Media Industry Changes and What It Means for Startups and Small Enterprise
Since before the pandemic started, we began seeing changes in the media industry and news environments that we've been keeping a tab on. The impact of the pandemic only made it more evident that these changes were becoming permanent, creating powerful new opportunities for our clients.
As we reflect back on those changes and the responses and requests we've gotten from media, we see that things have definitely shifted, but not all are bad. In fact, it's all incredibly more beneficial to businesses.
From producing owned content to the rise in podcasts and a new door to expert positioning, we're following and implementing the latest trends.
Some of these shifts are by major players now understanding the impact of gathering valuable content to share with their readers, and it may not all be directly produced by them.
For more than a decade, smaller news outlets and blogzines have invited expert content or contributor stories to help bolster their views and readership which would help drive not only traffic but also advertising to their sites. As the number of fulltime journalists declined at various outlets, they were still tasked with maintaining the same high numbers of stories. How do you do this with a smaller staff? You invite contributed articles produced by subject matter experts, or rather companies and executives.
The practice of article writing has always been a critical part of Thought Leadership programs for executives and were typically reserved for industry trade media, an OpEd or LinkedIn. Now, we see more brand name media accepting these articles to help maintain their content levels, search visibility, traffic numbers and advertising.
The bonus is two fold - the outlet gets free expert content that, once edited, can be published on their site and the business leader gains exposure to its audience while indirectly generating awareness of their company. And, the executive can control the narrative and messaging they want to share.
The Challenges & Opportunities:
Most companies and executives prefer the traditional practice of PR - a company, product or service profile. And while this does still happen, since mid-2020 we've seen an increase in article requests from mainstream startup and small business - even tech - media. So it's important to note that this tactic needs to be seen as a critical part of your PR strategy.
*Search visibility is the name of the game and with thousands and thousands of digital outlets online every one of them should be considered a valuable target to tell or share your story.
*Every business should be interested in the ability to tell the stories they want to tell how they want to tell it in order to best display the knowledge and capabilities of the company. Article writing and contributing to an outlet provides the control over message you can't get anywhere else but on-air.
There are some contributor programs that have come under fire for opening the floodgates to anyone anywhere who wants to be a contributor and promote their business. The problem came when contributors began to ask companies to pay to be featured or mentioned in their stories.
*Unfortunately, this has made digital media outlets a bit shy when it comes to accepting articles, which is an advantage for our clients that have authentic and real expert knowledge and industry perspective to share.
The Advent of Email Q&A
During the pandemic, thousands of journalists were let go of their full time positions and morphed into freelance careers. Most of them still writing for the outlet they left but now writing for many more. That means, to earn a living, they are churning out multiple stories a week, if not per day. In order to meet that demand, they had to find a better way to manage their time and still get the content they need for stories.
Enter the Email Q&A. Now, this is nothing new for us it's just that since the pandemic it became even more common place. In fact, we were able to secure a lot of mentions and quotes in stories because of the flexibility the email Q&A gives writers.
The Challenges & Opportunities:
Many of our clients were not initially satisfied with this kind of interview. In their minds they want the one-on-one of a phone or video interview. However, ultimately they were very happy with the results and admit that it took less time for them than a 30-minute call.
*As these Q&A's become more prevalent, companies and executives can enjoy some control over their responses for more accuracy. Also, we're able to make sure that all of the facts - and spelling - are correct, reducing the painful request that a writer edit the story for corrections. This way the journalist and our clients ensure that nothing is taken out of context.
The pandemic drove everyone to find new ways to entertain themselves, get knowledge and learn something new. And while streaming services like Netflix saw a decline of use as society regained a sense of normalcy, podcasts continued to explode.
We've been watching this for years. Even following some industry leaders that developed their own podcast magazine highlighting the wide variety of podcasts, topics and hosts out there. Now podcasts are being produced by some of the largest broadcasting conglomerates out there and people are tuning in.
Why? Because they are more portable than a radio signal and with big names hosting shows it means big dollars. Even celebrities got into the podcast game as a way to keep themselves busy and relevant.
The Challenges & Opportunities:
Perception: Most companies see some value in podcasts and being interviewed, but many only want the top rated shows. The sheer number of podcasts, combined with an article strategy with traditional PR can create a powerful campaign and valuable content for your social media channels.
*Niche audience: one of the beauties of podcasts are their ability to niche down to the exact audience you want to reach. We call this the Low Hanging Fruit, and it can provide the best results.
*Practice makes perfect: If you've not yet reached the interview skill level you desire, podcasts can be a great training ground because they are typically a more casual conversation. Remember, like radio, the host's job is to make you shine because when they provide great content to their listeners, they continue to listen.
*Variety: Even though podcasts are niched, they also offer a variety of ways (and shows) to tell different stories about you and your business. For example, you may be an entrepreneur who developed a new technology for a specific industry. Right there are three different podcast niches to pitch.
Owned Content for Search
While both articles and podcasts appearances will increase awareness with audiences and your website's visibility, one of the most important pieces to the puzzle is the expert content you share on your website.
Our founder recently sat in on a webinar about the current trends in search to discover that what we've been preaching for years is still very true - your website is your most valuable commodity.
It's no surprise that user experience is one of the top most important things to zero in on with your website. After all, what's the point in generating awareness through media - traditional and new - driving traffic to the website only to have no one call or buy? Mapping out your customer journey, understanding how they will use your website and what messages will trigger their emotional desire for what you have to offer are key actions to converting your public relations into customers
Content marketing and email are the best ways to deliver value to customers. For years now, we've been helping clients develop blogzines - online magazines on topics related to the brand. For example, you may sell a sustainable consumer product so you want to create content all around sustainability, green living, and more. Why? Because the people searching for these topics are your ideal customer. It also establishes expert positioning and creates content to share in email and on social channels.
Organic Search came in miles ahead in priority of paid search, paid media and affiliate programs by top brands and customers. Consumers today see through inauthentic messages and want to feel connected to the brands they shop and companies they buy from, so it's no surprise that data shows higher engagement with companies producing great content and a great experience.
It can be difficult to reset expectations of marketing communications and storytelling through public relations, and its many forms, and content, but it is becoming more critical to shift for impactful results and measurement that matters.
We encourage clients to meet the media and consumers where they are and not where you think they should be.
Every company wants to be in the NYTs or WSJ, but the truth is that often times you need to build your company up to set the trend story that will attract national media. So, do not turn away a media opportunity because it doesn't fit the traditional knowledge and expectations you have for PR. Don't turn down an opportunity because the audience reach isn't as robust as you want.
We work with a lot of unknown-to-the-US-market-type of startups and small enterprises
who believe they can pick and choose the media they want to be in. Building momentum starts somewhere and you never know where one article or one podcast interview will lead.
Moreover, we continue to encourage clients to rethink their blog into a consumer-facing or industry-relevant magazine that is of service first. Customers want advice and tips that build confidence that your company can resolve their pain points. Consumers want to live and breathe your brand lifestyle to feel good about their purchase.
Overall, we have seen all of these tactics as crucial developments in the way we help our clients be searched and discovered online. They all work hand in hand.