Information & Influence: Why editorial is still the cornerstone of media relations

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“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.” 

Malala Yousafzai 

 

Back in 2016, Ogilvy Media Influence conducted a survey1 of editors and journalists looking at how reporters themselves consume news, and which sources or platforms they trust. The results showed that 72% trusted traditional editorial outlets such as The Financial Times newspaper and the BBC website over other platforms including social media and company websites. In short, “even reporters trust reporters more than they trust any other type of content”. 

Editorial has always been – and will always be – a cornerstone to good media relations. Whilst social media, fake news, and video content apps have sprung up in the last decade, the influence of traditional editorial and media relations has remained the strongest. Editorial content, whether in print or online is where consumers look when making decisions – it is more influential and important to brands and companies than any other marketing content, including their own website and advertising.  

As Malala states, words – from books and pens, to editorial and publicity – are powerful. In our business of communications, utilising the right words for our clients is essential. We are their public voice – and as such, the words chosen to convey messaging, express context, speak to specific audiences, strike meaningful tone, and inform on subject matter are our responsibility. Choosing the wrong words or misjudging the value of high-quality editorial can be the difference between success and failure for not only a campaign, but reputation and loyalty also. 

Reaching the reader: traditional media relations 

Warren Buffet famously said that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” which seems the perfect starting point for reasoning on the importance of media relations. 

Whilst digital content is booming, it doesn’t mean that traditional media platforms must fall away to make space. Traditional outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and radio stations have years of trust behind them and can go a long way in building the reputation of an individual, brand, or company. Even with the advent of social media, for many consumers, traditional editorial is where we look first when asking a question in a search engine, or researching for decision making. 

Here, more than anywhere else, words are crucial. Traditional media relations are essential for communication of the key messaging, as it leaves a long-lasting impression on the reader or listener. The short form content found on social media is a useful tool for driving traffic to a website or link, and for engaging with audiences, but information is ‘bite sized’ or sometimes only available for a short time.  

By communicating messaging through intelligent editorial in trusted, established sources, a reputation is more securely built. Information shared in long-form editorial creates a longer lasting impression, not only in the mind but in SEO optimisation which can pay for itself for years to come. 

(Editorial) Content is king: the power of words 

For PRs, we access editorial opportunities with storytelling. Storytelling – and the words we use to do this – humanises brands, companies, and projects. The creative use of language enables PRs to cut through the noise of competitors to reach out beyond statistics, research, facts and figures and make a bond with a reader. Connections made through interesting and articulate writing makes news and content both relatable and relevant – essential for those of us engaged in communication as our leading skill set. 

With words, we can create a brand identity and narrative, which when pitched correctly for an audience can influence changes in thought and behaviour in a way that supports the objectives of a campaign. Not only that, but we also have the power to transmit specialist or technical content with editorial flair – which for industry specialist clients is a combination often difficult to achieve in-house. 

As Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General points out, “[…] The point of a good story – fictional, corporate or otherwise – is vital to building a reputation. Because ultimately consumers don’t buy CEOs, or logos, or even products to some extent. They buy reputation.” 

In short, storytelling (via editorial or media relations) gives key messaging some life. The power of words is that they can add a bit of colour and human interest to a concept, product, service or project that a journalist can take and build on further, that readers can tell their friends about, or that co-workers can discuss in a coffee break. The power of words is that it gets people talking. 

Case study: Twelve media relations in action 

In our pursuit of editorial excellence, we are proud to have been shortlisted for Best Media Relations in the CIPR Pride Awards 2021, for our work with Earthwatch Europe, an international environmental charity, who set out to keep isolated children connected to nature during lockdown. Earthwatch’s Wild Days, launched just nine days into the first lockdown, was a digital service delivering a daily package of nature content. 

Our main challenge was to raise Wild Days above competition, sustain interest and raise Earthwatch’s profile as a provider of educational resources for families. Our media relations therefore highlighted the charity’s long-standing expertise delivering top-quality nature-based content for children and the key target audiences for our messaging were parents and families passionate about nature. 

We utilised multiple communication channels including national and regional titles and taster articles for parent and family press, with editorial which harnessed the expertise of Earthwatch’s ambassadors, and which built upon the content available on Wild Days. Articles and blogs presented weekly Wild Days themes including wildlife, food, water, soil, climate, and shelter within key parenting titles. And a national poetry competition was also launched, tapping into our more lyrical and emotional connection to words to promote and support the Wild Days programme, and providing opportunities for local and regional media outreach. 

The commitment to sharing Wild Days and Earthwatch messaging with traditional media relations and editorial helped us secure an estimated press reach of 79 million people, with 49 earned media cuttings. National press equated to 25% of all secured coverage including the Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, plus a Sunday Times print feature on research:  ‘Wild things really do make our hearts sing’. Twenty-six pieces of coverage presenting the poetry competition spanned regional titles from Oban to St Ives.   

Taster articles were secured in a range of parenting magazines, whilst lifestyle titles including Psychologies and Country Living ensured we reached parents passionate about the environment.  Wild Days was also featured as the top suggestion in Waitrose Weekend’s list of ‘6 websites to keep kids happy’ during lockdown. 

Wild Days concluded in the summer of 2020, but the campaign’s impact at Earthwatch still resonates. The core content has been repurposed as ‘Earthwatch Education’ which trains teachers in outdoor education.   

So, let us pick up our books and pens, our newspapers and keyboards. If you are looking for engaging ideas communicated through powerful editorial, get in touch with Twelve PR team – info@twelvepr.co.uk 

How do you measure creativity? PR measurement systems that work

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At a conference in Barcelona this year Alex Aiken, head of the UK Government Communication Service, said: “I believe that measurement is the most important communication discipline.”

There are some simple, easy measures you can put in place to evaluate your PR activity and I will outline them below.

But first a philosophical question you might ask.  ‘Does measurement kill creativity in PR?’ Having just read ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ by Jerry Z. Muller, I’m tempted to say yes.

The following paragraph from the book sums up the problem with measurement which applies to public organisations such as schools and hospitals and, in a much smaller way, PR agencies too:

“Primary schools, for example, have their tasks of teaching reading, writing, and numeracy, and these perhaps could be monitored through standardised tests. But what about goals that are less measurable but no less important, such as instilling good behaviour, inspiring a curiosity about the world and fostering creative thought?”

We work for many organisations in the education sector and are lucky to work for one school which, through teaching the International Baccalaureate Programme, specifically sets out to foster a curious mind and creativity, among other qualities, in addition to the basic 3 R’s among its students. So I know that with the right approach, creativity and measurement can sit comfortably together – in other words, measurement need not kill creativity.

Creativity and measurement can go together

At Twelve we are absolutely wedded to the importance of creativity in PR – after all, the ‘Twelve ideas’ concept, where a new, good idea is presented every month to our clients, is a core part of our service offer.

I don’t see any conflict between creativity and measurement, in fact I think creativity without measurement is pure vanity.  Our business as a PR agency is to help other businesses and organisations thrive, and there are always tangible ways to measure this.

A brilliant creative idea needs to do something, for example increase footfall, achieve sales, build a new business pipeline and so on.

Tips on how to set up a useful PR measurement report.

The most important thing is to make sure that your reporting is ‘light touch’ but effective:

  1. Requires no more than 10 per cent of your own or your agency’s time or budget to produce.
  2. Can be understood and appreciated at a glance.
  3. Can be repeated each month or at regular intervals, such as after each campaign.

Measuring PR activities and outcomes

Measure activities, but make sure you have more information on outcomes.

Activities

Keep a record of what your PR agency is doing for you. Ultimately you don’t want a long list of activities, because what really matters to you are the outcomes. However, depending on what your agency has been tasked to do, a summary each month is a useful record.

For example, if it’s media relations, have a summary or list of stories or news items that have been distributed.  You need to know how many have gone out to assess your success rate; to either enjoy it or improve on it.

If the agency organised a series of events, list them.  Outcomes will, in this case, be attendance related: prospects, face-to-face meetings secured etc.

If your agency is creating content, then ensure you have a list of that content, when created and when hosted. But the key thing you need to measure is outcomes.

What PR outcomes should you measure?

PESO

Carefully consider the PESO model from Gina Dietrich, which is an excellent framework, shown below, but don’t use it rigidly.

Always aim to find the most simple way to measure what really counts for your business.

PESO Model for measuring PR activity

Reproduced from https://amecorg.com/2016/10/how-to-measure-communication/ Gina Dietrich www.spinsucks.com

Paid or earned

The concept of paid and earned is good, so use this as a basic definition to classify any coverage from media relations.  As the number of earned media channels such as national newspapers is diminishing, then achieving a result in them is especially valuable and worth noting.

Table heading showing Earned Media

Table heading to show paid coverage result

Messages

You may have pages and pages of content or copy published somewhere but it is of no value, or worse, damaging, if it is saying the wrong thing.  Have some form of assessment of your messages and use the same formula each month.

Google analytics

You could drown in data from Google.  Cut to the chase. We use a framework devised by our friends at Zanzi called a RACE report.

Sample PR digital metrics in a RACE Report

The report is based on answering key questions about the value of your PR activity.

  • Who do you REACH?
  • How do the ACT when they get there?
  • How well do you ENGAGE with them?
  • How many do you CONVERT?

You can see the heading for each element below. The hardest section to complete is the conversion chart, because in an ideal world this will contain your internal sales data. This is the most important measurement of all. If you have set up goals on your website then this should be a key metric in your conversion table.

Sometimes we use CONTACT data from e -shots if sales data is hard to track down.

Website reach different headings

Heading of website actions

Engage metrics table

Convert tables

Measuring influencer activity

Of course you can create any report you want.  Instagram for example isn’t shown in the above table but if that’s what you’re using rather than LinkedIn, switch it round or add it in.

These are just a few effective ways in which you can set up internal PR measurement systems.

There are a host of external systems you can buy such as Kantar Precise for media content or Trackr for measuring Influencer activity.

You will almost certainly need to use an external service to capture and collate your media monitoring if you have a significant PR programme in place.   A quick Google search will bring up a list of these.

Measuring your corporate reputation or values among stakeholder

If reputation management is a key, specific aspect of your agency’s role, then pre and post measurement of what your reputation actually is will be important. Measuring brand values, corporate reputation, perceptions among stakeholders etc., usually requires a third-party service.

If you would like to know which ones we use or would like to achieve PR results that are really worth measuring, give me a call or drop me an email.

Nicky Smith 01608 495014   nicky@twelvepr.co.uk