Earned Media in 2021: Go for volume, boost SEO, and land & expand

I will give you the bottom line up front: Your company isn’t Apple, you aren’t releasing the iPhone 13, and therefore, don’t expect media coverage like you are. (Ouch! I hope that didn’t sting too much.)

Just like with search engine optimization, there is no silver bullet when driving media coverage of an announcement, new release, etc. However, you can build a systematic program that is well-researched, well-planned, and well-executed that can generate extended media coverage with a strong return on investment. 

PR coverage is like cooking: Some things can be microwaved, but others will require a slow cooker. It’s going to take a mix of both to be successful. So let’s look at some essential tips as you begin building your brand and pitching potential publications for coverage.

The rise of the content creator

It’s a new world for content creators and consumers, so while you might not be as familiar with a particular YouTube channel, they could quickly drive more product excitement and exposure than a small mention in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Moreover, that individual content creator might have a loyal following who listens intently to what they say and recommend. So if you have an opportunity to demo your product or service for them, take it seriously and thank the heavens for the opportunity.

We no longer live in a world where people find all their recommendations for products and services from just national publications. A Reddit post in a local channel that gets double-digit upvotes can help generate excitement and word-of-mouth advertising. Similarly, coverage in a large number of smaller but respected publications can drive SEO value in the long run as you expand your potential coverage opportunities. 

Building for the future and honing your product marketing

As you start to gain momentum, start taking a hard look at your product marketing as well. Do you have a clear value proposition that journalists can understand? Have you practiced your “pitch” that you give to a content creator? Do you have customer personas that you can explain so they’ll know why it’s useful even if the journalist doesn’t use the service or product? Take the time to hone your messaging and understand who your essential buyers will be before you start taking meetings.

Look at the clip below. When Google was interviewed for this story, they were worth a lot less than they were today. Every company starts somewhere, though. Google had young founders that were hungry for coverage. If they would do it, so should everyone else. 

As you gain credibility with smaller publications and content creators, you’ll start developing a portfolio of coverage that can be incredibly useful in the future when pitching more prominent publications, content creators, and influencers. I promise you — when you pitch a publication, the first thing they’ll do is run a Google search for your company to see your past coverage. You’ll want them to find a lengthy list.

Prominent feature vs. a minor footnote

Suppose you’re just beginning a strategy of working with a PR firm, getting the word out, and developing an SEO strategy. In that case, it will be essential to focus on small wins and celebrate that early coverage. When you’re starting a new campaign, it will be much easier to win local coverage. With that local coverage, you’ll be building substantial SEO value that will pay dividends as you approach more prominent publications.

The coverage from smaller publications will likely be more extensive in scope — think full-featured article vs. a blurb in a roundup. In addition, the coverage will often happen on a faster turnaround. If you’re working with a local newspaper, local TV outlet, or an up-and-coming content creator, you can expect a much quicker turnaround time for coverage vs. working with a national outlet that might take months to show up. 

So what’s next?

You can’t hire a new PR firm on Friday and have significant media coverage on Monday.  Developing a process that can drive extended media coverage when you have a new release or announcement should start as early as the product development. You’ll want to work with as many publications and content creators as you can when building out your band. If a small city blog agrees to cover your company, approach that meeting with the same excitement as if it was a large media outlet.

Everyone wants to run a marathon, but very few people want to start training. So get started honing your “pitch” to publications, respect content creators of all kinds, and understand that when building a brand, it’s important to cast a wide net and go for volume. Or better yet, land and expand.