One of the biggest challenges that PR professionals and marketers face is the competition for attention online. There’s so much content available, it’s tough to lead relevant audiences to your clients’ content.
In addition, consumer skepticism of content is rising. Edelman’s Global Trust Barometer Report found that the U.S. experienced the largest “extreme” decrease in trust ever measured.
At a Minnesota PRSA event this year, PR experts from Carmichael Lynch Relate and other big brands discussed how earned media placements are more important than ever in a world of fake news.
Why earned media?
News publications, magazines and influencers already have an established audience that trusts them to publish useful, quality content. By achieving a placement in these publications, you’re reaching people who will be more willing to trust your brand, too.
Whether the earned media placement is a full article related to a brand or just a subtle mention, these experiences tend to be less disruptive than advertisements, so will leave a more positive impression with the reader.
In this post, I will cover tips for securing earned media placements by creating and submitting personalized pitches.
[Related: How Earned, Owned and Paid Media Work Together]
Decline of the press release
The internet isn’t the only thing flooded with content. So are editors’ email inboxes.
David Martin, founder of Heed Public Relations, discovered from an editor friend that each department in their local newspaper receives about 100 press releases daily. And that’s just for a medium-sized market.
A 2018 report found that 53 percent of U.S.-based journalists do not rely on press releases at all, and just 3 percent of journalists worldwide rely on press releases from a newswire.
Press releases are still valuable in certain circumstances — to make an announcement, release a breaking news story or respond to a PR crisis, for example. And unlike in the past, wire press releases no longer hold SEO value. Google ignores links found in press releases. (The SEO value comes from the earned media you secure that includes backlinks to your website.)
According to Martin, a press release is best used as a supplement to a story pitch. It provides “important details like contact information, quotes, correct name spellings, job titles, relevant statistics, and anything else that a reporter could use in a story,” explains Martin.
Even if sending a pitch with your press release, how can PR pros help their brands stand out to editors? Check out the tips below:
As a former magazine editor, I would say that 80 percent of the press releases and pitches I received were not related to our publication’s niche or audience. This spam has unfortunately given PR a bad reputation.
So when I received a pitch that used my name, showed understanding of our magazine’s niche and audience, and even knew the section and column names of our magazine, it was a breath of fresh air.
Even if we could not fit the product or story into our magazine, I would still reply and ask them to send more pitches in the future. And when I saw emails come in from PR pros whose name I knew, and who I trusted to send good, relevant pitches, I read their emails every single time.
Personalized, thoughtful pitches are what prompt editors to form relationships with PR professionals and include them in a story.
Pro tip: Don’t limit your outreach to newspaper and magazine reporters. Bloggers (also called influencers) can have massive followings on social media. Many influencers fall under a specific niche (home and garden, food, fashion, etc.), so you can easily refine your target audience as well.
Do your homework
Start by researching reporter beats. What reporters cover topics related to your brand or industry? Do they have a specific column they write for? Have they written an article similar to what you want to pitch? By referencing these details, it proves to reporters that you’ve done your homework.
Despite the spam, reporters and editors value PR. Pitches and press releases help them do their job. So will your pitch educate the reporter? Will it give them a new idea or angle on an exhausted topic? Always ask: Will this pitch help the reporter/editor do their job and provide value to their audience?
But more specifically, don’t just pitch your product or news update as a story on its own. Martin says that he researches to see if there’s a way to position his clients into the narratives that the reporters are already covering. “it’s always easier to join a conversation than try to start a completely new one,” says Martin.
Don’t make it all about the brand
When you pitch story ideas, it doesn’t have to be about a product launch, publicity stunt or even something about your brand. For example, if your company produces organic, sugar-free granola bars, you can pitch the thought leaders in your company as an expert about nutritious eating. Or you could pitch a story idea about grab-and-go snacks for the busy back-to-school season (this is timely and not brand-centric; a win-win!).
Get creative in the ways that the media could cover your brand. Even if the article doesn’t include a mention of the product you want to sell, it develops trust with consumers to have your brand represented as a thought leader. (Plus, you’ll still probably get a backlink to your website.)
Your pitch also doesn’t have to be a story or topic idea. You might have come across a relevant study in your industry or interesting statistic that a reporter may not have seen yet. This information may not get you a media placement, but it proves that you’re trying to help the reporter do her job. It will also increase the likelihood that the reporter will read your future pitches.
Make it timely
By paying attention to the news of your industry and knowing the reporters who cover it, you can, as Martin put it, “join the conversation” or provide an interesting and useful angle.
Alison Maloni, owner of Alison May Public Relations, saw that their local news was covering the heat wave. She researched statistics about how many people get heat stroke every year due to exercising in the heat.
“I pitched that along with tips from my fitness clients on how to stay safe exercising,” says Alison. “The pitch was about four sentences. The news did a story with her later that day!”
Also consider creating content around seasonal topics if it’s relevant to your brand. You can plan these out for the rest of the year and create your pitches ahead of time. Then, all you have to do is press send during the right time of the season.
Pro tip: If pitching to a magazine publication, look for their editorial calendar, which is often included with their media kits. Though these are used for advertising, PR pros can use this to see what topics and categories are planned for the year. Magazines have varying story deadlines, however, so ask editors how far ahead they work and when it’s best to send pitches. They’ll appreciate your effort to work on their timeline.
Include media assets
When I was an editor, I appreciated when photos were already included as an attachment or part of a media kit. That way, I didn’t have to prolong communication with the PR pro and could publish a story on the blog ASAP.
Media assets are also a great way for publications to provide a more engaging online experience for their audiences. If your brand has a YouTube video that can be easily embedded, or an interesting infographic, the media asset alone could be the reason an editor wants to publish the story.
If your industry tends to be complex, such as healthcare or financial services, creating new ways to make information more digestible through video or graphics is something that editors and reporters will appreciate.
Gaining trust with earned media
A brand mention in a reputable source establishes trust with readers while increasing brand awareness. By relying less on the press release and crafting personalized pitches with the tips above, you can start improving your relationship with editors and bloggers, and start earning more coverage for your clients.
At the end of the day, earned media should just be one component of your overall content marketing strategy. Learn how Brandpoint’s paid distribution tactics can get your clients’ content seen and secure earned media placements at the same time.