Getting covered by the news media is essential to digital marketing success. Not only does it provide visibility for your company, product or service, it powers most content marketing and social media strategies. Whether your target audience is consumers, businesses or other stakeholders, without having earned media coverage as part of your marketing mix, you’re not realizing your full digital marketing potential.
In this article we’ll explain why earned media is a crucial part of any successful digital marketing campaign, outline what you need to get started and provide tips on how to get your first earned media hit!
What is media coverage and why does it matter?
Media coverage is also known as earned media or ‘good PR’. It confers a powerful, unbiased endorsement for an idea, a company, a brand or a product. It gives great exposure to vast audiences and perhaps more importantly for digital marketing, PR coverage provides those backlinks from credible websites that are crucial to maintaining high search engine rankings. Sometimes known as publicity, media coverage is not advertising. It’s based on the news value of the story and is never paid for.
Getting media coverage is one of the four pillars of digital marketing success alongside owned, shared and paid media. This includes content marketing, social media and digital advertising among other marketing tactics. Digital marketing is interconnected, and all activities are dependent upon each other to gain the most value for marketing budgets. If PR coverage is not part of the mix, other activities will struggle to deliver the desired results.
How to get media coverage
Gaining sustained positive news coverage means having a long-term view and takes investment in both time and resources. Occasionally, if your story angle is good and the timing is right, you can start seeing results almost immediately. But it usually takes about three months’ effort to start seeing your company mentioned in the news media. Sometimes it can take even longer depending on what else is happening in the news. Here are the foundational steps to creating a successful media relations program.
1. Know your media
The very first activity in getting PR coverage is the one most often overlooked, yet it couldn’t be simpler. Study the media to learn which outlets tend to cover stories like yours.
Read the websites. Listen to the podcasts. Watch the videos. The object of this exercise is to observe how each covers news. For some, the bulk of the coverage will be short newsy articles. Others pride themselves on in-depth investigative reporting. Still others will tend towards opinion and thought leadership content. In fact, most will have a combination of all of these editorial approaches.
Other things to look for
- Is there any coverage of your closest competitors? If the answer is yes, this media outlet is a good target for you.
- Do they accept contributed articles? Many outlets will publish bylined opinion or thought leadership articles if they are not salesy and puff.
- Is there an editorial bias or special focus? For example, there might be a progressive theme across the stories. CNN and FOX tend to cover the same news, but they take very different angles in their reporting. Observe if there’s a bias that reflects that of your target audiences.
- Which stories are most shared? Lots of news outlets have badges showing how many times an article has been shared on social media and on which platforms. Analytics software, such as BuzzSumo or Meltwater, can also give you this insight. This gives you an idea about how viral the content is.
- Are comments turned on? If so, what’s the commentary like? This is a good indication of audience engagement and can provide insights on your target audiences.
- Who is their audience? Sometimes this can be tough to discern just by looking at the content. Try exploring at the mice print in the website footer for a link to advertising info or a media kit. Often a publisher will include an audience overview in these sections.
2. Prioritize your target media
Now that you have a good understanding of the media outlets that cover your space, you must prioritize. Create a media list ordering the outlets by priority with the outlets that are most likely to cover your news at the top.
Returning to our software industry example above, let’s say your product is a payments app. While getting coverage in C/net, Tech Radar or IT World Canada would be awesome, Payments Journal or PaymentsSource cover your industry more closely. You can take this targeting a step further if your product has a specific customer base. For example, if your payments software is used mostly by online gambling operators, getting covered by iGaming Business and Canadian Gaming Business should be your top priority.
Put the most narrowly focused media outlets at the top of your priority list and cascade down to the most general.
3. Build media relationships
Remember the ‘R’ in PR stands for relationships. It’s important to build a rapport with reporters and influencers before you ever pitch a story. If news professionals know you or at least have heard of your company or brand, they will be more receptive.
Start by following them on Twitter and Instagram. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Like, share and comment on their content. Connect in person with media professionals whenever you can. Attend events such as press receptions at trade shows or at relevant charity fundraisers that reporters are likely to attend.
Once you’ve established a connection, don’t be afraid to ask influencers about their preferences. How do they want to be contacted? When’s the best time of day to reach them? What kinds of story angles do they prefer?
4. Understand what makes a good story
Reporters are constantly looking for good stories that provide value to their audiences. If you have news that is of interest to the readers, you’ve got a good chance of gaining an influencer’s attention. But remember, most reporters get upwards of 50 story pitches a day, so make sure yours stands out by being relevant and newsworthy. Here’s how:
- Is it new? It’s called news for a reason. A new product, approach or idea provides excellent news value, but it must be brand new. Your product launch isn’t necessarily news if there’s others like it on the market. Your CEO’s speech isn’t news if he’s said the same thing before.
- Is it unusual? Here the story may not be new, but it has unique angle. Your new product might not be differentiated, but if you’re the only company marketing it to parents of small children, you could have a good story.
- Is it significant? Is your news about something that will have an impact? Your company’s increase in sales may not be newsworthy enough to get media coverage. However, it could make the difference if this increase pushes you into the industry’s number one position.
- Is it about people? Adding a human angle will always make a story stronger. A customer testimonial or case study often provides a good angle. Featuring an employee as part of the story is another way to add a genuine human touch.
5. Make it easy to cover you
Reporters and influencers are pretty much 100 per cent focused on producing stories and most have output quotas set by their bosses. In short, they’re busy. You can increase your chance of being covered by making things easy for a hardworking journalist.
Start by making it effortless for a reporter to contact you. Publish your email address and phone number on your website, on Google My Business and in your other social media profiles. And when they do reach out, reply quickly. Reporters are on tight deadlines and will move onto another source if you they can’t reach you.
Take this idea to the next level by creating an online media kit where journalists can freely access the news releases, quality photos and video, executive bios, technical fact sheets and statistics they can use to build their stories.
Keep your pitches short and fact based, and deliver on all your promises. Reporters don’t want to be sold to; they just want information that helps them do their jobs. Your pitch should include a one sentence summary of news, a link to a primary source such as a news release or an infographic, and a succinct offer. For example, are you offering an exclusive interview, providing a sample product for review or an inviting them to an event?
The best thing you can do to help a reporter cover you is to be relevant and provide value. Reporters hate off-topic pitches and resent false promises. If you are offering an exclusive interview with the CEO, make sure that no other reporter gets that interview and that it’s the CEO that turns up on the call, not some other spokesperson.
No matter your what business you’re in, what customer base you serve or what your communications objectives are, media coverage plays an important role in digital marketing campaigns. Beneficial media relationships take time to develop, but this investment will pay long-term dividends.
Get the media coverage that your company deserves and needs for digital marketing success. Let’s set up a time to chat.