. I declared this on my LinkedIn profile and few years ago and I continue to stand by the statement as it pertains to spending countless hours pitching story ideas to reporters. The time-cost-benefit analysis just doesn’t work in today’s communication landscape.
What does work is an effective earned media strategy. Earned media is any publicity you haven’t paid for and that is published on media owned by a third party. This can range from a mention of your brand, product, or service in the context of a larger article to content that is just about you or your expertise.
Publishing content on your own website, social channels, and/or blogs is an effective way to gain visibility. Getting content published on external sites expands reach, exposes you to new audiences, and increases the credibility of your content. It’s a tactic that should be part of your content strategy.
Start with a Strategy
Like any communication effort, you need a strategy behind your earned media program. Otherwise, you will never know if your efforts are effective.
Your strategy should address your goal for earned media placements. This can be brand awareness (general? specific?), establishing thought leadership and expertise around a topic, and/or driving traffic to your other content. The goal will guide you in selecting which content to create and target for earned media.
Understand who you want to reach. Research where they spend time online and how your content intersects with their interests.
Know how you plan to reach your goal. How often will you attempt to place content externally? What resources will you dedicate to the effort? How will you determine where to focus your content placement efforts?
Also be sure to define measures of success. It will take time to develop and place content externally. Set the bar for the number of placements, reach, etc. that you need to make the effort worthwhile.
Earned Media Approaches
- Pitch complete articles. With fewer reporters and 24-7 demand for fresh content, many media outlets appreciate turn-key content that they can review and publish quickly. This is a great way to start a relationship with an outlet, with low risk and time invested on their part and the potential for establishing yourself as a great source of content. Be sure your content is publish-worthy–note the tips below.
- Contribute experts. Pay attention to the news and what’s trending at Google and social sites. If you have an expert that can credibly add to the conversation, have him or her comment on articles with some unique content. (Simply agreeing or restating things others have said isn’t effective.) Do this at sites that you have evaluated to be credible outlets where you want to be seen. Two-or-three well-placed comments should have the right impact.
- Pitch ideas. This taps traditional media relations tactics and, to me, is the least effective if you don’t have a relationship with a media site. Chances are your pitch won’t even be read. But, if you have a connection with an editor or reporter, they do appreciate fresh ideas and a storyidea that comes complete with expert resources saves them time and resources.
As you determine your earned media approach, keep in mind that many outlets will accept re-purposed content. Some will republish complete articles and others will want at least a portion updated and revised.
If you pitch content that has already been published, make sure to wait at least two weeks after the last publish date. This allows the content to recede from search crawls and reduces any potential SEO penalty for duplicate content.
Your goal is to establish a relationship with one or more target media outlets, so always present your best content and experts for consideration. Incomplete, inaccurate, or poorly written content will get in the way of your efforts to find external publishing partners.
- Check external sites for submission guidelines and follow them
- Always have at least two people (other than the author) proof and edit content
- Make sure your content is accurate and shares a fresh take on the subject; focus on information sharing rather than sales (that’s what a paid ad is for)
- Link to your other content only when the link adds helpful information
- Before proposing an expert, make sure that person speaks well on the topic and has interesting observations to share
- Be honest and clear about whether the content has been published before
Use Social to Share Every Placement
Hopefully, anyone who publishes your content routinely uses social channels to draw attention to new content. You should do the same for your externally placed content. This not only connects your followers with more great content that you have developed, it is a great way to support the media outlet that published it. Win-win.