(Updated: August 26, 2019)
Your B2B PR strategy is a complex machine, with earned, owned, shared, and paid media components all working together. Today, we're focusing on the earned media portion of your public relations strategy.
What is earned media? It is the attention a brand receives through through media or other websites. It is called "earned" since it cannot be bought or owned. It is attained through media relations, such as press releases and pitches to journalists.
So how do you get it? A lot relies on understanding what's happening in the world of journalism and what that means for your public relations strategy.
Which begs the question...
What is Happening to Modern Journalism?
Cision, one of the most foremost resources for everything PR, has released its 2019 State of the Media Report. This report helps us see where media relations is headed and what PR tactics would be most useful.
What does this Cision report have to say about the state of modern journalism? The intro puts it this way: "In this fragmented, dynamic media environment, communications and PR professionals have an opportunity to become even more reliable partners with their media counterparts. " Given the right PR tactics, PR professionals can succeed in firing up their media relations strategy.
Another study, Onclusive's 2019 Global Journalism Report gives us more valuable information about how we view journalism in the 21st century. Onclusive has based its report on an analysis of 2.1 billion pieces of editorial content between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019. Its conclusion: "The world of journalism has never been as dynamic as it is today .... The numbers tell a story of an author ecosystem which is fragmenting across publication tiers, editorial topics, and content formats."
What makes today's journalism so different and powerful? The report refers to two key areas to which we may attribute this: digital media and self-publishing.
Where once it was easy to know which media to pitch, today given the proliferation of Tier 3 publications (the non-media elite), there is a virtual army of lesser known outlets to penetrate. Moreover, brands can easily publish their own content and get their name and ideas in front of more eyeballs by amplifying owned content with paid media.
Let's examine these two reports and the findings therein to see what we can learn, as well as pinpoint how it will impact modern PR strategies and tactics.
8 Key B2B PR Takeaways That Will Impact Your PR Strategy
1. Don't Assume
Never assume that a publication is too small to help your brand.
The Onclusive Report demonstrates that the number of journalists working at Tier 1 publications, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, have decreased this past year (from 26% to 15%). At the same time, Tier 3 publications, niche content sites and blogs, have experienced an increase in journalists (from 26% to 41%) over the same period. Onclusive tiers publications based on domain authority and reputation.
What does this mean for you?
Don't dismiss the Tier 3 publications that PR people once might have scoffed at. The key is testing and analyzing the impact of those outlets on your brand.
As Sean O'Neal, president of Onclusive, told me in an interview, "Keep everything open, including publications you've never heard of and journalists who are unfamiliar. Track it, measure it and look at less obvious media."
No fish is too small in this pond of journalists. Pitching to journalists at smaller publications or blogs might be be a boon. How so?
Your target audience might avidly follow a certain trade publication or blog. Now, this publication might not have the prestige of The New York Times, but it is is where your audience hangs out. That in itself gives it more power for your brand than its more prestigious counterparts.
Plus, it's going to be markedly easier to pitch to journalists at smaller publications -- with more surefire results.
2. Target Regional Outlets
Where oh where are the journalists?
U.S. newsroom employment, according to Onclusive, dropped 23% between 2009 and 2017 and paid positions are projected to drop another 10% by 2026.
All is not lost, however. One area of journalism is still robust.
Onclusive discovered that regional publications, such as the Seattle Times, Miami Herald and St. Louis Post publish more authors than Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. And non-traditional outlets such as BuzzFeed publish more authors than ABC. Not all of these are paid but "major metro pubs are still keeping the newsroom alive," said O'Neal.
What does that mean? This is another arrow in the quiver to get coverage.
3. Use Data
With the rise and availability of metrics, journalists have the power to understand their audience. Knowing who comprises their audience and their pain points has proven of great value to journalists.
For example, in Cision's 2019 State of the Media Report, 65% of journalists agreed that the availability of audience metrics like views and engagement has changed the way they evaluate stories.
But how should this impact your PR tactics?
Keep in mind, as you develop pitch ideas, that journalists are looking for such data to drive their decisions. Include data about your audience and past content performance that will back up your pitch.
For example, if you would like a journalist to cover a recent development in your company, provide metrics that show how many people have liked, shared, and commented on similar subjects in the past and how many in general follow and have an interest in your company. This proves that there will be an audience waiting for the story and that it will be well-received.
4. Self Publish
As part of modern PR tactics, brands continue to have the opportunity to be their own publishers.
Today's digital landscape makes it easy to publish your own content, putting you in front of your audience. Don't miss out on this opportunity.
Essentially, this puts you in the driver's seat of your content.
What should you know going into this self-publishing revolution?
One of the biggest piece of information you need is what topics are the most interesting to your audience. As part of its report, Onclusive noted the most popular topics among news outlets in general. The top 10 of these include:
- Business / Professional (1.8M)
- National News (1.78M)
- Information Technology (1.76M)
- Consumer Products (1.25M)
- Lifestyle (1.2M)
- Fashion (1.16M)
- Travel / Tourism / Geographic (1.14M)
- Sports (1.09M)
- Society (587,594)
- Arts (582,623)
A little lower down on the list were Health (15) Environment (18) and Religion, (23).
Keep these topics in mind as you pitch journalists and self-publish.
5. Be a Resource
According to Cision's State of the Media Report, 27% of journalists revealed that their relationship with PR professionals has improved -- from only 9% in 2018. But this doesn't mean that PR people have carte blanche to do whatever they want. There are specific things that journalists need from their relationship with PR pros.
First and foremost, you need to become a resource for journalists. They need trustworthy content that is relevant to their beat. When asked what kind of content they wanted from PR pros, 71% of journalists said news announcements and press releases.
When asked what other kind of content they value, journalists answered with a variety of visuals and data -- 27% images, 18% infographics, and 16% personalized data analytics, to name the top three forms of content they preferred.
When preparing to engage journalists, keep this in mind. Prepare visual graphics and relevant data that will enhance your pitch and give journalists what they want.
6. Be Relevant
Make sure that your pitch is relevant to the journalist' beat. According to Cision's 2019 State of the Media Report, 75% of journalists reported that fewer than a quarter of the pitches they received were on point.
Each journalist covers a specific industry -- for some, that's technology, for others, it's business. You need to find a journalist who covers your specific industry. Simply sending your pitch to a handful of journalists without considering their beat is annoying to journalists (as it should be) and counterintuitive.
Do your research to learn what journalists at each publication cover your industry. There are a number of PR tools that will help you find contact information on the appropriate journalists, such as SellHack or Voila Norbert.
Go beyond general research and look up information about each journalist that you plan to contact. This should include their publication, their audience, and past articles that they've written. This will make your pitch even more relevant to each journalist and motivate them to cover your story.
7. Use Influencer Journalists
Where once all that mattered was getting into a brand-name media outlet, today authors are creating their own brands, separate from the publications where they contribute. As the report notes: "They (author influencers) organically develop their own loyal audiences, many of which even rival Tier 1 media outlets in scale." Influence is measured by the volume of content an author produces, its social media followers and the total amount of social media engagement an author earns.
Onclusive found that the majority of influence is spread across a bell-curve distribution, so that a large swath of journalists can potentially be influencers. Today, an influence score of 70% or higher puts you in the top 2% of influencers.
8. Use Paid Media
Over the past few years there has been a lot of emphasis on owned and earned content. But what about paid media?
When used strategically, paid channels can help to promote your content to new audiences.
When talking about the future of media, Onclusive's O'Neal predicts that "paid media becomes a mainstay."
He continues with this advice: "Use paid media to deliver your best content to its intended audiences, when you want it, how frequently and to how many readers. Combine the credibility of earned media with the reach and frequency of paid media."
Paid media has evolved to include many digital channels, including social media ads, Google Adwords, influencer marketing, and native advertising. Price points vary, but the payout for using paid media is well worth the effort.
As noted in a previous post, the lines between earned, owned, shared, and paid media have recently become blurred. Learning to use all these kinds of media in a cohesive strategy, not compartmentalizing them into separate corners, is essential to modern B2B PR.
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