A pitch for PR to focus more on owned media

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A Guest Post by Justin Goldsborough:

What if I was writing this blog post with only the hope that it would be published? What if I took the time to research the topic, identify the story, and find the case studies with no guarantee anyone but me would ever see any of that work come to fruition? What if I was completely reliant on a third party to decide if my post has what it takes to make it to the Internet?

Sounds absurd, right? Well, companies and agencies take this approach all the time. They spend hours researching and putting together a story to share with the media and the bloggers in the form of a pitch. Then they conduct their outreach and hope to earn placements in a top-tier newspaper or with a blogger in their niche. But that’s where it stops. And that’s where companies aren’t getting the most out of the content they are creating.

If you were taking a history class on public relations, one of the first chapters would be on the topic of “earned” media. PR has always worked to tell the client’s story to those who actually cover it, which ideally makes that story more trusted.

There is still value in that approach. However, pages are being added to the “owned” chapter of PR every day. Pages communicators need to read to determine how the content they create can work harder than just a pitch. It’s a mindset shift from solely working with the media on behalf of a company, to also seeing that brand as its own media company.

Own your owned channels

Emarketer shared research last week that showed Facebook fans No. 1 expectation of the brands they follow is exclusive content. In fact, the “sneak peek” companies can give via their owned channels is one of the main reasons customers are drawn to engaging with brands this way. Just ask Burberry.

During the London fashion house’s Spring/Summer 2012 fashion show, Burberry provided customers with a variety of content via its owned social media channels:

  • A #Tweetwalk, where @Burberry tweeted pictures of the new looks before they hit the runway
  • Burberry Twitter account takeovers by fashion editors from Elle and Vogue
  • A lives stream of the event for Facebook fans and YouTube subscribers
  • Lookbook shared via Twitter before any media photographers had a chance to photograph the new styles
  • A Burberry photographer posting a stream of photos from the event to Burberry’s Instagram account

Hear more about Burberry’s strategy behind using its owned channels to share the fashion show experience in this video (start at 2:15) from Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey.

Owned content makes a great pitch

If you’ve ever worked in PR, you’ve probably written a pitch. And if you’ve written a pitch, you’ve researched and created content. So why not take the extra step to flesh out those pitches and create content for owned channels first that can also be used in a pitch.

My friend Rochelle Veturis turned me on to this idea. Rochelle, who works for architecture firm LPA Inc., often shoots video of her company’s live events or blogs about their sustainability efforts. The initial purpose of this content is to tell the LPA story via its social media channels (blog, YouTube, etc.). But Rochelle often repurposes that content as part of her pitches to media and bloggers.

This approach makes a lot of sense for two reasons: 1) A blog post or YouTube video already tells a story. And stories resonate with people better than pitches. Even reporters. 2) Newsrooms are cutting staff at a rapid rate and bloggers often are a staff of one. So both groups are in need of content and may be able to repurpose some/all of what she sends them.

Owning search

My favorite search analogy goes as follows. Remember the old Dewey Decimal System at the library? The more cards a book had in that card catalog, the better chance you had to find it. Search is the same way. And every time a brand creates a new piece of content for its owned channels, it adds a new card to Google’s catalog. With Google handling more than 11 billion searches a month according to comScore, your company needs all the chances to be found that it can get.

PR has always worked with the media and probably always will. But to connect with customers and give them stories to tell about our brands, we must learn to make our owned media work for us too.

Justin Goldsborough is a PR pro and SM guy for Fleishman-Hillard. KCIABC board. #pr20chat co-mod w/ @PRtini. #HAPPOKC reg champ. Blogger at JUSTin in Case You Were Wondering.

13 Responses to " A pitch for PR to focus more on owned media "

  1. Justin, I love love LOVE this post! I know you and I have often talked about this approach and, more than that, that we PR pros now don’t have to rely simply on the “media,” but that now our end-audience – our organizations’/clients’ customers & stakeholders are the media – because what they share/spread is so much more powerful. By owning our “owned” media (sic) we increase the ways for them to do just that. Thank you for writing this!

  2. Ted Nguyen says:

    Great to “see” Shonali Burke from Washington, D.C. and my Orange County, Calif. neighbor Rochelle Veturis in this blog post.

    Public relations professionals who understand the power of social media are already using their own generated content to work for themselves and their organizations. We can’t always count on the traditional media to share our story, so we now have the power to create our own content.

    E=MC2 or Everyone is a media company times two. And it’s all possible thanks to social media. We’re not just the content creators — we’re not content distributors.

    Thanks, Justin, Rochelle and Shonali for helping set the pace in this new content world!

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Shonali. Couldn’t agree more. Thinking of our brands as media companies is a mindset shift that we as communicators can lead. Why put the time in to create compelling stories and content only to hope it will be shared via a pitch. We still need to work with media and bloggers, but tell our own stories and build our own communities as well. Cheers!

  4. John Lusher says:

    Great post Justin and helpful insight. Too many companies, across all aspects of the business community, act as if social media sites are the only sites they need to spend time writing for; while ignoring their own website and distribution channels!

    As a consultant in marketing and social media, one of my mantra’s is for companies to invest more time, energy and effort in their own site, their own channels and relationships, while using social as a platform to build community. You cannot rely on third part; you have to develop your content and use your proven channels to get the message out.

    Love the post, and great to see Rochelle mentioned. Thanks Justin!

  5. Gina Parris says:

    What an interesting article! I am always interesting in what Rochelle Veturis is doing, and knowing that we are first speaking to our own communities takes some of the pressure off. Multi-channel marketing is always a winner.

  6. E=MC2. Ted, that is going on my whiteboard when I get back to the office. Love that perspective. Thanks for it!

    John, I am right there with you on developing a company’s owned social media channels. One of my fave speakers, Ramon DeLeon from Dominoes, talks about doing what you need to do to be found online and using social channels to make that happen. With search still guiding the majority of our online experiences, we have to work with our brands to create those opportunities to be found. Cheers!

  7. Seeing Shonali, Ted, John, and Justin, all on one post is an absolute treat. I wish I could tell you there was an ah-hah moment when I figured this out, but there wasn’t. It’s just something I (intuitively) started doing, and I’m sure my background in media helped. I remember being at the paper, and running into lots of businesses with great stories to tell. I think they “assumed,” that everyone knew about them, their story, their products/specialties, and so forth. I used to enter their businesses and leaves with oodles of ideas for stories, sidebars, videos – and this was back, before our abundance of social platforms. We all have content in us, and if you don’t think you do, that’s a hurdle you need to come clean with, so you can get past it.

  8. Paul Tran says:

    What a great post! I’m a business owner who is continuing to learn how to leverage PR correctly and effectively; this article was a powerful reminder that instead of being at the mercy of third party outlets, take matters into your own hands!

  9. Danielle says:

    Hi Justin,

    Like you, whatever the most awesome Rochelle Veturis says, I pay close attention to 🙂 Actually, she and I had a conversation about this a few years ago when we attended SXSW together.

    It is really mind-boggling the control and power we now have in the area of media relations. I constantly tell clients that they need to driven the brand of THEM out there and not wait for someone else to do it.

    Great piece!


  10. Justin: How do I get my pic to come up, like everyone else’s?

  11. Rochelle, try uploading a pic to Gravatar.com or WordPress.com. Deirdre’s blog is probably pulling from one of those two.

    Danielle, great to meet you. Yep, that Rochelle is pretty smart :). Agree that our clients have more of an opportunity to influence the story their customers tell than ever before. They just need take the initiative. Cheers!

  12. Exactly, Paul. The best approach usually involves working with third parties and owned channels. Especially since we know journalists and bloggers get a lot of their story ideas from social media channels.

  13. Thank you for posting this Justin – an excellent article and one all communicators should take note of. As Tom Foremski described it – “every company is a media company”.

    I’ve noticed that this concept has been getting quite a bit of attention particularly in recent months across SM and the PR/communications industry. It might just be that social newsrooms and content hubs are the big thing for 2012 … what do you think?

    As a young professional interested in social and digital communications, I see this owned media as a huge opportunity to evolve the traditional models of media relations and stakeholder engagement, with great potential to evolve our discipline within business and the organization.

    Thanks again, keep up the great work!

    Best, Jamie

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