Posted by SamuelScott
No one cares about your company or product.
Unless your CEO is Steve Jobs or your product is Google Glass, very few journalists and bloggers are going to write about you directly, because they’re reluctant to give free press to for-profit businesses. Few people are going to share something on social media that will only help a corporation to make more money. To gain significant media coverage and launch creative campaigns that spread through the Internet, companies usually need to insert their brands into larger stories.
In this post, I will help readers to do exactly that by detailing nine of the traditional publicity strategies that PR executives have developed over the past century. The point to remember:
Successful creative publicity campaigns can lead to countless new customers, sales, leads, social followings, and backlinks.
(Just see this recent study by Moz and Frac.tl that Kelsey Libert posted on the Moz Blog!)
By the end of this extensive post, readers will learn the answers to these questions:
A full list of resources is provided at the end.
First, a brief review.
“Content” and “content marketing” are not strategies. Rather, “content” plays a role in the five marketing strategies that exist because marketing is simply the creation of a message, the insertion of that message into a piece of content, and then the transmission of that content over a channel to an audience. All marketing is “content marketing” because all marketing uses content.
The creation and distribution of “content” occurs within the framework of one or more of the five strategies that comprise the Promotion Mix: direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and publicity.
On Back to the Future Day in October 2015, I published a lengthy BTTF-themed Moz Blog post on the integration of traditional and digital marketing that goes into more detail. The post included a lengthy workflow process that marketers can use to develop an entire marcom strategy. Here’s a snapshot of the promotion mix that I illustrated in the article:
That prior essay gives a wide overview, but this post will take a deep dive here into the publicity part outlined in red. Here’s a quick overview of publicity before I go into the advanced part down below:
One important note on terminology: “Publicity” and “public relations” are not the same thing, even though most people — and even most marketers — use them interchangeably.
When people talk about “PR campaigns,” they are usually referring to publicity campaigns — and that is what this post will discuss.
Publicity and advertising campaigns — both of which focus on top-of-the-funnel awareness — each have their positives and negatives:
Another difference is philosophical. Advertising takes a product or service and pushes it out into the public domain. Publicity, as we will see, typically takes whatever is already occurring in the world and brings it to the product or service.
Following the rise of owned media in recent years, I have added the following part in bold to the traditional definition of “publicity”:
Gaining public visibility or awareness for a product, service, or your company via owned or earned media.
Why? The same principles apply whether one wants to gain mass awareness over owned or earned media because human nature does not change. The subjects of news articles that gain mass attention are often very similar to the topics of which social media posts “go viral.”
Better together: Both earned and owned media awareness can support and reinforce each other, leading to massive awareness in both traditional and digital contexts.
Whether you’re looking to gain mass attention over earned or owned media outlets, here are nine of the specific types of stories and framing techniques that generally pique peoples’ interest.
Journalists always want to publish whatever will interest their readers and result in more pageviews and subscribers. The first of the nine publicity strategies that I will outline in this guide is to get yourself directly inserted into major news outlets and blogs. There are three specific ways to do that.
When people think of publicity, the most common thing that they imagine is massive media coverage of a product, company, person, event, or idea. Well, this specific type of publicity is the most difficult to receive for the simple fact that journalists, influencers, and popular bloggers get dozens — if not hundreds — of e-mailed pitches every single day that ask them to write about something.
It’s very difficult to make yourself stand out — most likely, writers will glance at e-mail subject lines in the inbox and decide in a microsecond which ones to open. (Most will be ignored, marked as spam, or deleted.)
Mike Butcher, the editor-at-large of TechCrunch — full disclosure, I contribute there as well — wrote a lengthy blog post last year that argued that the press release is dead and that tech companies should attempt to get coverage instead by sending e-mails that provide answers to a set of predefined questions.
Here are a few of the questions that he lists:
When Logz.io, the predictive log management platform for DevOps engineers, system administrators, and digital marketers for which I am Director of Marketing and Communications, launched late last year, this was the pitch that I’d sent to a relevant reporter at The Wall Street Journal:
As you can see, this first pitch defines the problem that we solve and then gives a current example of that problem occurring.
That initial contact led to communication that resulted in this coverage in VentureWire (a sister publication of the Wall Street Journal):
We had other significant coverage as well by following a similar process.
One of the agency’s clients was a clothing store that had happened to sell that infamous dress — was it white and gold or black and blue? — so the team drove to the store, bought one of the dresses, and pitched a media package that got an exclusive in the Daily Mail (see slides 64 to 70).
In the digital marketing world, the idea of “newsjacking” has been popularized by David Meerman Scott (no relation). However, the insertion of oneself into a current story or trend has always simply been a publicity tactic since before the Internet even existed. It’s a new buzzword that refers to an existing practice. (Just please use it for good and not evil, like using David Bowie’s death as clickbait.)
On online marketing websites and blogs, I see pitching often being discussed by “content marketers” as a way to gain shares of and links to one thing or another. They should stop. I receive e-mailed pitches from PR executives and “content marketers” all the time — and I can tell within three seconds which one I’m getting.
How? Here is the difference between the two.
“Content marketers” pitch me:
1.) To share or link to some random article, and they do so often when
2.) I have no connection to or interest in the topic at all
Publicists pitch me:
1.) To write about an idea because
2.) They already know that I have a connection to or interest in that topic
I ignore or delete the pitches from “content marketers.” Following the pitches from publishers, I may choose to include their source, study, or idea in some future piece in the publications to which I contribute. Most “link earning” methods are poor imitations of traditional publicity practices.
Pitch in a way that will genuinely interest the people who you are contacting. Do not pitch thinly-veiled attempts to get links and shares for you or your clients.
Direct coverage — as described above — depends on a company either doing something newsworthy or riding the wave of some newsworthy trend. But there’s not always something relevant and newsworthy occurring at any given time.
In such a context, one alternative is to contribute articles to targeted publications.
However, I am not referring to “guest posting.” The real reasons to contribute articles to publications have always been to grow one’s brand and communicate an idea — as Jen Lopez once wrote on Moz, it should never be first and foremost simply a way to “get links.”
I get e-mails all the time from people offering “guest posts” or selling “guest post services” — and I know exactly what they have in mind. Almost every time, people who use the word “guest post” end up submitting 500 words of crap with a few links that have optimized anchor text. Don’t be those people — their jobs consist of nothing but filling the Internet with spam.
Here’s just one example from LinkedIn:
Instead, use the opportunity to brand yourself — and thereby your company — as a thought leader in your industry or sector by producing something that’s relevant, insightful, and, yes, newsworthy. Here are a few examples in the context of my company:
Now, I hate to bring up links because any tactics that I present will almost certainly be abused by some people — but I’ll take my chances. Links to your website can be inserted into contributed articles, but I highly recommend that you tread carefully. Do not build links just to build links. The point of a link in any contributed article should be to cite or refer people to an authoritative resource (that may or may not live on your domain):
Remember: Links are the least important parts of contributed articles! The point is to publish something that’s interesting, informative, newsworthy, or controversial enough that it will get attention for you or your company.
Still, the question remains: When should marketers publish articles on their blogs, and when should they contribute them to other publications? For the answer, I’ll refer you to my earlier Moz Blog post on that topic. Nutshell: Publish material on your website when its goal is to rank highly for desired keywords (SEO goals); publish material elsewhere when its goal is to build thought-leadership and brand awareness (publicity goals).
Once upon an analog time, publicists had to send pitch letters to journalists and media outlets to convince them to interview the “experts” who they represented. In “Public Relations for Dummies,” Eric Yaverbaum, Robert Bly, and Ilise Benun gave an example of such an inquiry:
Compact disc (CD) sales are booming. In fact, some music industry executives are projecting disc sales will surpass album sales by the end of the year.
The first “compact disc only” retail store, Compact Disc Warehouse in Huntington Beach, California, opened in November 20XX. It grossed nearly $ 1 million in sales in just 18 months operating out of a 1,200 square-foot store.
Now, Compact Disc Warehouse, Inc. is launching the first CD franchise offering to meet the national demand for the hottest home entertainment product in the music industry today.
Edward Dempsey, president of CD Warehouse, is an expert on why CDs are changing an industry that has been dominated by record albums for decades and how the retail world is gearing up to meet the CD demand.
If you would like to arrange an interview, please call our offices.
Mitch Robinson, Account Executive
S&S Public Relations, Inc.
While publicists still pitch their colleagues or clients as experts today, it’s become increasingly common for journalists and bloggers themselves to ask for suggestions of experts. The most common platform is HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Here’s an example of a query that I recently saw in the thrice-daily email digest that I receive:
The good part: The writers will almost always include a link to a website (if your pitch is accepted), and they will often mention a company or personal Twitter account as well.
The bad part: You’ll be competing with dozens — perhaps hundreds — of pitches. The moment that a HARO e-mail lands in your inbox, stop whatever you’re doing and respond within minutes. The closer that your e-mail is near the top of the reporter’s pile, the more likely it is that he or she will open and consider it in the first place.
Direct coverage, contributed articles, and expert interviews are three of the most common methods to get in the major media and popular blogs. Still, there are eight other strategies to increase mass awareness of you or your brand over earned and owned media outlets. The rest of this guide will go through them.
Speaking of Back to the Future Day, countless big brands capitalized on the arrival of October 21, 2015:
Not only did the publicity campaign go viral on social media, Wired and many other major outlets noticed as well:
THIS WEEK, LEXUS introduced a short teaser video for SLIDE, a hoverboard that appears to not just live up to our Back to the Future II dreams but, at least stylistically, improve on them. Better yet, it’s more science than science fiction. Here’s how it works — and why you won’t find one at Toys’R’Us any time soon.
Why did it become so popular? People have emotional connections to their favorite TV shows and movies, and they’ll naturally be interested in anything that incorporates those programs and films. After all, a lot of marketing is based on appeals to emotion. Logical, factual arguments are boring.
In January 2016, Tom McLoughlin published a great case study on Moz that showed how he and SEO Travel gained more than one hundred links — many of which were on major media sites — by doing what he called “content marketing.” Their creative campaign tied travel destinations to filming locations in “Game of Thrones.”
In the extensive comment thread on that post, I argued that what he actually did was “publicity” because he followed the exact, traditional process that I have outlined in this post. I’ll let readers decide for themselves.
Here’s a personal confession: I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” (Should I say that I was a fan of Joss Whedon before it was cool?) Almost twenty years after the premiere of the cult TV show in 1997, there are still many business, non-cultural articles written about the program today:
I still read every article that mentions “Buffy.” Every. Single. One. How many people out there will also read and share anything that mentions their favorite TV shows and movies? Here some other examples of corporate tie-ins with popular programs: “Scrubs” and “Scandal.” And don’t forget Google’s huge tie-in with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as well as Spotify’s tie in.
Nutshell: Movie and TV show tie-ins are often cheaper than direct product placements (see the next tactic below) but the benefits, when successful, also tend to be less. Product placements cost a lot of money, but that price also pays for some of the best professional media creators and distributors in the world (the producers of “Friends,” the writers of “Seinfeld,” and the special effects team at Marvel). Tie-ins are usually not officially associated with a film or television show, so brands that want to create something for the fans need to do it themselves.
On January 6, 2000, the sixth-season episode of “Friends” entitled “The One with the Apothecary Table” aired on NBC (see the clip above). I hope I’m not spoiling any fan’s love of the esteemed show, but it was purely a product placement episode by Pottery Barn. (According to Entertainment Weekly, it was also only one of several product placements over the run of the program.)
Sure, the plot might have been a little far-fetched. But it worked. Here’s what a Williams-Sonoma executive once told a trade conference in Chicago (the article is archived here):
Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s Patrick Connolly told attendees of the Catalog Conference in Chicago not to think of themselves as a catalog, but rather as a brand…
The catalog’s name is mentioned repeatedly, as Rachel furnishes her apartment with numerous Pottery Barn items, telling her roommate Phoebe the goods came from a really cool flea market instead of a mass market retailer.
The episode, which is shown numerous times annually in syndication, is “the gift that keeps on giving. The phones light up with catalog requests every time it airs.”
You cringed, right? If you ask five marketers to describe the elements of a successful product placement, you will get six answers because the issue is very subjective and not quantifiable. A lot of marketing is art, not science. Still, I’ll offer my opinions here on the differences between these three examples.
Nutshell: Product placement is an expensive, high risk, and high reward tactic. Whether you’re successful like Pottery Barn or a failure like Bing and Toyota, people will be talking about you the next day. In addition to the thousands or millions who directly saw your brand in the placement, others will be writing and blogging about the placement and sharing it on social media as well. (But maybe that was the point all along!)
Of course, you can always take a self-deprecating approach to the whole thing. Just remember: prime-time TV product placements cost thousands of dollars per second!
Every time that IKEA opens a new branch, the store runs a massive contest that results in huge publicity and sales successes. The first batch of people in line receive free merchandise. Here are some of the results:
Want to see more? Just look the first few pages of the SERPs here.
Why would newspapers do something that’s little more than helping a for-profit company? Because their readers would be interested. That’s the cardinal rule of publicity campaigns: Media outlets care first and foremost about covering whatever will interest their audiences (and therefore result in more readers, pageviews, links, and social media shares) — and people love free stuff. Whether the coverage will help the business is a secondary concern.
Now, why do I think IKEA’s overall publicity is worthy to include in this guide? Simple. It promoted both the company and its products. Not only were people amassing to be the first customers of a new branch, they were also gathering to get the company’s free products. The publicity also branded the products as very desirable.
Here is one additional article that was an unbelievable gift to IKEA:
It’s one thing to get a news story about your company opening a local branch and giving things away. It’s quite another to get a major publication to write a feature article that first presents the opening day as a massive festival and second includes tweets about IKEA that readers can retweet and essentially spread the word about the business themselves. A tip of the publicity hat.
When I was a child growing up in the United States, I loved the McDonalds Monopoly game in the late 1980s:
The game, which is still going on today, has been a perfect way to build the brands of both McDonalds and Monopoly and get more people to buy McDonalds food for a chance to win. Here is a sample from Google News of the global news coverage that the game has received.
Nutshell: Contests can be a great way to get attention, but it needs good strategizing. It’s not enough just to give your product away to a select few who can answer a quiz correctly.
Very few companies will work with a charity only for the sake of helping a cause. There’s almost always a benefit to the business as well.
As Moz’s Erica McGillivray noted in this comment on a Moz post on diversity in the online marketing industry, women played major roles in the birth of the tech industry in the 1980s. But for reasons that are best left for another time, that changed.
Now, organizations such as Girls Who Code and Women in Technology are trying to get more women into the industry today and in the future. For companies whose target audiences include the tech industry in general and among women in the tech industry specifically, partnering with such organizations can be a good way to increase brand awareness and help a good cause at the same time.
Companies can partner with Girls Who Code and offer internships to graduates of the program. Partners are featured in press releases and on social media. Organizations can sponsor Women in Technology events, and what seems to be the largest sponsor (Microsoft) is featured with a banner and link at the bottom of the website.
(Note: Non-profit sponsorships have always been discussed as a way to build links from .org websites, but sponsorships have simply always been a publicity tactic. This is another reason that good links are just by-products of good publicity campaigns.)
Marketing, of course, can be used for positive or negative ends. Here’s a questionable example — I’ll let readers decide the morality for themselves.
In the United States in the 1920s, it was taboo for women to smoke cigarettes (or anything else). The American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, the “Father of Spin,” to increase the number of women smokers.
Bernays decided to attempt to eliminate the social taboo of women smoking in public. He gained advice from psychoanalyst A. A. Brill stating that it was normal for women to smoke because of oral fixation and said, “Today the emancipation of women has suppressed many of their feminine desires. More women now do the same work as men do. Many women bear no children; those who do bear have fewer children. Feminine traits are masked. Cigarettes, which are equated with men, become torches of freedom.”
In 1929 Bernays decided to pay women to smoke their “torches of freedom” as they walked in the Easter Sunday Parade in New York. This was a shock because until that time, women were only permitted to smoke in certain places such as in the privacy of their own homes. He was very careful when picking women to march because “while they should be good looking, they should not look too model-y” and he hired his own photographers to make sure that good pictures were taken and then published around the world. Feminist Ruth Hale also called for women to join in the march saying, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”
Once the footage was released, the campaign was being talked about everywhere, The women’s walk was seen as a protest for equality and sparked discussion throughout the nation and is still known today. The targeting of women in tobacco advertising led to higher rates of smoking among women.
“Social media marketing” and “content marketing” do not actually exist as separate functions unto themselves. The reason is that the Internet is merely a new set of communications channels over which existing marketing functions — such as publicity — are executed. “Torches of Freedom” is a perfect example.
After all, how would such a publicity plan play out today? In addition to taking photos for newspapers, Barnays would likely shoot video of the women who were smoking in the Easter Sunday Parade. Then, the photos and videos would also be spread throughout Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (the networks that are predominantly used by women). Ruth Hale, the feminist who took part in the march, could contribute articles to Salon and Jezebel about the cause and discuss why women were smoking cigarettes in the parade.
And it would all just be doing “publicity.” How many “likes,” comments, pins, and shares would the photos, videos, and articles have received if those blogs and social networks had existed at the time?
Also at BrightonSEO in 2015, I presented this specific example of a small, local business gaining hundreds of natural, authoritative backlinks and thousands of local Facebook fans as a result (intentionally or not) of a media coverage of its charitable work. The full story that goes into more depth is here on my website.
Nutshell: Aligning one’s company with a cause can be risky, depending on the level of controversy that the issue generates. While a successful campaign can generate a lot of media coverage, it might not be worth alienating potential customers, employees, and partners. (But in the inverse, such campaigns can inspire supporters to join you.) It’s also imperative to disclose any connections to the issue and not to appear too self-promotional.
Holiday and event tie-ins can be good ways to insert your brand into a special, relevant time that is celebrated or held by your target audience. Here are several examples that the techies among Moz’s readership will like.
SysAdmin Day is celebrated every year on the last Friday in July. Here are some of the creative campaigns that companies and individuals did for the holiday to publicize themselves:
— Rackspace (@Rackspace) July 31, 2015
— Relus Technologies (@RelusTech) July 31, 2015
may the oncall rotation be ever in your favor. happy #SysAdminDay everybody.
— DevOps Auror (@lnxchk) July 31, 2015
— motabuto (@motabuto) July 31, 2015
— -`ღ´- erika (@erikaheidi) July 31, 2015
Here’s one example that shows how the publicity over owned and earned media can intersect. IT companies received direct attention on their social media accounts on SysAdminDay 2015, and major tech outlets such as this one then wrote about what some did on social media.
Here’s another publicity stunt for SysAdmin Day that I chose not to embed in this post because I did not want it to gain “likes” and shares very easily:
Sure, this post by Avast Software received a lot of engagement. But I would personally cite it as an example of going too far because it’s insulting to both system administrators and women.
If I were a system administrator, I would be insulted at the reinforcement of the negative stereotype that I must be a geek who can only get attention from women during an annual holiday. If I were a woman, I would be insulted at the insinuation that I am a reward to be given to someone for doing a good job. And if you look closely at the top comment in the bottom right-hand corner, you will see that a female system administrator was not happy at the presumption that everyone in the profession is a man.
Nutshell: Holiday tie-ins are typically a safe way to get some attention — but while the risk is low, so usually is the reward. Many companies will do some publicity stunt for almost any given event, so it will take something very creative to stand out.
When I was a journalism student at university, my roommate — who was not a journalism major — would always see some news article about a random study and chide me with a cynical roll of his eyes: “The media always loves a study.”
He was right — it was funny because it was true. Journalists love to write about anything new, and any study that sheds new light on anything is, well, news. While I was writing this post, I did a random search for “study” in Google News in the United States:
Two more examples:
(Note: I have archived the full, lengthy infographic here on my personal site.)
However, it’s important to remember that “Let’s make an infographic!” is not a marketing strategy.
Also at BrightonSEO in 2015, Hannah Smith of Distilled gave this wonderful presentation that can be summarized by this point: You need an idea, not a format. An infographic is a format, not an idea. A publicity strategy and then the tactic of releasing a study can both be good ideas — and only then should one decide in what format to communicate the ideas based on over what channels the promotion will occur.
Nutshell: Surveys and studies are low-risk plays that can get some attention. However, it’s important to get quality data. Don’t take a poll on Facebook that gets fifty responses and then proclaim that you have some new insight into your audience or industry. You need relevant information from a sample of people that numbers highly enough to be statistically significant and newsworthy.
Once you have the survey or study results, you may want to create all or any of the following:
Disclosure: I have little experience in hosting conferences or launching a product at conferences, so I will just provide some of the theoretical things to consider from my PR education some years ago. Anyone who has any significant experience in these first two parts, feel free to offer tips in the comments!
One of the best ways to brand your company as an expert in your field is to host a conference, but there are many complicated things to organize. Here’s a partial checklist:
Companies will often release a new product at trade shows for the exposure, but there are many factors to consider here as well:
In 2014, I spoke on an SMX West panel with Monique Pouget and Kaila Strong on earning links (my advice, as readers probably know by now, was to use publicity campaigns that will obtain links as by-products). We had seemed to impress the audience so much that we had a lengthy queue of people coming to speak with the three of us after the session had ended. Personally, I had worked for the aforementioned marketing and PR agency at the time, and several startup founders became business leads.
At BrightonSEO the following year, an attendee once asked me how he could convince his agency to pay to have him speak at events (if his pitches would be accepted). “Simple,” I told him. “If you’re good, you’ll get qualified business leads from the exposure. People will walk up to you, give you their cards, and say that they are interested in learning more about how you can help them.”
A few thoughts on what works and what does not:
For more information for Moz’s audience, here are three resources on speaking at marketing conferences:
Nutshell: Conferences are a “go all out or do not even bother” tactic simply because they are expensive. If you are hosting a conference, what will people learn that they cannot already learn for free online? If you are releasing a product, how can you make your release memorable in a way that people will not forget you tomorrow? If you’re speaking at a conference, how can you make an impression so that people will remember you and your company when they return home?
Who remembers the debut of The Burger King in the mid-2000s and the resulting media frenzy?
To see the ripples of publicity that resulted from advertising campaign, just take a look at the first page of the SERPs for [burger king’s creepy king]:
We human beings are programmed to love good stories — and what are the most important parts of any good story? Good characters. A good plot usually cannot compensate for wooden, one-dimensional characters. The best plots in movies, TV shows, and books are driven by character development and not events.
Here are a few examples:
We are fascinated by good characters because they reflect parts of ourselves and the societies in which we live. The creation and publicizing of a good character — even in an advertisement — will provoke thousands of journalists, writers, and bloggers to write about him or her on their own. If the character is associated with a brand, then that brand will also get the attention.
Why did The Creepy King get so much attention? Personally, I think the character perfectly straddled the Uncanny Valley — it was not completely artificial, but it was not completely human, either. However, I have not studied this specific Burger King campaign, so I invite discussion on this topic in the comments below.
So, how can one create a good character as part of an overall brand story? Here are a few resources:
Nutshell: The creation of characters and stories — especially so that the production quality is believable — can be very expensive and a strategy that can be out of reach of small businesses and people in boring industries. But someone who is very creative just might be able to pull it off.
This section provides one example of a step-by-step approach to publicity strategy.
This is a summary of everything that will be below. This section is typically written last after everything else below is completed.
Every marketing strategy aims to achieve something. Do you want more top-of-the-funnel brand awareness? More leads? More sales? Greater branding in a specific way? To position the company or its executives in a certain way? List all of your overall objectives here.
Who is your target market? Senior citizens? Middle-aged mothers? Teenage boys? Children? Yuppies? Hipsters? DINKs (dual-income, no-kid couples)? Digital marketers? Computer programmers? Military veterans? Feminists? College students?
List everything that you can find out about your target audience. The more information, the better: Average salary, entertainment preferences, geographic locations, religious beliefs, personal status, preferred brands, and so on.
Of course, this might sound like stereotyping — because it is, in fact, stereotyping. It’s impossible to divide a demographic of 500,000 people into 500,000 individual segments that would each have its own marketing strategy. The alternative is to use averages within a given population such as this: “The majority (or a plurality) of audience X tends to have A salary, B entertainment preferences, and C, D, and E as preferred brands.”
Go to a local store? Visit a website? Share something on social media? Search for something in Google?
That you’re geeky and cool (see Lego and “Doctor Who”)? That you’re where urban middle-class people shop (see Pottery Barn and “Friends”?) That you are a smart company that’s a thought leader in a serious industry (in the articles that you contribute to publications)? That you’re revolutionizing and disrupting your industry (in the news coverage in top publications)? That you’re hip and funny (see the funny videos for System Administrator Day)?
What messages should your publicity campaigns transmit in order to get the desired responses from the targeted audience? The goal is for every earned and owned media placement to communicate certain messaging.
Take these three example points in my old PR textbook (see below in the resources) from an example non-profit campaign that aimed to spread awareness of heart disease among women:
1. “Heart disease is the number-one killer of women.”
2. “Take the Go Red Heart Checkup to find out your personal risk for heart disease.”
3. “Spread the national rallying cry to ‘Share the Untold Story of Your Heart.'”
The next step is to determine where you will aim to communicate your messages.
What major media outlets and large blogs does your target audience consume?
For example, I once compiled a simple spreadsheet like this one:
Note: Don’t forget to research whether any large, independent, online communities exist in your industry too!
It is also a good idea to list all owned media outlets that are available. Possibilities can include:
The next step is to get your messages spread throughout your owned and earned media. But which of the above nine strategies are best for you? First, a confession: I do not know.
There is no single approach to publicity strategy. In contrast to SEO audits, PPC best practices, and other online marketing functions that have defined, quantitative best practices, publicity campaigns are almost always creative, subjective, and qualitative. Every company, product, and targeted demographic will respond to different tactics and ideas.
Whichever approaches you may use may depend on any of the following and more:
Whatever you decide to try, it is often best to try different options to see what works. One strategy is to create a yearlong publicity calendar and try one tactic each month. For example:
In the Digital Age, everyone wants to measure everything — and rightly so. But one of the admitted negatives of publicity campaigns is that the analytics are not always precise (or even always available in the first place). Here are some traditional and modern workarounds.
One method of judging the ROI is to equate publicity mentions with advertising space. If a quarter-page ad in a newspaper costs $ 5,000, then a mention in a paragraph in an article that takes up a quarter of a page has a value of $ 5,000 based on the assumption that consumers trust mentions in articles more than advertisements. In television, a segment on a daytime talk show would be equivalent to running an advertisement on that program.
The obvious problem is that such comparisons cannot be done in digital publications that use online advertising networks.
Another method in the print world is to list the number of readers of each publication in which a placement appeared and then multiplying by a pass-along factor (such as 2.5x). In the digital world, it’s very common to use software such as Cision, Meltwater, or SimilarWeb to find PR contacts and estimate a website’s amount of traffic. (Note: Those solutions are often expensive and used by enterprises. The smaller businesses and startups in Moz’s audience might want to look at Publicize, a new PR software startup founded by veteran entrepreneur Conrad Egusa.)
However, the problem with showing the total readerships of publications is that it’s really only useful when creating media lists and comparing the results of various publicity strategies and tactics. It does not provide much insight into direct ROI.
While we still do not have the ability to track all of the results of publicity campaigns (especially for results coming from non-digital channels), online analytics platforms can now greatly improve the measurement of ROI. Depending on which of the above tactics you use, here are some things to watch:
Devote part of your marketing mix to ongoing publicity efforts, and you will eventually grow a brand and one day be able to get media coverage for almost anything and everything that you do — just like Steve Jobs and Google Glass.
To learn more about what I have discussed, I would start with these resources:
As I hope readers will learn from these resources, the same traditional marketing principles still apply today — we should just use those principles when we market over a new set of communications channels that is collectively called the Internet:
How would you market yourself if the Internet didn't exist? Answer that, and it'll help your online marketing too.
— Samuel Scott (@samueljscott) August 25, 2015
Want to learn more? SEMrush alumna Alexandra Tachalova will be hosting a webinar with me on the Kerboo-launched Calq platform on March 10 on earning natural links with publicity campaigns. Click here to register — I hope to see you there!
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