After leaving the world of journalism almost 2 years ago I do often wonder whether journalists still have the same bugbears as I did when it comes to receiving press releases. The ones I’d automatically delete if it wasn’t targeted to the right publication, was basically an advert for a product or it didn’t contain anything of ‘news value’.
So when Sian Elvin from MyLondon took to the stage at the outREACH conference it was reassuring to know that what I tell the team here at Reflect Digital (and our clients) is the correct and appropriate way to approach a journalist and publication.
Sian gave these helpful pointers below to the audience:
If you send a press release that isn’t right or it contains the wrong information then that is mistake number one. Journalists are busy (everyone is) but if the release can contain the right information the first time, and the journalist doesn't need to contact you to ask questions, then that is the ultimate praise!
Always, always do this. There’s nothing worse for a journalist than having to chase a press officer for more information (often key information) they’ve missed out. If you have a case study remember to put their name, age and where they are from. Use as many details as possible. The information needs to be right.
That phrase is the worst! A journalist’s day isn’t 9-5, many work shifts and long days. They are always online too. News is 24/7.
Journalists don’t write the puns, their editors do. Sometimes they work but more often than not - leave them out.
This is HUGE and my biggest advice as well. You’ve got to know who you are pitching too. Otherwise it won’t get picked up on and you’ll probably be ‘blacklisted’.
All of the above is valuable advice but if you need more help in pitching a press release to a journalist then check out my guide here.
As both an avid content writer and someone who is interested in psychology, I found the first talk of the day particularly interesting. We kicked off the conference by exploring the power of language with Kim Bjørnqvist, who encouraged us to consider a change of perspective.
We discussed the example of selling a bed or a mattress - as a consumer, I’m not likely to find that the technical qualities, dimensions or specifications of your shiny new bed product encourage me to feel anything - no matter how descriptive it is! Instead, what if you tell me how great it is to have had a brilliant, restful night’s sleep? I can feel this, and I’m more likely to make an action.
Kim showed us an existing advert created by a charity looking for donations to improve the lives of children in poverty. He then showed us what he would have done with this campaign himself, to give an example of how this new perspective can be used to generate stronger, more powerful content.
Kim’s version of the advert was focused on a happy, well-presented woman in her (extravagant) home: ‘Beatrice didn’t give money to Sudan, there was a summer sale at Harrods.’
Kim explained that this version of the advert targeted the real problem - the money is there, people just don’t give it. That’s the action we want people to take, so that’s the focus.
To me, data = logical strategy. I find myself becoming a bit of a data geek - I really enjoy gaining insights into consumer behaviour, trends and patterns because the more we know about the people we’re targeting, the more effectively we can target them. I think this is a really important part of creating an effective strategy.
Shannon McGuirk conducted an experiment covering over 30,000 articles to identify whether we are right to follow ‘gut instinct’ in outreach, and shared her findings with us.
It was identified that many of us have launched a campaign based on gut instinct - perhaps we felt that a campaign would do particularly well if launched on a Friday, for example, and sometimes we’ve been right. Shannon revealed how to utilise data to increase the success rate of outreach campaigns, in relation to launch day, subject lines, industry-specific know-how and more, but ultimately the key takeaway for me - from the whole day - was this: provide value.
It makes sense to me that give and take come together, and that all content and activity should provide value to reader, consumer or end user. I’m used to understanding that content must provide value to a reader in order to be effective, and I’m really looking forward to exploring this more within outreach.
As digital strategists, we are always looking for creative ways to overcome challenges for our clients whilst ensuring we are invested in the right content ideas for their markets. Clients want to know that investment in digital content creation will resonate with their audiences whilst equally achieving opportunities to acquire digital PR coverage and SEO backlinks.
With this content performance context in mind, I was particularly interested in the talk from James Finlayson of Verve Search as he shared approaches to tackling content creation and securing linking coverage for some of the toughest markets.
James shared some impressive outreach performance case studies that have been achieved by basing content and outreach research on user motive rather than need. This approach provides an excellent user centred framework to create a rich content strategy or campaign idea that is founded on principles of user behaviour and emotional triggers to really drive engagement rather than taking a more standardised industry or sector approach to content creation.
This got me thinking about the concept of content performance and how we can position ideas so that brands can appreciate the true value and potential of what I refer to as ‘killer’ content. By adopting this approach we can always ensure creative solutions are presented to create stand-out and cut-through even in the most competitive or saturated markets.
For me, this also tied in really well with the talk from Kim Bjørnqvist where focus was placed on ROIT (return on invested time) as it really challenges us to qualify our content concepts and ideas by asking what real benefit and value is being provided to audiences.
So I’ll summarise with some closing thoughts from Kim as he encourages us to play with words and content - “Just because something is unique does not mean it is useful.”
How well is your online content performing?