How should news distribution evolve to effectively address the role of earned media?

Earned media via a trusted source is still high on a client's wishlist. Crafting a compelling piece is more likely to get story coverage than a bland press release.

Tom Becktold
, SVP, marketing, Business Wire

Becky Boyd, VP, MediaFirst

Scott Mozarsky, EVP and chief commercial officer, PR Newswire

Jennifer Schenberg, CEO, Penvine

Robyn Ungar, SVP, brand strategy, Maletzky Media

Tom Becktold, SVP, marketing, Business Wire
As technology continues to change the way consumers interact with brands, the role of earned media has never been more important in building credibility and driving results.

Consumers turn to social media, search, and trusted news coverage to form brand opinions and make purchasing decisions. That makes an integrated marketing approach to communications critical to maximizing measurable results. All areas of marketing, including advertising, social media, and PR need to work together to establish consistent messaging and keywords.

PR practitioners understand the value of engagement to influence behavior with reporters and consumers. So, as marketing looks to build websites and landing pages that drive sales and reinforce paid search terms, PR provides a boost to that effort by gaining earned, credible media coverage that shows up in search, boosts keyword authority, and provides third-party endorsement to consumers and search engines.

News companies expand the reach of your message to their audiences, who in turn, share it on social networks, creating individual and news media endorsements, a powerful combination in influencing behavior.

The resources of news organizations are stretched and the need for fresh content creates valuable marketing opportunities. Include video, photos, and charts in press releases and link to relevant pages on your site. Ensure press release keywords are in alignment with paid search programs, so earned outreach efforts can help improve overall search authority and potentially lower the cost of paid search.

From a search perspective, earned media coverage with social media engagement can reinforce your keyword authority in campaigns. In today's world of citizen journalists, earned media from trusted sources has never been more valuable.

Becky Boyd, VP, MediaFirst
Today, publications have to understand who their audience is, what they are interested in reading, and make sure they are serving them properly.

Publications need to become more like blogs by engaging the reader and enticing them to move further into the website. Many do this, but they need to go one step further.

Articles are either written by staff, a freelancer, or an industry expert. Compare this to a blog written by a company that is offering products or services - you can have calls to action within the post near the top, middle, and bottom. These calls draw the reader deeper into the website. By spending more time on the site, readers will learn more about a business and potentially become customers by purchasing products.

Typically these calls lead to other content: white papers, special offers, e-newsletters, and more that allow the company to capture the reader's contact information, which they will use for future marketing efforts.

When a magazine quotes a spokesperson, they should add links or calls to action back to the spokesperson's website or a landing page where the reader could get additional, helpful content. But should this be a paid opportunity or not? That is a good question and is up for debate.

If magazines do this for free, the spokesperson benefits by leading readers to his or her website. The reader gets more valuable content they can use in their business. For the publisher, this can lead to more content for their publication, which is something some magazines need.

If the publication charges for this type of action, it will generate additional revenues. However, this might be seen as paid editorial or advertising, and thus the readers might avoid content like this.

Providing more links between content and a spokesperson eliminates the current situation where magazines act as gatekeepers.

Instead, the title is opening up its articles, providing deeper and richer content. By connecting spokespeople, their websites, and social media outlets to an article, the magazine can reach a new audience.

Scott Mozarsky, EVP and chief commercial officer, PR Newswire
The industry was founded upon the premise that organizations needed news distribution companies to act as their proxy to reach newsrooms that would then publish their stories.

While news distribution companies still do this well, the world has changed. Today's target audiences consume content through numerous channels and platforms. Companies have to be able to have direct, two-way conversations with their audiences, and to do so they are producing increased quantities of multi-format content.

Distribution through earned media channels is a key part of a company's news distribution and content marketing efforts. Earned media placement has more credibility with audiences than paid media and this leads to higher levels of engagement.

News distribution organizations are well placed to enable their customers to communicate directly and indirectly with target audiences leveraging these channels. How-ever, in order to ensure companies achieve optimal results, we need to focus on the following areas:

  • Multimedia. As a driver of increased engagement, multimedia assets make a brand message more compelling. News distribution services must be able to package and distribute multimedia assets in relevant places online.

  • Earned media network. The power of a news distribution service is the strength of its earned media network. It needs to be global and have narrow targeting capabilities.

    We need to enable companies to distribute high quality, compelling content that is not only aimed at journalists, but also visible through organic search and social media.

  • Intelligence and analytics. News distribution services must be able to provide companies with analytics and intelligence that enables companies to listen to conversations and adjust their content distribution strategies accordingly.

    It is critical that we are able to provide companies with strong reporting and monitoring capabilities.

Jennifer Schenberg, CEO, Penvine
The term news distribution is outdated. The very concept of distribution is perceived as ineffectual and unwelcome by journalists. Instead, it's about stimulating conver- sations with journalists, bloggers, and analysts you have established relationships with.

Let's review the "dos" and "don'ts." Do personalize messages to influencers; share relevant content with your relationships; and spread the word effectively. Don't blast out announcements or pitches.

Similar to the impact on the advertising world, digital and social has changed the way we communicate, and as a result, the way we distribute news. Now, it's about one-to-one communication - using the right channels to get across relevant content at the right time.

The whole notion of conversation marks a significant change in the way people and companies communicate with the world.

One thing that has not changed is the importance of storytelling. If publicists can engage an influencer in meaningful conversations about products or points of view, they earn that coverage. And in an era of powerful social influence, target marketing, and local impact, value to a blog or news outlet means translating content into a conversation that engages the hearts and minds of readers.

At the end of the day, PR pros earn media for their companies or clients by helping blogs and news outlets monetize conversations, not content. It's up to us to help shape that story so they can tell it.

Robyn Ungar, SVP, brand strategy, Maletzky Media
Traditionally, newswires are used to distribute press announcements to tell a story exactly as the client would like it to be told.

This is a fine approach for quarterly earnings reports, an FDA approval, or a business partnership agreement after at least a few stories about the deal have been secured in several major publications.

Using distribution services undoubtedly boosts SEO capabilities, but as publicists it is still our job to earn the placement of each client story by crafting a compelling one to a specific group of consumers.

Publicists should remember to focus their efforts on influencers who make the greatest impact on an audience, which include journalists who write for larger, national publications or even syndicated columnists.

Telling a client's story still needs to be creative and newsworthy, but we need to help clients engage their target market.

In order to do so, creating conversations beyond the media placement through all social channels and generating strategic partnerships enable the brand to stay top of mind for longer with their target viewers. Finding non-competitive categorical brands for these partnerships offers credibility and an extended reach to a specific targeted area via joint media relations efforts, promotions, or e-newsletters.

These non-traditional media communication platforms assist traditional media relations by creating a stronger brand message and help communicate those crucial key points through a wider scope.

The Takeaway

  • Earned media via a trusted source is still high on a client's wishlist. Crafting a compelling piece is more likely to get story coverage than a bland press release

  • Do not underestimate the power of social media channels. News publishers using social outlets to share a story enables readers to further distribute the piece and helps spread the word

  • News distribution sites cannot just rely on sending out relevant content. They also need to monitor progress and show measurable results to clients

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