A sound media relations program should play an integral role within an organization’s overarching marketing strategy. The trifecta of earned, owned and paid media opportunities can help build brand awareness and credibility, support thought leadership, and drive your lead generation efforts.
And while organizations typically have full control over their owned and paid content and opportunities, an earned media strategy requires a sophisticated and thoughtful approach to help garner the results you are looking for.
In looking to secure impactful earned media opportunities, we recommend adhering to a four-pronged process:
No matter the industry in which you work, researching highly targeted publications can drive better results. Why? Because you’re reaching specific target audiences where your content is relevant — and they want to read about topics that interest and impact them.
I often hear the question: “How do I know if this is the right publication for my organization?” Chances are, if you’re working with a PR-savvy agency, they have the tools and knowledge to help in this department. Typically, the selection process starts with considering: who are we trying to reach, what do we want our audience to gain, and what value proposition can we offer?
Arming yourself with these insights can help hone in on which publications to target. For example, a healthcare IT-focused company might look at publications and outlets that are hyper-focused on best practices related to revenue cycle management, specifically reaching CFOs and VPs of revenue at hospitals and health systems, to share news about an upcoming product launch or tips on how to improve processes.
Craft engaging story angles
To compete with a journalist’s inbox overload and pique their interest, your story angles and news pitches need to be engaging. Think of it like this, you want to whet their appetites just enough to draw a response. The goal here is to be short and sweet — they certainly don’t have time to read a book. In fact, if your emails are too lengthy, it’s likely a journalist will breeze right over it.
Start with a key, compelling message. This goes back to “what are you trying to communicate with your audience and how is the information you’re providing beneficial?” You want to make sure what you’re communicating to your audience is interesting and valuable.
Be sure to also consider the difference between press releases and stories. I’ve found this tip from Entrepreneur to be a guiding light: “Great stories are shared. News announcements are fleeting, and at their worst, inconsistent over time. Press do their homework and it’s very easy for them to dismiss ‘another press release’ as noise, versus something of substance that they need to take an interest in, following and sharing with their readers.”
If you’re looking to promote your product or service offering, you’ll want to decide how to get your message across without being too self-serving while also cutting through the clutter. This requires mindful consideration. For example, rather than simply announcing a product’s release – highlight it’s benefits to your target audience and the WHY it’s important in the context of broader industry or world issues.
This approach requires creativity; be a storyteller. Consider this tip: capitalize on current topics and trends. Touting your company’s executives’ knowledge on how to solve specific industry challenges is a smart approach, highlighting true expertise.
Master the art of pitching
With your media targets and story angles fleshed out, the next piece of the puzzle is to master the art of pitching. This can be tricky.
The key is to identify the right media contact at each publication as you want to ensure the person you are trying to connect with has covered relevant topics. This can heighten your chances of success. To accomplish this, you’ll need to both rely on your relationships (more on that below) and do your research.
You’ll also want to make sure you consider the ways in which your journalist contacts prefer to be contacted. Cision or Meltwater are helpful assets to have in your back pocket. These types of tools can not only help you identify the right journalist targets, but also their preferred communication method. If a journalist specifically requests email only – no phone calls – you want to be respectful. Otherwise you might end up on their “do not reply” list.
Just remember to be patient; not every editor you reach out to will respond. That’s okay. Keep trying. And, when they do get back to you, answer them in a timely fashion. The longer you want to respond, the more likely they will move on to the next available source.
Establish relationships with editors
The more you build and nurture relationships with journalist contacts, via email, phone and even social media, the more successful you’ll be in securing potential opportunities. It’s like a fine wine, it only gets better over time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean reaching out to contacts daily, but it does mean establishing a regular cadence to help build a foundation and allow journalists to get to know you. It could even be as simple as reaching out regarding a recent article you found interesting and have a thoughtful point or relevant question to share.
This type of approach shows the editor you’re a key industry player and a potential resource for any articles they may be writing for which you can contribute. You’re also opening the door for interview opportunities, which are just as valuable as contributed content.
Editors are constantly looking for good resources and they oftentimes have their go-to’s – sources they trust. Step-up, and be that person!
Enjoy the fruits of your labor
Developing a strong media relations strategy where you can see tangible results is rewarding, and earned media remains a powerful tool in building credibility and awareness for your organization. This is all the more important in today’s world where consumer trust continues to decline, according to a Forrester report.
Media relations is a key component of a comprehensive marketing and communications program. As a PR practitioner, my end goal is to secure editorial placements to help my clients stand-out in a saturated market and share stories that can make a positive impact. The results are truly worth the extra effort.