Content Marketing: Boosting Your PR Effectiveness

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Jun 24, 2015
Communications Training

Can you think of a better partnership than PR and content marketing? We’re all facing insatiable demands for content, and PR is the perfect avenue to get your content in front of a wider audience. If this is true, why aren’t we getting better results from our PR efforts?

Wanted: Good content, great stories

It’s no secret media newsrooms are strapped for resources. Reporters, photographers, cameramen, editors and copy editors have been let go from media companies in large numbers. The void left by this unprecedented exodus of journalists creates a dilemma for news outlets. They continue to publish and are often reliant on content delivered from outside sources. We’re quite possibly in a perfect storm for public relations influence. As Lee Odden points out in Ragan’s PR Daily, “Both Marketing and Public Relations are in the content business.

According to Nic Hayes, Managing Director of Media Stable, we’re not even close to realising the opportunity and he points the finger at the PR industry itself. In a recent article at Radio Today, Nic laments the state of press releases and wonders why so many of them are so bad.

As someone that has worked in public relations and content production for almost nine of my eighteen years in media I am still flabbergasted by communication companies delivering irrelevant content,” he says.

The press release, when done well, will fit into your content marketing program like a hand fits into a glove. Do it poorly and you might as well not do it at all for the lack of impact it will have.

Lost: Earned media opportunities

Is there a brand on earth that wouldn’t appreciate more earned media? Any time the traditional press covers your company; you’re winning. The best vehicle for getting press coverage is a well-written, well-placed media release. A lot of brands aren’t doing a good job on either front.

If you ever hear James Lush speak about why some stories get picked by the media and others don’t, it always comes down to how the press release is written. He addresses this issue in episode 25 of Brand Newsroom.

As the journalist, it’s not your responsibility to find that story. It’s not your responsibility to work out from that pitch where the story is, because if those that are telling the story are not telling it well enough, then they’re responsible for that,” says James.

Hear more about what makes a story newsworthy in the mind of a journalist at the Brand Newsroom podcast:

A good media release is going to provide a lot more traction with the press and give you opportunity to have your content published in many different places. How you write that release is critical. It’s not just media newsrooms experiencing staffing shortages. Industry associations are also understaffed. They, too, are content hungry and might be the most effective place for your content to be published.

Here are seven tips you can use to improve the effectiveness of your media releases:

Get to the point. Make sure your story is summarised in the first few sentences of the release. Don’t make the journalist hunt for the story; lay it out in a summary paragraph.

Tell a good story. No one wants to read about your company, your product or your services. They just don’t. They will be extremely interested in how you can make an impact on their life or the lives of other people. Put some spice in your story to show your point of difference. Adopting the adage of ‘show, don’t tell’ is a key element to telling a good story.

Do all the work for the journalist. Write the press release as you would like the story to appear in a newspaper or magazine. If a journalist can lift it word for word, you’ve got a much better chance for getting it published. Yes, there are rules for how a press release is formatted but that doesn’t prevent you from writing the story you want to see appear in the wider press. This is exactly what happened when E-Solution Professionals announced a new product and wrote the press release like a feature story. It was picked up hundreds of times, even by prestigious sites like Bloomberg.

Put people in the story. Press releases with quotes from key players are far more effective than those without. Let the news be told through the interview. If you have a new product, let your director of R&D explain why it was developed. That’s far more interesting than marketing spin.

Include photos in your release so the journalist doesn’t have to chase them up. Stories with images are more likely to get published and read, so make sure to supply them.

Get your timing right. Keep track of major industry events and have something ready to go when journalists are looking for a new story to cover the lead-up to the event. If you have seasonal content, make sure your content is available when the editor is looking for stories. For magazines, this might be 6 months ahead of schedule. For newspapers, it might only be a day or two.

Pitch to the right person, at the right time. Not all journalists cover all stories. Find out who covers your beat and get to know them. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and find out what stories they cover. Not all journalists work every day. If you want radio coverage, don’t pitch to the weekend talent if you want your story aired on the morning commute.

Don’t neglect the media release in your content marketing strategy. If you’re currently using a public relations company to help you get more earned media, make sure they understand the story you’re trying to tell. If you’re a public relations professional, listen to Nic Hayes’s advice and “know your audience for the sake of your client and your own future.” We’re all in the content business so let’s get busy making it work together.

Where to go for help

If you would like help writing better media releases or attracting traditional media with your content, get in touch. We have extensive experience in media, public relations and content marketing and can help you create an effective plan of attack.

– by Sarah Mitchell