Getting quoted by the press offline is great. Getting quoted by the press online is even better. That's because the benefits of online media coverage are the same as they are for online articles. Online publicity from the press:
- Has sticking power.
- Improves your organic search engine rankings.
- Drives prospects to your Web site now.
However, there's a big difference. Writing Web articles gives you immediate exposure, and it improves your expert status. But getting quoted in a major news outlet gives you instant authority. You've been interviewed because you are the expert—or so the public assumes.
I'm not suggesting that you skip writing Web articles to hunt down journalists instead. oftentimes, your articles guide journalists to you. They'll follow the URL in your article's byline to your site.
Unfortunately, journalists might not find your Web articles. That's why you want to broadcast your message to them.
In this chapter, I'll talk about low-cost ways to reach the press online. I'll discuss the ways you can use to connect with three audiences at once: press, prospects, and spiders. That's optimized marketing—because even when targeting the press, you don't want to ignore the other two audiences.
Speaking of spiders, the publicity you achieve from news sites and blogs can carry significantly more weight than publicity from other kinds of sites and blogs. That's because news sites exude expert status. They publish a lot of content and have huge link popularity. News sites are authority sites. So, a link from an authority site contributes to your site's authority status. Spiders notice this. And it gets better.
Other Web sites and blogs often publish articles from news sites. That means the publicity you scored once might be rebroadcast across the Web in dozens, even hundreds, of locations. Not only do more press people and prospects see you've been quoted, but spiders find even more links pointing back to your Web site. It's a double publicity punch.
Before I tell you how to take your message to the media, I'll cover what makes a story newsworthy. Journalists are constantly bombarded by business professionals trying to get media coverage for themselves or their clients. Many miss the mark. And they miss their opportunity. Although I can't speak for all journalists, I'm going to reveal strategies that I know work...because they've worked on me. You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to attract attention.
The Newsworthy Story
A lot of business professionals make the same serious mistake when communicating with the press: They pitch themselves, not a story.
Even though journalists are paid by content publishers, the clients are considered the content readers, listeners, or viewers. Journalists are responsible for sharing information that serves their audience. You won't find every story to be of value. Some aren't. Just join me on this path for a moment, and you'll see my point.
Two Critical Questions
Your story is not newsworthy unless it answers two questions: Who cares? and Why now?
For example, your business, product, or service by itself is not newsworthy—even if it's new. Correction—it might be of interest to a journalist who specifically reviews new products and services. But for most journalists, there's no story. Not yet.
What information can you share that will benefit your audience? Value can be found in three kinds of information: statistics, case studies, and how-to tips.
There's always a demand for statistics because numbers reveal trends and trend changes. Statistics can often set the angle for a story—that is, if the stats suggest the audience needs to do something.
For example, an e-mail marketing agency could release a study that reveals 24.8 percent of opt-in e-mail is blocked by spam filters, up 5 percent from six months ago. Whoa. This statistic could persuade business professionals who rely on e-mail marketing to take action. Therefore, it's interesting to journalists. The agency should include the timeframe of the study, number of e-mail messages evaluated, and other background information. Including information on how the agency collected the statistics shows journalists the scope of the study, and it helps them determine if it's a good match for their audience.
Catching Interest with a Case Study
A case study is great journalist bait, too. Journalists often like to share real-world examples their audience can relate to. As with statistics, a case study supports the topic they're covering. Sometimes, a case study becomes their story. I recommend following a challenge–solution–results model. Explain the challenge your company (or client) faced, the action steps taken, and the results.
Here's where people who want press coverage mess up. They give generic information. Saying something like "we wanted more sales, so we launched a pay-per-click campaign and doubled our business" isn't newsworthy. I get this kind of e-mail all the time. Be specific. And say something unique.
For example, an e-mail marketing agency could share that its challenge was to reduce its pay-per-click budget by 10 percent, while maintaining its existing lead flow (good—that's specific). Then the agency could state how over 30 days, it tested three different ads in an effort to pre-qualify prospects before they clicked the ad. If the agency included the three ads in the case study, that would be most delicious.
For instance, the first ad mentioned the agency's minimum contract cost, the second ad mentioned a few of the agency's Fortune 500 clients, and the third ad mentioned the agency's minimum contract length. Each ad sent prospects to a different landing page showing a unique phone number. (The solution could be beefed up, but you get the point.) Although the agency expected the Fortune 500 ad to increase the agency's spend on pay-per-click, with far fewer clicks than the other two ads, it actually reduced the agency's monthly budget by 15.5 percent yet increased the agency's lead flow by 32 percent. (The agency could continue to explain what the surprising results might suggest.)
See how juicy this case study is? My mind is racing with story ideas. An obvious angle is how to reduce costs in the increasingly costly space of pay-per-click, a very timely topic. However, the importance of ad testing is interesting also. Tracking phone leads and sales from the Web is yet a third idea. If you pitch a case study to the press, include the details—those sell story ideas.
Are you wondering why an e-mail agency would pitch its pay-per-click success, not e-mail success, as a case study? Pitching the press on how you used your own products or services to achieve success seems too self-promotional. You're basically giving yourself a testimonial. Not newsworthy.
Instead, when using your company as a case study, share a strategy that's not part of your core business. If quoted, your company name and a brief description of your company are generally included in the story anyway. You could also use one of your clients as a case study. Remember to get their permission first.
Giving How-to Tips
Third, how-to tips grab journalists' attention. Again, be specific and unique. I highly recommend surfing the Web for articles that have been written on your topic idea. Don't repeat what's already been covered in the media. Figure out your unique angle. A bulleted list of tips works fine.
Using my e-mail marketing agency example once again, this agency could create a "7 Steps for Improving Your E-Mail delivery by 50 Percent" tips list. Would this title grab your attention? It would catch mine.
And in an effort to save time, journalists might not interview you, but might include your tips. Perfect. That's less work for you, too. And you won't miss your moment of glory. Remember, journalists are always on a deadline.
On occasion, business professionals I've tried to interview missed being quoted because they didn't return my call or e-mail within 24 to 48 hours. on the flip side, as an entrepreneur, I've occasionally missed being quoted because I couldn't connect with a journalist within that timeframe. A tips list can save the day. You can send it to journalists who have contacted you, in case you get caught in a game of communication tag. A missed interview doesn't have to mean a missed publicity opportunity.
Now that you've got the inside scoop on what press people want, are you ready to broadcast your message to them? Because this is an Internet marketing book, I'll focus on three key online channels for reaching the press, which can also be leveraged to attract prospects and spiders: press releases, Internet radio/podcasts, and webinars.