PR is going through a transformation that is reshaping the industry and ushering in new approaches to landing press.
Consider the changes in news media, for example. Media platforms are shifting from a freemium to a subscription model, leveraging the attention of their built-in audience to convince freelance journalists to do all the heavy lifting of story pitching, fact sourcing, writing, and even promotion.
The press industry of the past was all about pitching journalists that worked in-house for established publications. Press is all about pitching freelance journalists who write for a range of sites, which means two things:
- There are more options for press
- The quality of the pitch means more than the amount of money spent on the PR campaign
Social media is also destabilizing the old-ways and creating new opportunities, whether it’s a maturing influencer marketing industry or business owners pitching publications themselves to land “free” press – that is, getting a press mention without the assistance of a PR agency.
Digital innovation is the name of the game, and press mentions – which used to be aimed at a general audience and sent out on the old PRnewswire – are now incredibly targeted and created in huge volume every single day.
From the perspective of a small or medium sized business owner, these transformations come with some undeniable positives – most notably, cheaper rates. PR companies are no longer able to charge as much as they used to, as the shifting demands of the digital marketplace have brought competition and alternative routes to press that better reflect the immediate needs of customers.
However, on the downside, the flurry of digital innovation has fragmented the PR industry to such a degree that it can be hard to know where to start with press efforts. Should you try and land your own free press? Go with a digital-first PR agency? Wait until you have enough revenue to sign-on with an established agency?
Options might seem endless, but decisions need to be made quickly to start getting more value from press efforts now, and the good news is that there are affordable and effective options out there. Businesses looking to land press should consider the following.
Forge Relationships with Journalists
Although not as many journalists work for media publications exclusively, they are still in many ways the gatekeepers of the press. Building relationships with journalists is the bread-and-butter of the PR specialists trade – and for good reason. If you can forge relationships with the right journalists in your niche, you can benefit each other tremendously over time; the journalist can come to you for expert commentary when writing a story, and you can send the journalists new research or material to pitch to publication editors in their network.
- How to Identify the Right Journalists
In looking to identify the right journalist to forge a relationship with, it helps to use a couple of tools. One awesome tool is HARO, which connects journalists to potential sources. It’s a free platform and, if properly used, can land press for even the smallest or newest of companies. LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent social media resources for finding journalists so long as you stick to your industry and get as hyper-local/specific as you can.
- How to Build Relationships with Journalists
Once you’ve collected a bunch of potential journalists from HARO, LinkedIn, Twitter, or elsewhere, it’s time to start building a relationship that endures beyond a one-time collaboration. The abiding principle with journalist outreach is to be short, direct, and informational. If you have something of value to share, then share it! Value really depends on the journalists and the type of relationship you have had up to that point. For example, if you’ve had a response accepted and used by journalists through HARO, it’s a good idea to follow up with them via email to say thanks. Then, when you’ve got something of value to share – like a white paper or new research finding – you can share it with them via email. Remember to be persistent and send follow-up emails if you don’t hear back right away. You don’t get far in PR without being persistent!
Develop Thought Leadership
Another approach to getting press is done through thought leadership. While the value of thought leadership stretches beyond a press mention, for a business owner looking to grow their business the value of a press mention is huge, and the easiest route to a mention might just be thought leadership. By writing engaging opinion pieces on hot-topic issues in your industry, you are bound to build up an audience that journalists and press agents will take notice of. To develop an identity as a thought leader you need to follow these three steps:
- Build a Narrative Around Your Brand
The first step is to build a narrative around your brand. What is your brand and messaging stance on key issues? What sort of higher level trends can you develop a stance on that will show potential customers that you know your industry inside-out? Building a narrative is all about telling the unique story of the company in a way that defines its purpose and points towards its ambitions.
- Cultivate Influencer Status on Social
Influencer marketing is one of the most important trends influencing marketing and press relations today. An influencer with a substantial number of followers – whether on Instagram, Youtube, or Twitter – is going to be more appealing to third-party publications when it comes time to pitch an article for syndication.
- Master the Art of an Article Pitch
If you have built a narrative around your brand and cultivated an influencer status, your pitching efforts will be easier. But don’t wait on guest posting as even if your influencer status is in its infancy, you still want to be pitching publications for guest post opportunities. Getting articles published is probably the most affordable form of press, and it can be a super valuable tool in growing brand awareness and bringing in referral traffic. In order to land an article, however, you need to master the art of an article pitch. These are often sent to editors of publications that cater to your target audience, and although getting them right will take some time, it is time well spent because guest posting is a cost-effective way to build an audience that will only grow with your business as it grows.
Change Is Constant – Is Your Brand Keeping Up?
Change is the one constant in the world, and news media and the PR industry go through micro-transformations every year. Although the methods for landing press are different from what they were last year, and the year before, the underlying purpose of press remains the same: to amplify company recognition by landing their story on publications with as many high-value readers as possible. These strategies should be all you need to build out a press campaign that gets results.