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In 2021, earned media coverage is more valuable than ever for your business. Even if your brand is active on social media and your website is optimized for SEO, you’re still missing out on organic traffic and customers without backlinks to your website.
With Google’s John Mueller recently weighing digital PR as a tactic that’s worth the same — if not more — effort as technical SEO, executing a proper earned media strategy is a must.
Earning media coverage can seem daunting to a PR beginner. If you’ve ever wondered where to get started with questions like “How do I write an effective pitch?” and “What kind of content earns press?” read on.
In this post, I’ll walk you through how my team earned top-tier press coverage and backlinks for a client in five simple steps using content marketing strategies, and how you can apply these same steps to your own brand’s content.
Step 1: Ideation
When coming up with an idea for content, visualize the headlines you want to see when the content earns media attention. What do you want to find out, and where do you want this content to appear?
What discussions are going on in your industry that you can contribute to? What new insights or information can you add to the conversation?
For one Fractl client, Porch.com (a company that connects you with home repair professionals), we wanted to develop an idea that used data to tell a story related to home improvement.
We sought to appear on wide-reaching national publications such as the Washington Post and more industry-specific websites like Realtor.com.
When people are looking to repair or maintain something in their home, a big concern is how much it will cost. We wanted to learn more about the most expensive parts of home maintenance, and where in the US home maintenance costs were lowest.
For your content, try to come up with an idea that not only answers a question, but also relates to your brand’s service or product offering.
After you come up with a few ideas, make sure to evaluate each idea based on the SUCCEss model. SUCCEss is an acronym that stands for: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional.
Our campaign idea for Porch.com checks all the boxes in the SUCCEss model.
It’s simple: How much does home repair cost in the U.S.?
It’s unexpected: Some areas of home maintenance cost more than you think.
It’s concrete: The idea is specific and answers a question.
It’s credible: We’re using data to back up our claims.
It’s emotional: money and homeownership are two emotionally charged topics in the United States.
Once you have your idea, and it has all of the elements for success, it’s time to move on to step two.
Step 2: Producing a content marketing campaign
There are many different ways to go about producing a content marketing campaign. How you create a campaign really comes down to what data source you’re using for your content.
Some of the most popular ideas use one of the following sources for their content:
Social media data (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
Google Trends data
Internal company data
Publicly available data source (FDA, WHO, Census Bureau, etc.)
Figure out the best way to answer your question. Are you trying to gain insight into the home lives of American families? A survey might be your best bet. If you want to see how people feel about a specific topic, you could try scraping social media platforms like Twitter for mentions of that word. If you want to know the prevalence of a query over time, you could use Google Trends. Finally, publicly available data from government sources is a great way to learn more about various topics.
For our Porch.com idea, we could have run a survey asking Americans about their home maintenance costs, but we didn’t. Most survey respondents would resort to estimating the amount they spend on repairs, and the data wouldn’t be as reliable.
Instead, we looked at Porch’s internal data to get more reliable information about home repair costs in the US. We examined the ZIP codes in each state with the highest home maintenance costs, lowest costs, and where you can expect that money will go every year.
There are many different ways to tackle a project, so evaluate all the other content creation methods before choosing a tactic.
Step 3: Design and copywriting
Design work for your content is an important step that you shouldn’t forgo when creating content to earn backlinks and press coverage. Journalists that cover content projects consistently use graphics and data visualizations from your campaign to assist in storytelling. It would be best if you always aimed to have at least one graphic visualization to help tell the story of your data.
Our main objective when creating Porch’s campaign was to find out where in the US home repair costs were highest and lowest. It made perfect sense to use maps to illustrate our findings. Readers in every state can quickly and easily discover how their state compares with others.
For example, from this asset, readers can easily discern that New Jersey has the highest home repair costs, while Mississippi has the lowest.
The key to creating a great graphic asset is to keep it simple and, most importantly, easy to understand. Use simple charts like pie charts, bar graphs, and maps to allow the reader to digest information quickly. Keep the design consistent with your company’s branding, and always include your company logo somewhere on the graphic so that, if your campaign is covered without a link, people know who did the research.
As for copywriting, storytelling is critical for data campaigns. How does this data contribute to the conversation? What decisions can readers make based on this information? Tell a story with your data, and make sure to highlight the most important insights.
When crafting a piece of written content for a campaign, all the components of writing an excellent blog post apply. Here are some tips to consider:
Use compelling headlines.
Write in a conversational — but authoritative style. There is no need for the reader to keep a thesaurus on hand to decipher the gist of your project.
Write with empathy. Does this data reinforce, or object to real-world issues going on right now? Consider how someone impacted with the topic will react to seeing your findings.
Consider the goal of the content. If you’re creating a content piece for digital PR, your primary audience should be the journalists you pitch. You’re writing for them. So you don’t necessarily need any loud CTAs like you might include on a regular blog post. Not all goals can (or should) be achieved with all content.
Lastly, don’t make the reader comb through tons of data to find the good stuff. Journalists don’t have time to figure out why your project is relevant to them. You need to tell them. Point out the most interesting data points — and make real-world connections to those data points for the journalist. Include current events that are relevant to your story.
Step 4: Media outreach
Once your content is created, it’s time for arguably the most daunting step of all: digital PR outreach. Outreach can be intimidating for beginners to PR because all of the work leads up to this moment: will you be able to secure media coverage and make it all worth the effort?
The good news is that if you have great content and follow our guide to media relations, you should be able to meet all of your outreach goals.
List building for email outreach
List building is the first step to earning media coverage, and it all starts with your content. Understand the findings of the content your team produces, like the back of your hand. If you know it inside and out, list building will be accessible for you.
Make a list of all the actionable insights that your content features. What potential headlines could you see your content making? What sort of angles could a journalist take with the data you provide?
We went after three journalistic angles for Porch’s cost of home maintenance campaign: regional, industry, and finance. This topic uses tons of regional data and relates to the industry as well as personal finance.
Once you have your angles, start to find journalists that frequently cover topics related to your content. For us, we looked at writers who covered mortgages and home improvement, and DIY.
Pitch writing for email outreach
Once you know who you’re going to pitch, create bulleted lists of different findings from your content that could be of interest to various publishers. The finance journalists might be more interested in home repairs’ financial impact, while the industry sites might want to learn more about actual maintenance angles.
When writing a pitch, keep your email succinct — no more than 200 words per email. Make sure you tell the journalist why you’re reaching out to them in the first paragraph. How do you know this content is relevant to them?
Journalists get dozens of email pitches a day. Make sure you stand out by connecting with them, and once you have their attention, don’t waste their time with a lengthy email. Give them the gist of the project, including relevant statistics that align with their beat, and send them a link to the full page so that they can look at it in-depth if it’s a good fit.
In 2019, Fractl surveyed over 500 journalists to ask them what they loved and hated in a PR pitch. Here are their top ten biggest pet peeves when it comes to email pitches.
Step 5: Reporting on success
Using the pitching process above, our simple idea of exploring home maintenance costs turned into over 188 pieces of coverage and 82 do-follow links. Our campaign for Porch.com was featured in the Washington Post, the Mortgage Reports, Realtor.com, Reader’s Digest, and more.
Once you start to see the coverage rolling in, track each placement in a spreadsheet. Be sure to include the coverage URL, the type of link they had (no follow or do follow), the site’s domain authority, and social engagement numbers. These metrics allow you to track your campaign success relative to other campaigns you’ve produced.
Earned media takes prevalence in 2021
Content marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. This five-step method is a failsafe way to earn media attention across a wide range of digital publishers, earning you backlinks along the way.
Earned media is by far the most beneficial public relations tactic in 2021 and beyond. When you create data-backed content campaigns that provoke discussion in your industry, you also boost your brand awareness, trustworthiness, and rankings in the SERPS. It’s a win-win-win tactic and will continue to take the lead when it comes to marketing tactics.