In digital marketing seminars around the world, we are constantly told “content is king, but distribution is queen – and she wears the pants”. But what does this mean for us?
It was Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame, who coined the first half of the phrase in 1996, with the new suffix added by Buzzfeed’s Jonathan Perelman 13 years later. The couplet has become something of a mantra in digital marketing circles.
It struck a chord because it is true. You could craft the finest piece of content, spending hours researching and considering every word, for it to go absolutely nowhere when you hit the publish button.
If you have belief in the content you have produced, then you need to trust your instincts, have faith in your work – but consider the fact that you need to have a solid plan in place for distributing that content.
So you’ve got your killer press release, announcing an exciting piece of news for your client or brand. You’ve included all of the facts, the most newsworthy ones at the top. There’s a quote, some background information, and that all-important call to action. It has been signed off by the executives or the client involved.
But a week later, it has gone nowhere. Not even the client’s local paper has picked it up. You check back – has it really been sent? Is this a mistake?
It happens all too often that all of the hard work goes into the press release itself, and not the distribution of it. In many ways, it’s the most important step which many skip.
So, how do we do this effectively? There are five elements you need to be thinking of once you have your piece of content primed to publish.
The distribution list is essential for you to nail, and it’s easier than ever to get that right nowadays. You should already be using a service like Gorkana or Vuelio/Cision to distribute your press release, and help you create a distribution list full of contacts and outlets. Take a good amount of time to hone that list, making sure that the recipients are relevant to the content you’re pushing out. It’s no use sending that press release about conservatories to the editor of What Car? magazine is it?
These services allow you to find the right audience for your press release, from bloggers and influencers to trade outlets and specialist websites.
You’re also able to target a certain area as well, avoiding that all-too-frequent issue where your Plymouth-centric story ends up languishing in the inbox at the Inverness Courier, never to be seen again.
If you don’t have the luxury of being able to use these paid-for services, you can go it alone. Use the free service from JICREG to locate newspapers in a particular area, which gives useful readership details. Then there’s good old Google to find relevant outlets, to see who is talking about what, and who would be interested in your release. Use social media to gauge what outlets and journalists are talking about.
The perfect press release served to a relevant audience is useless if you fire it out at 5.29pm on a Friday as you slide out of your office like Fred Flintstone at the end of a shift. Timing is critical!
The best time to send a press release is in the morning. Not too early, certainly not before 9am, but not long after that either. If you don’t get sign-off on a release until mid-afternoon, consider holding it until the next day.
Make a note of the key outlets that you want to hit and do some research. If it’s a newspaper, is it weekly or daily? When do they go to print? Weekly newspapers are much more likely to print something if it comes early in their lifecycle, not on deadline day when your email and follow-up phonecall will go down like a lead balloon.
If you don’t get any traction, don’t be afraid to do a resend. You can monitor in Vuelio and Gorkana who has picked up the email and who needs a subtle, friendly nudge in the right direction.
Striking up a rapport with the target outlets is another much-skipped step on the path to publication. This one’s a good one, because developing a professional relationship with a publisher can go a long way towards guaranteeing coverage for your brand or client not just for this story, but for many stories to come.
Establish a contact at your target outlets, preferably one that deals with your sector regularly and one that has written about similar subjects in the past. Again, Google is your friend.
Build that relationship by personalising your pitch. Flatter them by commenting on a recent story you may have read of theirs, or a particularly astute comment they may have made on social media.
If the content is as good as you know it is, it shouldn’t be a hard sell for them to publish your story.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, but again, respect the timings. Don’t do it when they’re moments from deadline, or about to leave the office when they can’t wait to get you off the phone.
And once they publish your release, don’t forget to drop them a line and thank them. They’ll be more likely to deal with you again in the future if they know that they are working with a decent human being.
Again, this is where research comes into the equation. You may well have the perfect press release, ready to be sent out on a Monday morning to that outlet you know will publish the story, the reporter who you have spoken to in the past and have a respectful professional relationship with. But this will be completely useless if there has been a huge fire in that outlet’s patch the night before and the whole newsdesk is out of the office working on the story.
You need to be across the news landscape in the area you are pitching the story you are working on.Tweet
Conversely, a breaking news story in a particular area could be an opportunity for your brand or client. Be ready to adapt quickly and produce timely content that will be published on the back of a breaking news story.
While your content may well be the best thing you’ve ever produced, which has gone down really well and has been picked up by a range of respected publishers, delighting your managers or clients, it could still get a little boost by spending a little bit of money on it.
There are many magazines and digital outlets whose business model is built around sponsored content, who get large amounts of readers in areas relevant to your target audience. These outlets will invariably try to push you towards spending some money on a feature or a case study. This isn’t always a bad idea.
If you’re looking at an outlet with a respectable authority score, who will put together a well-crafted feature with high-quality imagery, then by all means go for it.
But do your research, read their media pack, run the sums – if you’re spending hundreds of pounds on a feature that will be read by three people in a call centre reception, then don’t do it. If the outlet is promising backlinks, including it on their email newsletter and featuring the story on their social channels, then you should consider it as a serious option.