As you know, I’m not a PR guy. I’m learning it by trial and error and yes, sometimes errors will creep in. In this blog post from Friday, I wanted to consider the network effect of earned media coverage from the starting block.
From talking with SHIFTers today (and the diehards over the weekend) I quickly learned that even though anyone could reach out to a reporter or blogger that way, it’s not our MO. We wouldn’t reach out to a reporter to say ‘if coverage, then we’ll market it’ as some sort of carrot. “It doesn’t feel honorable” one said. “We want the reporter to write about it because it’s interesting to her readers, not because we promise to market it,” said another.
It got even more muddied when I used SHIFT as the company example (since I know many SHIFTers tweet about articles about the firm), when I meant any company would use its own internal people, not their agency’s people. I amended it below for clarity’s sake.
One thing we all agreed on: if and when coverage does appear, yes, the company can and should empower its employees to share and amplify that earned media coverage. Absolutely.
Public relations used to be just about sending out press kits and taking reporters to lunch. Those days are long gone (though certainly, plenty of reporters still enjoy lunches with their PR colleagues). However, “news” is wherever people are talking about things of interest to them, and reporters are even now being paid by how popular their reporting is (called pageview journalism by Tom Forenski of ZDNet).
This is now an age when traffic means income to media outlets old and new. In many ways, this is no different than the ways that record labels and book publishers now operate – the content creator is also tasked with bringing audience along so that (ideally) the combined power of the publisher and creator will generate maximum sales revenue. The media publisher needs to sell audience to advertisers, and if your pitch is accompanied by audience, it’s possible it will get more attention. If you’re a journalist being paid by how many times your story gets seen, or a blogger earning money from the traffic you generate, which pitch would be more interesting – a story by itself, or a story accompanied by a marketing plan?
For example, what if an example coffee company’s story pitch had this short marketing brief attached?
Generic Coffee Company will also share this with our network of 3,041 followers on Twitter, as well as feature it in our weekly newsletter with a circulation of 30,000. Additionally, our legion of coffee baristas will gladly share their pride about the company they work for to their combined network of 101,000 followers on Twitter.
If you were a blogger earning income from the traffic to your website or a media outlet that derived ad revenue from your content, wouldn’t this be of more interest to you than just a story alone?
To craft this audience-centric pitch, it’s essential that your organization embrace the power of the employee as a media outlet, empower them to share on the company’s behalf when appropriate (but don’t mandate it), and encourage employees to build and grow their own personal brands in addition to the company’s brand.
Take the time to ask permission of your employees to aggregate their power as media outlets in their own right and when something’s truly newsworthy, ask your team to jump in and share. The results will blow away any normal press release you create.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
This post has been amended from the original for clarity.
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