Media outreach is one of the best ways to brand yourself. In fact, many of the articles you read today have been the result of media outreach. While many stories are developed by publications looking to report on a specific topic, many more stories are pitched to, and accepted by, people outside of that publication.
Media outreach involves contacting various publications and pitching story ideas in an attempt to secure placement of an article. There are a number of ways you can do this and each one has its own merits and effectiveness. You can write and submit press releases, reach out by telephone, and even create email campaigns that target various publications.
In order to maximize the likelihood of securing placement, it is best to have a media outreach strategy in place prior to pitching any story idea.
One of my favorite articles on media outreach comes from PR Daily. Titled the 10 Commandments of Media Outreach, the article discusses some of the most important things to keep in mind when conducting media outreach. Many of these I will discuss herein.
Some people think of media outreach as something a spin doctor does to make their client look good in the media. This is far from the truth.
Media outreach is simply putting your story in front of people who have a platform to tell it to a wider audience. If done effectively, a well-placed story about you and/or your company can be a branding goldmine.
After fielding many of the same questions from clients about media outreach, I thought I would put together this article to help guide you through the process. Everything from how it works, payment, and editorial oversight are covered in the article.
If, after you read this guide, you still have questions, please contact me and I will try to clarify anything you are curious about.
How does media outreach work?
Media outreach has a literal meaning. You are reaching out to the media with your story, hoping that it is exciting enough for someone to write about. It involves making contact with publications through writers and editors, pitching ideas, and ultimately trying to sell yourself as having information their audience wants to read about.
Note what I said about their audience. Media outreach does not simply work by bragging about who you are and what you have to offer. You need to have something the publication wants. After all, they need to maintain (and increase) readership which in turn leads to more ad revenue for the publication. They don’t just write about you for the fun of it.
You need to give publications something interesting or your media outreach will be a failure.
This is where I can help you. I work as your PR or marketing person. I make contact with the publications on your behalf, attempting to secure placements about you and/or your business. What’s great is that you don’t pay me for anything unless I secure a placement for you (more on that later).
I handle everything from writing the pitch to facilitating communication until the article is posted. You simply handle your day to day operations and let me handle reaching out to the media.
So how do you get a publication interested in you or your business?
Storytelling marketing is huge. People are sick of reading “how-to” or “10 reasons why” articles. Personal stories attract readers and publications know this. However, not every story is interesting.
Instead of sending over basic information about you or your business, you need to make sure writers and editors are interested in what you have to say.
Here is an example.
Let’s assume that you are the founder of a marketing company. Well, sorry to tell you but marketing companies (such as Legalmorning.com) are a dime a dozen. Secure placement on being a marketing company is not going to happen. However, let’s assume there is a backstory to your company.
As an example, let’s say your marketing company offers a yearly scholarship of $5,000 to a high school student in your local market. In addition, you have hired 5 of the last 6 recipients of that scholarship once they graduated from college.
Now that’s a story. Instead of pitching them a story about a boring old marketing company, pitch them with the story about how you have helped fund the education of people who you eventually hire. When I pitch a story, I like to give sample headlines to the publication which shows that your story is worthwhile.
Think like a journalist covering a news story – “What’s the angle here?” “What will hook the readers in?”
Keep in mind the “marketing company” and “scholarship” story is just an example. Part of what I do for media outreach is help craft your story and present it to media outlets. Notice I said “craft,” not “create.” I do have people asking me to “create” their stories in an attempt to get them published in the media. If you are potentially one of those people, please stop reading this and go to another site. I simply will not get involved.
So how does the overall process work?
The process is very simple and there is little work that needs to be done on your end. After all, you are paying me to do the outreach.
Once you decide to move forward with media outreach, we will work together on a list of publications where you would like to secure placement. Once we have a list, I will craft a pitch for each publication and then the fun begins.
I will reach out to these publications and pitch the story. Keep in mind that not all publications will want to write about you. In fact, do not get disappointed by the number of rejections we receive. Sometimes a publication simply does not want to write about you.
After I receive a response from publications who want to write a story, I will coordinate between you and them, obtaining all the information they need to write the article. Many writers like to use quotes so you should anticipate receiving a list of questions that will need to be answered. Occasionally they will want to speak with you personally which I will also arrange.
Payment details are discussed later in this article.
Do you pay writers or editors for their time?
Absolutely not and there are many reasons why. People writing for publications are either paid by those publications or they volunteer their time (usually in exchange for a byline to showcase their work). Paying someone to post an article would likely violate the terms and conditions that writer has with the publication.
While most writers and editors are ethical, there are some that are not. Someone who knows they are going to be paid may tend to write about everything just to receive payment.
This takes away from the whole journalism process as things could be written from a point of view that is not neutral.
So why would a writer or editor agree to work with me? Let’s take a look.
As stated above, writers like to have a byline in publications to showcase their work. When they do so, it is important to write content that attracts readers. Through my many years of working with famous people and notable companies (via my Wikipedia writing), I can provide them access to these people and companies that can help with their content.
Here is an example:
Let’s say someone is writing an article about a new movie and wants some insight on the director. If I do not already know the director, I am able to connect them with people who have worked with that director and connect everyone together.
After all my years of writing Wikipedia pages, my contact list has become similar to a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Therefore, I have become a great source for clients when they need access to someone who can help with their article. This is similar to how HARO works, but I do things manually on a more personal basis as opposed to being automated.
It is the relationship that pays the writer, but more on that later.
But I have seen publications who charge people to post content.
Yes, you have, and so have I. Here is how that works.
There are times when I do pay a publication to post content on behalf of a client, but it is done with what is referred to as “sponsored content.” Sponsored content takes the form of any other article written for that publication. However, there is a disclaimer on the article that it was paid for by the client. In essence, it works the same way as it would if you paid to place an advertising banner on the site.
Why does a sponsored post need to state such? The most important reason is so that the reader is not misled into thinking that a publication or writer endorses the content. With media outreach, a publication decides they like a story and want to present it to their readers. Paid content is different and as such publications need to separate what is unbiased and what is paid for by a client/advertiser.
Speaking of disclosure, there is another reason why I do not pay writers. Once I pay a writer to post content, it becomes “sponsored.” Once content meets the threshold of “sponsored,” it must be disclosed as such according to Truth in Advertising laws. Failure to do so can end up getting you in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission. The last thing you want is to be known for paying publications for your publicity that is not marked as such.
While there is nothing wrong with sponsored content, I always recommend going the outreach route to secure publication. I believe it is better to have an unbiased article written about you rather than posting sponsored content. It simply feels good to know you are notable enough for a writer to take you up as a topic.
Paying a publication to post content could also wind up getting them in trouble with Google. If a publication decides to link to you from the article and they accepted payment for that article, this could be a violation of best practices. While it is not a direct payment for a link, Google could consider it a violation and penalize the website accordingly. No website is going to take this chance so they mark sponsored content appropriately in order to conform to SEO best practices.
The above screenshot is an example of a sponsored post on the Business Insider (their guidelines on sponsored content are here). If you are interested in a sponsored post, I can still assist you by ghost writing the content on your behalf. Simply contact me and we can discuss this in greater detail.
Can’t I Just Do My Own Media Outreach?
Absolutely. In fact, I recommend that you do.
Doing your own media outreach will save you money and also lead to new business relationships.
If you can do it on your own, why should you hire me? Simple.
Media outreach is all about relationships. It is more than just firing off emails to publications, going through contact forms, and making an occasional telephone call. Through the years, I have built many relationships with writers and editors throughout the industry.
So here is how my relationships help.
I still have to send blind emails on occasion, but many of the contacts I have built readily entertain media pitches. This does not mean they are willing to write about you, but it does mean I can normally receive an answer quicker than going through a contact form.
How did I build these relationships? As explained earlier, I began media outreach as a way to help publications with access to people they wanted to write about. Over time, these relationships grew to where I am on a first name basis with writers and editors and can pitch them topics quickly.
How much do you charge for media outreach?
Prices vary depending on a number of factors. The two most important is the time I know it will take to write and pitch a topic as well as coordinate the process between you and the publication. Another factor is the publication itself.
Yes, you heard correctly. I do charge based on publication. And yes, I know you are thinking that it should not matter if I am not paying a writer of the publication itself.
So here is why I do it.
When I began media outreach, I charged the same price for each placement I was able to secure. So, I would pitch to 10 publications and receive a favorable response from 5 (just an example here, don’t quote me on the success rate).
Out of those 5 publications, there would be 2 that were major publications and 3 smaller publications (again, just an example). Clients would elect to go with only 2 publications (you guessed it, the major publications) and leave the others behind. This did a number of things to hurt my business model.
First, it soured some relationships. If I pitch a publication and they decide to write a story, when I then tell them not to write it they soon begin to stop entertaining pitches. As they are writing for free, I am only out my time, but clients would still benefit if I allowed the other 3 to be writing without me receiving compensation for that time.
So, I found a happy medium.
I now charge based on my experience with each publication and knowing how much time will be involved. I also charge based on the authority of the publication so that clients are happy with paying a lower rate for smaller publications but will have to pay more for major publications.
Price structure changed quite a bit in the beginning of this model, but it has settled to a point where clients are happy with what I charge for each publication.
Want to know the exact cost? Contact me and I can put together a quote for you.
Do you get to control the content that is written?
There is no easy way to answer this question. Basically, yes, but not really!
Confused? Let me explain.
I have absolutely no editorial control over content unless it is a sponsored post (described above). Whatever the writer crafts and the editor accepts is out of my control. There are a few exceptions.
I ask all publications to review content prior to publication. I have yet to have anyone tell me “no.” I review the content with you for factual errors, clarification on quotes, etc. In the event there is something inaccurate, I notify the publication in order to get it corrected. If there is something about the article you do not like, I can absolutely recommend a change.
Publications do not have an issue with reviewing the content as they want to make sure it is factually correct. It is embarrassing for a publication to retract a story, especially when they could have verified the information upfront.
So, while I cannot tell a publication what to write, I most certainly can review content for facts, and make suggestions for any content changes. It is ultimately up to them what they publish, but I absolutely will voice any concerns you have prior to publication.
When is payment due for your services?
This is something you are going to love. I do NOT charge you for media outreach unless I secure placement for you. This means that I do all the work upfront (crafting and presenting pitches, etc.) without you having to pay a single dime.
Once a publication (or publications) decide they are going to write a story, this is when you will be invoiced for 50% of the total cost. Once the article goes live, you will then be invoiced for the remaining 50% of the project.
Now, there are times when a publication decides NOT to run a story. This can happen any time after they notify me they are going to write it all the way up to the point of it being written and submitted for publication. When this happens, you will not be charged for the project. The initial 50% you paid upfront will be refunded and you will not be invoiced for the remainder.
Can I be part of your network without being involved in active outreach?
I love this question and the answer is “ABSOLUTELY YES!”
As stated previously, writers and editors love reaching out to me as I have a large client database and can easily connect them with people in just about any niche industry. If you would like to be part of that “database,” I would love to have you onboard.
Here is how it works.
I would make a list of your expertise and what you would be willing to offer (detailed quotes, consultation, etc.). When a publication reaches out to me, I reach out to you if your expertise fits what they are looking for.
If I am able to connect you and secure placement, I then charge you for my time. The rate of this type of outreach is significantly less than what I charge for active outreach (as there is not as much time involved in the effort).
Many of my clients initially sign up for active outreach. Then, after I secure a few placements for them, they drop back to this type of arrangement. They are always willing to entertain media opportunities, they just aren’t actively searching for media opportunities at that time.
Do you write content for clients under any of your writing profiles?
Another great question and the simple answer is NO.
I wish I was paid to write content, but I fall into the category of writers who volunteer to do so in exchange for a byline. Writing on behalf of my clients would absolutely destroy the integrity of the journalism process.
I do receive emails on a daily basis from people offering to pay me to write under my profiles. These emails are mainly from marketing and PR firms who already have clients and have content ready to go. While it would be easy to do so, I simply will not do it.
Now, as a writer, I am always looking for help with content just like others are. Since I cannot use my own database, I reach out to people through ProfNet, HARO, and social media. These are also great ways for you to secure placement without paying me to do the outreach. Just keep in mind that it is quite a bit of work to do it this way and your returns will not be as great as if you hired myself or a PR firm to do the work for you.
If you are thinking about writing an email to me requesting I do this, please save your time. However, if you are a PR firm, company, or anyone else with a great story you would like me to share, send me an email and if I like the idea I may just write about you.
Can I remove an article once it is posted?
Technically, you cannot. I can always ask a writer to delete a post or update content, but this is something I only do in extreme cases (such as obvious factual errors, defamation, copyright infringement, etc.). As I do not have editorial control over any of these publications, I cannot simply have content removed.
The only exception to this rule is, again, sponsored content.
So how do I engage you for media outreach services?
If you are looking for media outreach services, all you need to do is email and supply me with some information about you and/or your company. Once I receive the information, I will evaluate if I believe I can help and then reach out to discuss potential pitches and placements.