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A journalist friend recently reached out to me to ask for any connections I might have as she looked for a new job. While she is an industry vet and extremely well-networked, with the massive layoffs in newsrooms, she not only lost her job, but all her connections were either in the same boat, had been moved to different beats or changed jobs. The significant changes to the media relations world have forced us to reevaluate what a media “win” is and how to get it. But being catapulted into this new reality has given us the freedom to explore exciting new ways to help our clients reach their audience in an authentic, meaningful way.
Let’s start with the continuing merge of paid and earned “editorial.” What’s the difference between earned and paid media? Earned media tactics rely on the traditional form of media relations, in which we pitch journalists, provide them information in a newsworthy way about our client’s product or service and offer up interviews; then the journalist covers the news as seen fit for their relevant article. Whereas paid media tactics involve a fee in exchange for coverage. Also known as sponsored content or “pay-for-play” opportunities, both are perfectly authentic ways to achieve PR buzz. In fact, newsrooms now divide their staff into “revenue generating” or “non-revenue generating” stories.
You may recall, my team recently wrote about the current media landscape and the dynamic changes affecting nearly all mediums and journalists’ roles, such as several major magazines recently eliminating their print editions. So, how can a PR agency use its industry expertise to help your brand increase exposure using today’s modern media mix? Here are some tricks our team implements:
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Securing earned coverage is more challenging these days. Sure, you can set your team up for success by putting in place an affiliate program to encourage editors to cover your client’s product, but truthfully, earned coverage doesn’t always happen overnight. Part of the success comes from building rapport early on with key reporters.
This comes from following them on social media and reading their latest stories consistently. It’s about getting to know who you’re pitching. Start establishing a relationship by complimenting their work or engaging in their social posts. Then, when it’s time to pitch, you’ll have built a meaningful rapport, and you can have a more meaningful discussion with the reporter about an article. Even if your client isn’t a fit for a story, it’s more likely you’ll get helpful feedback as to why (so you can improve your pitch or offer up a new angle), or you may even get passed along to their colleague.
Now that many media organizations need to identify new revenue streams to replace lost ad income, paid media tactics have become progressively more prevalent.
Leverage your client’s expertise by creating a thought-leadership strategy using paid content. Using a company’s executive spokesperson to write or contribute on a recognizable media platform can help elevate a client’s credibility and increase awareness of the company. It also makes for great content to package up and share on social media. While these opportunities have a fee associated, it’s typically reserved for exclusive groups of executives and can be a fantastic way to share their expertise through original content.
Also, look for ways your client can be part of seasonal roundups in paid online or broadcast placements, or control content by drafting your own editorial-style article. This mat release we created on behalf of our client, The Lagunitas Brewing Co., is the perfect example of how we crafted the news to keep the brand in the media during a peak time of the year — take a read here. If done correctly, these spots will hit on key brand messaging and emphasize key features, so the coverage delivers on a client’s overall goals. These can result in national coverage as well as local placements, which can be packaged up nicely for sales teams or leveraged in marketing materials to help deliver desired business goals.
These two very reliable avenues for generating media shouldn’t be seen as one or the other, but rather working together as part of one cohesive plan. We call it a hybrid media relations plan. For example, we like to leverage earned media opportunities for major business announcements or product launches and then tap into paid media opportunities to sustain conversation in a controlled, ownable way.
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So, as the media landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, so do our recommendations. It’s our job as PR experts to engage with each client to carefully understand the nuances of their business and put together a media plan that ensures continual media coverage opportunities.
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