A pitch for PR to focus more on owned media

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.