Robust media strategy balances both earned and paid opportunities

12/08/2020 - Jin Woo

As the pandemic has forced us all to evolve, so has the media landscape. One of the notable shifts in tech publications is the increase in variety of sponsorship opportunities, including the ability to contribute vendor-written articles, podcasts, videos, slideshows and other content. While sponsored content is a great way to get quick ink, 280blue recommends taking a balanced approach with both earned and paid opportunities. A robust media strategy with a well-balanced mix enables venture-backed companies to build brand awareness, be a resource with thought leadership, reach key audiences and establish credibility through third-parties that better align with business goals. Here are the ways that a mixture of paid and earned media strategies can help you reach your PR goals.

Building brand awareness establishes long-term trust

Driving awareness is a critical component of building brand equity. This helps establish your organization as trustworthy. This is especially critical in the early stages of venture-backed companies when helping prospects learn about who your company is, the problem your company is solving and the value that is being delivered. This is even more important for early stage venture-backed companies that are creating a new market, establishing differentiation in existing markets or entering a very nascent market.

A key component of driving awareness is consistency with a steady drumbeat of media coverage. To accomplish this, do this, you need a comprehensive look at public relations assets, such as data (that is sourced internally, through third-party survey companies or public databases), references (including customers, partners, analysts and influencers) and finally creative ideation, writing and executing media strategy that factors in ideal timing and likelihood of coverage in the publications that can provide a positive impact. This can lead to a burst in coverage that gives you a variety of content in trade, vertical and business press, and high-value features in a top-tier publication. In addition, an experienced public relations team will have established or will establish long-term relationships with key publications and editors that lead to additional opportunities in both the short and long term. When appropriate, it also makes sense to mix in a select number of key sponsorship opportunities in publications your audiences care about. This is especially useful as you are developing your story for earned media.

This approach helps companies reach audiences through a variety of channels in the most cost-effective way and increases the likelihood that your message resonates and creates viral and amplification opportunities on social channels.

Building thought leadership to educate, share and compel

Thought leadership is an opportunity to share expertise in your industry for the purposes of educating with thought provoking and engaging content to reach key audiences. Many publications still offer vendors the opportunity to contribute guest posts. This can be supplemented with additional content on owned channels to dive deeper on interesting topics and key issues. Owned channels include company blogs, social platforms, as well as third-party content platforms such as Medium. Also if you have partnerships, cross-promotion is another set of channels to explore. Additionally, you can offer content including whitepapers, ebooks and other marketing collateral on your web site that helps key audiences dive deeper. In some cases it may be appropriate to supplement your strategy with sponsored postings. This can help you further a number of additional goals including attracting investors, reaching a new segment or market such as expanding internationally, or targeting specific industries such as healthcare and life sciences, where you have no mindshare or market share.

Reach key audiences at the right time with the right content through the right channel

One of the most important aspects of public relations is reaching the right audiences with the right messages. What you don’t always know is which exact piece of content will first spark interest in a prospect or compel an existing customer to further engage with your company. What is understood is having a variety of news and content helps buyers on their journey to finding the right solution or complimentary technology or service to solve their problem.

News and features can originate from announcements such as executive hires, funding, company milestones, products, partnerships, customer wins and compelling trend stories, or a combination of these items. Many of these announcements are better delivered to earned media channels, but there are exceptions to the rule. Moreover, as we mentioned you want a steady drumbeat of coverage even after significant news to keep the momentum going, at which time paid opportunities could be appropriate. What PR teams can help you do is devise an effective strategy built around earned and paid opportunities to reach key audiences in a timely fashion.

Third-party validation establishes credibility

At the end of the day, perception matters. A polished reporter wants to write a compelling story that challenges assumptions or proves it through the lens of multiple sources including experts, analysts, users and data. Editorial content typically also comes with a higher standard for reporting, especially when working with the top media outlets. This gives these publications credibility that readers rely on. With that said, there are opportunities for vendors to share customer and analyst references, data and other content that can be shared with reporters to help shape the story and provide insights into perspectives that just can’t be established by talking about bells and whistles.

Robust public relations leads to more robust communications

Public relations teams not only help you create media relations strategies but help you take a more holistic approach to external communications. This includes analyst relations, press release writing, awards program, speaker program and much more. All these things help companies, especially young venture-backed companies, reach investors, customers and prospective employees. In addition, young venture-backed companies evolve quickly, and you need a team that can just as quickly adjust to changing company messaging, positioning and strategies to ensure success.

Supplementing earned media with sponsored opportunities at the appropriate time leads to a more robust public relations strategy. For instance, if you announce a product but want to dive deeper with technical audiences, a sponsored video such as explainer, white board or animated tech overview could be just what is needed to help buyers make a decision.

To reach the audiences you desire that are aligned with your business goals, it requires careful planning, creativity and knowing when to leverage sponsored content to compliment a strategic public relations program. This helps maximize your ability to reach key audiences at the right moment. Working with an experienced and strategic public relations team, internal or external, is critical to achieve maximum success. For most early-stage venture backed companies, it’s often more cost-effective to work with an external team of experts in agencies, rather than build an internal team.

280blue can help create an impactful media strategy with the right mix of content based on your business goals. If you’d like to discuss, please reach out: win@280blue.com.