Owned Media: Helping Companies Beat 4-1 Odds

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A friend, father of a communications student, told me last week that there’s four public relations professionals for every journalist.  4 to 1.  I didn’t research the stat myself, but took a leap of faith that the student’s professor who revealed the stat knew what he or she was talking about.

4 to 1. At least.  That’s the stat I’m going with.

If you’re a client and have an agency engaging with the media on your company’s behalf — and you’re not Apple or Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson or GE — you’re likely (hopefully) generally aware of the odds.  If you work for an agency and engage with media on your clients’ behalf, especially if they’re not Apple or Wal-Mart, etc. — then you’re keenly aware.  Getting a smallish or mid-size client on a key reporter’s radar, getting a response from a reporter to an email you sent yesterday or last week or a month ago, getting an actual return phone call from a reporter … let’s just say everyone is very busy.

If you have a client with breaking news, news that can’t wait, news that impacts a critical mass of consumers, news that’s pegged to a trend, well, you have ammo.

But if you have a client, or you are the client, that isn’t breaking-news driven, whose business isn’t fueled by the release of new product after new product, whose CEO isn’t a luminary or a Millennial, whose customers aren’t always willing to go on the record, who might be privately held and doesn’t have quarterly financial results to report (good or bad as both get covered by the media), well, then what?

A frequent contributor, aka freelancer, to THE major daily newspaper in Massachusetts told me in an email earlier this week that “soft-feature slots are few and far between.” He pitched the paper on a business story I proposed to him. He thought the story was strong enough to bring to the attention of his editor at the daily, which subsequently turned it down.  When I asked him for his thoughts on what might have been missing from the story, he said “nothing” but that “soft feature slots..yadda yadda”.

My point (you must be wondering by now) is two-fold:

  • more companies/PR people calling on fewer and fewer reporters forces the PR pro to be more creative than ever, to do more homework and brainstorming to develop insights that result in more meaningful, targeted pitches and story lines. And don’t let unresponsive journalists deter your effort.  In my experience, many emails and calls aren’t returned only because the reporter is too swamped reacting to time-driven news (if it bleeds it leads is 100 percent true) and not necessarily because they aren’t interested in your story idea. My advice is keep trying. Oftentimes, when that reporter does finally answer the phone, he or she is happy you called.
  • the self-publishing and original content development opportunities that exist today vs. just a handful of years ago provide clients and their agencies with untold opportunities and channels to engage consumers.

So while there are fewer reporters to catch all of the great stories out there, owned media provides brands with the opportunity to share compelling stories that might otherwise never get shared.

A robust company blog with a strong point of view, an outspoken and opinionated CEO who appreciates the spotlight, a marketing team who recognizes the value of time spent drafting informative eBooks and white papers that are shared and repurposed as by-lined articles and pitched to industry publications.  These are a few of the key components of a content-centered communications program that integrates traditional media relations but recognizes its inherent limitations while embracing the universe of possibilities presented by owned media.

How are you and your clients addressing the 4 to 1?

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