Posted by amandamilligan
As you might imagine, it’s not easy to get your brand name mentioned in top media outlets.
But if you put in the work to engage in content marketing + digital PR, the benefits are massive:
- High-quality backlinks to your site
- A significant boost in brand awareness
- An increase in your brand’s authority
- Improved relationships with writers who loved your content
I’ll explain how you can earn this type of coverage and its corresponding benefits for your brand.
Step 1: Create newsworthy content
You probably have an instinctual sense of what qualifies as news, but some of the key newsworthy elements are timeliness, proximity, and significance.
Timeliness is tough. Hard news is usually covered by media outlets automatically anyway. However, there’s a way to create news — and it’s through data journalism.
By doing your own research, conducting your own studies, running your own surveys, and performing your own analyses, you’re effectively creating news by offering brand new stories.
For example, for our client Porch, we used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, Yelp, and Zillow to determine which cities are the best for young families.
This project is inherently location-based, which adds the proximity element as well. But even if your content isn’t location-based, explore whether you can take your data and localize it so that you cover multiple geographic areas. (Then, you can pitch local news in addition to national news!)
Significance is also an excellent element to keep in mind, especially during the ideation stage. It basically means: How many people are impacted by this news, and to what degree?
This is especially important if you’re aiming for national news publications, as they tend to have a wide audience. In this case, there are plenty of young families across the country, and CNBC saw that it could connect with this demographic.
When you combine all of these newsworthy elements, you can increase your chances of getting respectable news publications interested.
Step 2: Design and package the content for clarity
You need to present your data in a clear and compelling way. Easier said than done, though, right?
Here are common design pitfalls to watch out for:
- Over-designing. Instead, experiment with simplistic styles that match your branding and take more creative liberties with headers and where the data naturally lends itself to imagery.
- Over-branding. If you have your logo on all of the images, it might be a bit too much branding for some publishers. However, if you have a really authoritative brand, it can add authority to the content, too. Test both versions to see what works best for you.
- Over-labeling. Include all of the text and labels you need to make things clear, but don’t have too much repetition. The more there is to read, the more time it’ll take to understand what’s happening on the graph.
Finally, don’t be afraid to add the most interesting insights or context as callouts to the images. That way people can identify the most pertinent information immediately while still having more to explore if they want the full story.
Take, for example, one of the graphics we created for BestVPN for a project that got coverage on The Motley Fool, USA Today, Nasdaq and more. We don’t assume people will read text in an article to get relevant information, so we put it right on the image.
Here’s another example of a project image we created for Influence.co.
We included the callout at the bottom of the image and featured it in our pitch emails (more on that later) because we knew it was a compelling data point. Lo and behold, it became the headline for the Bustle coverage we secured.
Note: It’s entirely possible a news publication won’t run your images. That’s totally fine! Creating the images is still worth it, because they help everyone grasp your project more quickly (including writers), and when well done, they convey a sense of authority.
When you have all of your data visualized, we recommended creating a write-up that goes along with it. One objective of the article is to explain why you executed the project in the first place. What were you trying to discover? How is this information useful to your audience?
The other objective is to provide more color to the data. What are the implications of your findings? What could it mean to readers, and how can they apply the new knowledge to their lives, if applicable?
Include quotes from experts when appropriate, as this will be useful to publication writers as well.
Step 3: Write personalized pitches
I could create an entirely separate article about how to properly pitch top-tier publishers. But for our purposes, I do want to address two of the most important elements:
Treat writers like people
“You did something PR people never do — but should. Looked at my Twitter feed and made it personal. Nicely done!” — CNBC writer
Building real connections with people takes time and effort. If you’re going to pitch a writer, you need to do the following:
- Read their past work and fully understand their beat
- Understand how your work matches their beat
- Check out their social profiles to learn more about them as people
Some still swear by the templated approach. While it might work sometimes, we’ve found that because writers’ inboxes continue to be inundated with pitches, reaching out to them in a more personalized manner can not only increase our chances of getting emails opened, but also getting a genuinely appreciative response.
So, start your email with a personal connection. Reach out about something you have in common or something about them you admire. It will go a long way!
Include a list of the most relevant insights
“Wow these findings are super interesting and surprising. I will for sure include if I go ahead with this piece.” — The Wall Street Journal writer
Never assume a writer is going to click through to your project and read the entire thing before deciding if they want to cover it. In the pitch email, you need to spell out exactly what you think is the most interesting part about the project for their readers.
The key word being their readers. Sure, overall you probably have a few main takeaways in mind that are compelling, but there’s often nuance in which specific takeaways will be the most relevant to particular publishers.
We’ve seen this so many times, and it’s reflected in the resulting headlines. For example, for a project we created called Generational Knowledge Gaps, we surveyed nearly 1,000 people about their proficiency in hands-on tasks. Look at the news headlines on REALTOR Magazine and ZDNet, respectively:
While REALTOR Magazine went with a headline that captures the general spirit of the project, ZDNet’s is more honed in on what matters for their readers: the tech side of things. If we’d pitched to them the same way we’d pitched to REALTOR, they might not have covered the project at all.
So, after a personalization, include bullet points that say what the key data points are for their particular audience, wrap up the email with a question of whether they’re interested, and send it off.
It’s not an easy process to get the attention of top writers. You have to take time to develop high-quality content — it takes us at least a month — and then strategically promote it, which can also take at least another month to get as much coverage as you can. However, this investment can have major payoff, as you’ll be earning unparalleled brand awareness and high-value backlinks.
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