Monday, October 26, 2009

Have News to Share? Why Call Reporters? Target Your Market Directly

Interested in sharpening your marketing message? Why re-invent the wheel? Find out what is working for big business and copy it! has a great article today about the way big business is changing traditional PR:

At a time when earned media is so highly sought after by marketers due to its (relative) low cost and the credibility with consumers, brands that rely on it are faced with the growing challenge of finding news outlets for their messages.

BRAND CHANNEL: YouTube helps brands broadcast their own messages.
BRAND CHANNEL: YouTube helps brands broadcast their own messages.
As the body count of magazines and daily newspapers continues to rise and the once-robust news and feature holes of surviving publications shrink along with reporting staffs, some marketers have given up on the traditional path to media coverage: pitching journalists. According to the website Paper Cuts, which tracks layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers, nearly 30,000 reporters have left the industry since the beginning of 2008. So instead of pitching their stories to reporters, a growing number of marketers are directly engaging consumers through original content they and their agencies are creating.

"The traditional one-way media model has definitely had its day," said Sam Lucas, chair of U.S. brand marketing at WPP's Burson-Marsteller. "So agencies are talking to clients about these engagement models much more."

Here's a sampling of what some marketers are doing on their own:

  • In May, Coldwell Banker, with the help of its PR shop Cooper Katz, launched a YouTube channel called Coldwell Banker on Location. David Siroty, senior director for PR at Coldwell Banker Real Estate, said the company uses the channel to post educational videos about the housing market and purchase process as well as house listings.
  • "We can bypass the media and do videos from our CEO, brokers and agents talking about what first-time home buyers should do," Mr. Siroty said. "You have a consumer that needs and wants to be re-educated on the nuances of housing. So we post the videos and drive traffic through social media."

    The channel launched with 300 videos and is now at 5,000 with just under 500,000 views.

  • Best Buy's Geek Squad has been creating its own content for a few years now, according to Geek Squad's Paula Baldwin. Her title is telling: mistress of propaganda. "As a company, we began to get more serious about it roughly two years ago, creating editorial-style videos of our agents on-site at a variety of events," she said. These agent correspondence videos are aimed to bring viewers into the "Geek's" world and provide information and access they otherwise wouldn't have. Over the last year Geek Squad has begun producing tutorial videos on everything from computer support to iPods in cars to one on the DTV transition called "Two-Minute Miracles."
  • "For [Geek Squad], the move to create content was partly about filling the void left by the change in the media landscape," Ms. Baldwin said. "But it was also about filling a willingness we perceived in our customers for more access to Geek Squad's knowledge."

  • MasterCard has also taken to the web with video interviews of its executives. Andrew Foote, senior VP in the digital media practice at WPP's Cohn & Wolfe, MasterCard's PR agency, said unlike three to five years ago when web content had to be polished and professionally produced, MasterCard has gone the low-production route. It's taping its executives using Flip video camcorders, editing the video on laptops and uploading them to YouTube.
  • "They're realizing they can comment on issues and get the points of view of their experts out there and on the record," Mr. Foote said. Once the videos are up, the company will often tweet the links and follow up with reporters letting them know MasterCard commented on the topic.

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