Content creation and distribution can be used to generate a variety of outcomes, from simple brand awareness to product sales, to earned media coverage and expert reviews. Of these outcomes, earned media coverage can seem the most elusive to even the most seasoned communications professional. To the outsider, press coverage might seem like luck…or lack of it, depending on the tone of the coverage. To increase the chance of garnering third party editorial coverage of a story, included here are some key best practices that PR pros and marketers can put into use.
Back to Basics
Not All Press Releases Are Created Equal
Before you establish goals for your content distribution strategy, you need to understand what type of content it is. Do you have an “announcement” that will be of interest to shareholders and current customers, or do you have a truly “newsworthy” angle that will appeal to both your known and unknown audiences, including the media?
If you plan to send an announcement that does not have a clear news angle, your goals most likely center around awareness and, if you’re a public company, investor confidence—which in itself might drive news. On the other hand, if what you’re distributing truly is news (think: original research providing insight into your industry, a major product launch that will disrupt the market, a shift in company strategy that completely sets you apart from the competition) your goals should absolutely include earned media, and you should optimize your content to make it more press-friendly.
HEADLINE AND LEAD:
People WILL Judge a Book by Its Cover
Human attention spans are decreasing each year—a total loss of 4 seconds from 2000-2012,1 making it one second shorter than that of a goldfish. The proliferation of digital channels and available content will only continue this trend, and if you think journalists are immune, you are wrong. Journalists are tasked with producing more content in more channels than ever before. They can also source stories from more channels than ever before. You need to get their attention fast and give them pertinent details at the start.
Your headline is your first impression; it need not be dry or boring, but you also should not be striving for cute. Remember the W’s: “what” and “why” are most important but don’t neglect “who,” “when,” and “where.”
THE GOLDEN RULE OF SOCIAL:
“If it is easy to do, we’re going to do it.”
You do need to tell your complete story, but you also want to consider the many channels people are engaging on today. Overly long headlines not only lose you precious attention share, they also discourage social shares—people want “readymade,” they do not want to edit or produce a new Tweet for your message…and frankly, if you want the right message out there, this will ensure consistency.
Multimedia Drives Views
Humans are visual creatures. Multimedia can increase views to your content up to 2.8X more than a text-only press release—and 24X for releases housed on branded microsites or landing pages (such as a Multimedia News Release).
Numbers Give Credibility to Your Story
Numbers and statistics give your story crunchiness—they make it “real” for the reader. A good, original statistics can actually serve as the “hook” that makes your content newsworthy.
Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200
Media Contact & Prepared Spokespeople
Whether your communications goals include media pick-up or not— foregoing a media contact on your content is a missed opportunity. Think back to: “if it’s easy, we’ll do it.” A journalist does not necessarily have the time, or desire, to go digging for an appropriate contact when a headline catches their eye.
Once you do have the media contact listed, be prepared for media outreach. You should have talking points and prep all applicable spokespeople to ensure a consistent story and voice.
ABOUT THE EXPERT: BRETT SIMON
Former reporter Brett Simon is Senior Manager of PR Newswire’s media relations team and writes for the company’s media blog, @BeyondBylines.