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How to Create PR-Friendly Content on the Cheap

According to the Pitney Bowes “Metro Magnets Index,” Houston, Atlanta, and the Washington D.C. metropolitan areas will each add around 100,000 households in the next five years. It projects that Provo, Austin and Fort Hood will see the highest household growth relative to their respective populations.

Newspaper Headlines - PR Content

These are pretty compelling statistics. They may even make you wonder about the projected growth of your hometown in the next five years.

Your interest is fantastic news for Pitney Bowes, because the “Metro Magnets Index” was the brainchild of their PR firm, SHIFT Communications. You see, Pitney Bowes collected all of the demographic data for other purposes. SHIFT simply repurposed that information as the “Metro Magnets Index,” and earned over 175 media impressions discussing their dataset.

Does the fact that the “Metro Magnet Index” is a public relations construct diminish the interest level for that data? It shouldn’t, and it didn’t. And it provides an important example for businesses: there may be opportunities out there right now to create press-worthy content on the cheap.

What I want to discuss in this post are examples where businesses have earned media impressions by leveraging smart PR tactics.

When “proprietary” information isn’t proprietary

What makes your business unique? Many businesses answer this question by saying that they have proprietary methods or programs that distinguish them from other businesses. And for the most part, saying (or believing) that narrative is ridiculous. The Wizard of Oz might have claimed some degree of proprietary process, too… until someone looked behind the curtain to discover he was just a motivational speaker talking through a microphone.

Internet security company Commtouch found themselves needing media exposure. As a B2B company, it was difficult for them to earn media attention when so many companies were operating in the same space. They had major clients like Google and Microsoft, but couldn’t successfully leverage though relationships to gain greater visibility.

Commtouch did an analysis of their business and determined that a portion of the research that they do as an Internet security company didn’t have to be proprietary or privileged. Of course raw data wasn’t a palatable solution for journos or end users either, so they did an analysis of the content that they could provide and also did an analysis of the content that was already being covered. Their goal was to provide interesting analysis but also specifically targeting areas of need for technology journalists.

Their solution was to create their “Quarterly Trend Report,” which analyzes Internet security trends and also highlights the expertise of certain executives in each publication. Press releases are sent out for every publication and the results are impressive: a 250 percent increase of media coverage. Blog subscribers increased 60 percent.

All of this was accomplished with information that they had already collected.

Segmenting journos

Segmenting - Target Journalists

Targeting the right reporters pays big dividends.

My kids are into knock-knock jokes, and there is one that makes me think of the journalist-PR relationship. A series of knock-knock iterations are told about a banana, and on a subsequent knock, the punchline is revealed: “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?”

Journalists may see irrelevant press releases from certain sources and cringe (or write nasty blog posts), and it’s clear that in many circumstances the irrelevance of the press release negatively impacts the journalist’s feelings about the source. By the time you send something relevant about oranges, they’re already too upset about the bananas.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra wasn’t upsetting journalists (who could be mad at a symphony orchestra?), but they weren’t wowing journos either. They had niche offerings and niche audiences: the niche offerings were being distributed in general channels and the niche channels were inundated with press releases about their traditional offerings.

Their PR was ineffective and they understood it. The symphony wasn’t getting the right information into the right channels and as a result, their audience was underserved.

Their solution was to use targeted media lists to distributes their press releases using the Vocus PR Suite. The results? An increase in media coverage for each event, and a wider range of publications writing about each event.

All of this done by distributing the right content to the appropriate journalists.


VIP - PR ContentI used to write content for a hyperlocal site in Seattle, and found it rather impressive how capably the site distributed content to the neighborhoods it covered. For most metropolitan cities, there are multiple blogs for any given neighborhood (there are two where I live in the Cincinnati suburbs). Most of the writing for these sites is done by volunteers. Local advertising and AdSense revenue probably do very little except to cover overhead. They are a labor of love.

Bloggers with decent-sized audiences get inundated with nearly the same amount of press releases and requests as journalists, yet they have the added variables of extreme time-constraint and day jobs. These are more-or-less universal problems for all bloggers.

When Louis Vuitton launched their French website, they decided to target influential bloggers and to give them exclusive access to the web content and to their creatives. They went a step further and asked the bloggers for suggestions of how they could improve the site.

As a result, more than 85 percent of the targeted bloggers wrote pieces about Louis Vuitton. And while most businesses don’t have the prestige factor of Louis Vuitton, most PR professionals would be thrilled to get a fraction of those bloggers writing about them.

And what were the costs for LV? Very little (discounting the fact that Oglivy did their PR….).

Danger Will Robinson!

Danger Will Robinson - PR Content

When discussing content on the cheap, it’s important to understand the characteristics of the case studies mentioned and content regurgitation.
A lot of people recommend repurposing content: put it in a slideshow, make a podcast, write multiple blog posts, et cetera. While those tactics may or may not be useful, that’s not what’s happening here.

You don’t want to repurpose content for media. Commtouch gave the media something new by releasing a high-interest, accessible dataset. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra aligned their PR targets with performance information that was appropriate to their readership. Louis Vuitton gave writers access to a brand new web property and solicited feedback.

You can reimagine something, but you should be cautious not to rehash it. I imagine that’s a narrow distinction, but hope that it’s clear. The same journo who found your first press release irrelevant probably will find redundant content irrelevant as well (and may get irritated to see the same thing again it again).

That said, hopefully this gives you an idea of how companies are generating media coverage on the cheap and how you can as well.

Now you know how to generate PR content on the cheap? Now measure and maximize it with this free Vocus guide!

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.

Images:, EMR (Creative Commons)

About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

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