The first time I heard the term MAT Release I had no idea what it was. I started in the newspaper world and moved into public relations agency life before hearing this phrase. Now having created MAT Releases for clients for more than 14 years, I’ve seen them evolve to become a more powerful controlled media tactic than ever before.
Creating a MAT may seem simple but comes with many considerations. Yes, there are some tried-and-true rules from my first days writing that still apply today: You need an intriguing angle, compelling headline, balanced branding and copy that hits the 400- to 700-word sweet spot. But just as newspapers and the PR industry have changed over the last few decades, the MAT release has changed, too. Smart marketers will take steps to optimize their MAT for the modern media landscape. Here are four ways to do just that:
Start with thoughtful, compelling copy
Empathy has always been important in marketing and public relations, but it certainly has come center stage through the pandemic and the ever-evolving breaking news cycle. It’s more important than ever to humanize your brand and find ways to genuinely relate to your audience.
Keep in mind, there is a fine line between finding a news hook that matters to your audience and taking advantage of a situation in an attempt to boost readership. When developing a MAT Release, a thoughtful tone helps you construct a story that connects with readers’ hearts and minds. Be authentic and pay attention to timing as well as societal context.
Feeling stuck or unsure? If your angle feels stagnant or you’re not confident your approach will resonate positively, here are simple, no-cost ways to get the creative juices flowing:
- Have a 10-minute jam session with a colleague to discuss ideas. It’s amazing how another person’s presence and energy can facilitate breakthroughs, whether you meet virtually or in-person.
- Be a sleuth. Search an applicable phrase on Google and look at the results for related searches. Then, jump on answerthepublic.com to see what people are asking about. Finally, go on a competitor’s site and review news and blogs. How can you approach a subject better or in a unique way?
- Have a diverse group of people review your angle ideas. This can help reveal different points of view and also uncover any hidden bias or cultural sensitivities that may not be outwardly apparent.
- Check out the Brandpoint supplement calendar, which is a general guideline of what editors are looking for throughout the year. You can also reach out to schedule a brainstorm session or complementary editorial review so a writer or editor can help you fine tune copy or come up with a fresh approach.
Incorporate organic brand mentions
A good story angle provides the framework for a high-performing MAT Release, but at the end of the day you want that brand mention. While this is a controlled media strategy, it’s not the same as taking out an ad. The key is to connect with readers in a meaningful way that subtly conveys your key messages.
It can be difficult to balance commerciality in a MAT Release, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to ensure it performs as well as possible, especially if you want to position yourself for print placements. Readers are savvier than ever, and excessive brand mentions will cause them to tune out and move on. Light branding is best.
[Read More: 10 Examples of Controlled Media]
Best practices are to incorporate a brand one to three times in a release, including the URL. You want to make those times count without tainting the journalistic approach that editors and readers appreciate so much from a MAT Release. Do you have a recent survey you can incorporate? Have some important research to share? Do you have a brand expert you can highlight in a manner that isn’t too self-serving, such as through a quote or being the source of tips?
I love including quotes from experts in releases because it’s an organic way to achieve a brand mention, plus it positions the person and associated company as thought leaders. One word of caution: Avoid quoting marketing/PR leaders at the company. These people are smart and informed and, therefore, seem like the ideal person to quote. However, in my opinion, anyone who works in communications is inherently biased toward their brand. And they should be, considering their job. But that typically doesn’t make them the right person to feature in a MAT.
For example, if you were reading about how to treat a migraine, would you want to hear from a marketing exec or a nurse associated with the brand? I think people would agree the nurse would be more credible, not to mention make the piece more interesting. Keep the marketing quotes for your press releases and other outreach efforts.
Use rich visuals to create memorable storytelling
My mom finds little value in cookbooks without pictures, so when shopping for one recently to give her as a gift, I paid close attention to the colorful visuals that brought the recipes to life. There are millions of recipes out there in books and online, and many are overlooked or forgotten. However, when a stunning image paints the perfect picture of what you could be enjoying for dinner tonight, you’re suddenly ready to take stock of ingredients, follow those steps and make something special in your own home.
The best MAT Releases will do the same thing by featuring strong visuals that help tell the story. Having good visuals not only makes your copy more engaging in the present, but it also makes it more memorable so people remember it in the future. With people now being exposed to thousands of different types of ads and information a day, you need to do everything you can to not be overlooked or forgotten!
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Research shows that when people hear information, they remember 10% of it three days later. If that information includes a relevant image, people retained 65% of the information three days later, reports Brain Rules. Additionally, humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, according to 3M, so that visual is key to grabbing readers’ attention and drawing them into the story.
Open a newspaper — either online or print — and see where your eye is drawn. There’s a good chance that it first scans the photography before anything else. An intriguing image leads to a headline read, which leads to exploration of the story, so always have excellent lifestyle photos to publish with a MAT Release. A setting or people should be the focus of the image, not the product. Better yet, leave the product out of the main image completely. Diversity is good, too.
If you want to take your readers on an even deeper visual journey, consider adding a video component to your MAT Release. This means your story publishes online along with a video to further engage the reader. A multimedia approach like this really embraces modern marketing methods and can be extremely effective.
[Read More: 6 Ways to Make Your MAT More Engaging]
Maximize the mileage out of every MAT
I remember my first time pitching national media for a local Minneapolis client. Making my way through the media list, sending finely crafted emails and following up with courteous phone calls was a process full of lessons learned. I knew I wasn’t the only one contacting these people in hopes of getting a story picked up. There were probably a dozen before me and a dozen after me in just that day’s time. I had to inform, relate, think quick and be thick-skinned — because getting ignored or shot down is part of the game.
Today securing media placements is even more difficult and folks in media relations have their work cut out for them. Rather than hitting a brick wall over and over, a MAT Release is a good option for getting your messages published in many news outlets. Brandpoint has a rich distribution network that includes publications across the country, from top 100 newspapers to niche community papers.
This is the ideal way to boost your media reports, but there’s a lot more you can do to get the most out of your MAT. To start, consider targeting options now available that allow you to get your story in front of your key demographics and/or targeted locations. Want to focus on mothers over 40 who make more than $75,000 a year? A premium MAT Release can help you do this with high-level audience targeting, social media engagement and more. It’s the magic wand I wish I had back as a fresh AAE learning the media relations ropes!
After your MAT Release is distributed, you’ll begin seeing media placements typically within 48 hours. Remember, the content created is owned by you, so don’t let it just sit around after distribution. You can get even more mileage from your MAT with minimal PR effort. MAT Releases are a great way to supplement a brand’s blog or any brand-owned media channel. You can also use the provided social media posts and add in a link to a top media placement and then share on your brand’s social media sites.
The future is bright
Every day I work on MAT Releases and find the strategic and creative aspects of my job to be fascinating. Although I’ve seen the media landscape change tremendously and am confident it will continue to evolve, the modern MAT Release is keeping up the pace. With a fresh approach and strategic insight, this powerful PR tool can help you effectively tell a story in a way that matters to readers, editors and of course, your brand.