Let’s start with the basics: in marketing and PR, there are three main categories for getting the word out about your business.
- Earned media
- Owned media
- Paid media.
Owned media is content you own/control. Examples of owned media include your company website, your blog, your newsletter/email list, and your social media accounts.
Paid media is pretty straightforward: it’s media you pay for. Examples include online and traditional media ads, paid listings, and sponsored content. You can use paid media to promote or supplement your other two media categories.
Earned media is the category you have least control over, and may include things like product reviews, a write-up in a publication about your business, mentions in someone else’s article or blog, or being quoted for a story on something you’re an expert about.
Earned media is the holy grail of these 3, and while it’s the one you have the least control over, that doesn’t mean you can’t influence things in your favour to land press coverage for your new business. The process starts with some pretty in-depth research into your space. Here are some steps I start with:
1. Make a list of your top competitors and find out where they are getting mentions from (you can use free tools like Google Alerts and Alexa’s site info tool to get started)
2. Look for popular publications/influencers in your industry
3. If you don’t know where your target customers are getting their info from, ask them! You can run mini focus groups or even just some one-on-one conversations to find out where they’re getting their info
4. Search for the keywords you want to rank for and see which publications/blogs are coming up for those terms
After you’ve done some research and have an idea of where you want your business to get published, you can use these ideas to help you get there. Here are my top 4 tips for acquiring earned media or finding press opportunities for your business. I have tried and tested each of these methods, so I know they work.
1. Industry Round-ups
In a previous job, I worked for Mydoma Studio, a fantastic project management software for interior designers. I looked for round-up articles featuring other design tech leaders/products and sent very targeted pitches for each story. While researching, I found an older article in an online design magazine, comparing some similar products within our space. I looked up the writer and emailed to ask if she was planning another round-up on this topic, mentioned we were about to release a ton of new features and that we’d like to be included in the next one if possible. A few hours later she wrote back saying they didn’t have anything planned for a round-up but she was interested in the new features and offered to put us in the online magazine. Voila!
Later, we would get included in an updated comparison article in that publication and many others. As a bonus, once that relationship was established, I would feed her advanced info about our news in exchange for some press opportunities. It was a win-win for everyone: she got the scoop and we got the press mentions.
2. Local and Industry Publications
In my experience, local publications aren’t too difficult to get some coverage in but their reach can be more limited and less targeted than industry publications (dependent on your industry and where you live, of course!). For both local and industry publications, expand on your research a little further. Look for people who specifically write about your niche and focus on them. If they state information they need up-front about pitching them, follow those instructions.
Local publications tend to focus on things like local events, new business openings, big achievements and charitable partnerships. These are the types of stories you should generally pitch to these writers. You may also want to consider offering a media day if opening a new business. This is when you invite the media to come check out the business before opening to the public.
Industry publications tend to focus on emerging industry trends. If you have expertise you can share on these topics, send them an email and let them know (just make sure you have proof to back it up). They’re also interested in any big industry news, of course: big announcements, investments, acquisitions, celebrity news, and new product launches, to name a few. In the past, I’ve offered advanced copies of our press releases and shared news early, in exchange for coverage in their publication. I’ve also capitalized on all of the above to successfully get coverage in online magazines, print magazines, local newspapers, influencer blogs, podcasts, and in-person panels.
3. Leveraging Partnerships
Ever heard the phrase, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”? Upon doing your industry research, you’ve probably found some people who are targeting your industry but aren’t your direct competition. I’ve found partnering with these types of people to be incredibly valuable. Side note: before we go any further, if you’re being compensated for a partnership or you’re offering compensation, you need to be upfront to people about that!
When working with these types of partners, think about what value you can really offer each other. Then reach out and ask to speak. The partner may even have ideas you hadn’t thought of to help promote your business! 9 times out of 10, I would receive a response and we’d at least have a phone call to determine whether or not there could be a good fit for a partnership. In the past, I’ve worked with industry influencers to run co-branded webinars, review each other’s products, cross-promote each other’s content socially and speak at each other’s events. One more point on this topic: managing a lot of these partnerships can get time consuming. Make sure you focus on those who bring the most value, and who have the best fit with your brand.
If you’re not familiar, HARO is a neat little acronym that stands for Help A Reporter Out. It’s a 3x daily (weekdays only), email subscription for journalists and sources. The writers submit queries about stories they plan to write and typically ask a specific set of questions. Sources can respond as an industry expert on these topics to provide answers. As a word of caution, you will not always hear back on a story you pitch. In my opinion, it’s still a good idea to submit a pitch if it’s something you have a really good answer for and submit it as quickly as possible. Getting published in these types of stories can help you to establish yourself as an industry expert.
During my time at Kanatek, we responded to a query looking for IT professionals to comment with predictions about the future of open-source technology. We submitted our predictions and were chosen to be featured among other industry leading experts, and they included a link to our website (good for SEO!). If you’re planning to try this, make sure you follow the directions closely and pay attention to the deadline. Some queries have a turnaround time of less than a day!
Hopefully these tips can help you to secure some of your first earned media sources. If you’ve landed something using any of these tips, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below or one of our social channels. If you need a little more help executing these, that’s what Flauk is for. Check out these services and others available within our digital marketing services offerings.
Digital Marketing Strategist / Token Canadian
Our resident math nerd and millennial cat lady, Alicia is the keeper of all the magical marketing tricks that get your business seen by the right people at the right place in time.