How Your Competitors' Earned Media Can Power Up Your Content Marketing
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How Your Competitors’ Earned Media Can Power Up Your Content Marketing

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The other day, I found out that a client of mine had saved no less than 3,000 editorial articles relevant to his industry in an Evernote file, thinking he could “do something with them someday.” Which naturally led us to the questions of What and When? Obviously, this effort had taken him a while, but where was it leading?

When you read through articles and editorial posts about your industry that feature competing businesses, the first thought is almost always, “Why didn’t they include my company?” The second question should be, “How can I use this information in my own marketing efforts?”

Even if you have a particularly good memory and a good team, it’s a big, time-consuming task to sort through thousands of anything. And the nature of editorial outlets is that most published pieces will be out of date after a year.

So if you’re someone whose creative, competitive or challenge spirit gets sparked when you read anything relevant to your industry, I suggest creating a system to categorize all the articles that catch your eye according to what’s the best thing to do with them. And then, assign next steps to someone so that all this inspiration actually turns into earned media for your content marketing plan.

Here’s how to use earned media in content marketing:

How to use earned media in content marketing: Use an opposing opinion to something you've read.

Do you have an opposing opinion to something you’ve read?

Write a rebuttal. Note, though, that while editorial outlets are hungry for “hot takes” from known personalities and controversial voices, the hot take style tends to annoy people as much as it engages them. As a business, a more researched and analytical rebuttal may garner more of the right type of attention.

If the topic is in the news, and you think your opinion is relevant/educated enough to lend weight to a public discussion, have your PR team pitch you to media outlets as an expert source who’s willing to contribute quotes, guest-contribute an entire piece, or appear on a TV segment.

If you don’t get any traction with other outlets, write a rebuttal essay and post to your blog on your site or on Medium.

Do you like the piece and think you have something additional to add?

Write a short post that summarizes the article, adds your own thoughts, and then links to the original article. Sharing good content provides values for your customers, and it’s not necessary to rehash an entire article if you agree with most of it — you can just send readers to the original source. Creating link juice for reputable outlets is a good long-term SEO strategy, and may also get noticed by the SEO and/or editorial team at the publication.

Also, if the original article is a trending topic on LinkedIn, you might be able to get it into the “Daily Rundown” or trending discussions by linking to the article and writing your thoughts as a status update. Although most people pepper such updates with their guesses at relevant hashtags, simply linking to the source article is sometimes enough to get it noticed by LinkedIn curators.

How to use earned media in content marketing: Does the article add credibility to your site?

Do you think that the article lends credibility or context to your work?

This is the simplest and quickest way to leverage someone else’s smart thinking for your marketing and sales strategy. Just pull the quote (s) from the article that supports or proves a point about what your business is doing.

Use that quote in pitch materials, public-facing webpages, or social media posts for your business or service. Just remember to credit the author and the publication where the quote originated. Not only does that create the credibility, if you don’t attribute then you’re plagiarizing.

Do you think the author of the piece might want to write about you as well?

Anyone who recognizes a bit of themselves/their product in a great piece of editorial tends to think the article would have been even better if they’d been in it.  Unfortunately, this is not a solid assumption. Writers often deliberately choose a company or personality they want to include in a story. Yes, sometimes they were on a deadline to find someone, or a PR person happened to land a pitch for a client — but there are also other considerations beyond just “would they have preferred you had they known about you.”

If a writer covers a topic once, it’s unlikely (although not unheard of) that they’d cover the exact same topic again immediately. While it is often the case that they cover a “beat” i.e. a particular subject or section or vertical,  and do often write similar pieces in the same vein, you shouldn’t assume that 1) they definitely do, 2) they are regularly assigned those pieces from the publication you saw, or 3) that covering it means they would automatically cover you.

Before you reach out to the author or have someone else do, research what else they’ve written in the past six months. First, is the topic of interest to you something they cover frequently? Do they have a title or author bio that lets you know they focus on that niche? Or do you have to sift through many bylines to find a few articles they’ve written on that subject?

If it seems like they cover this ground often, particularly as a regular contributor or staffer, then the odds are in your favor. However, before you approach, ideate around the question: what new and interesting angle could you bring them?  Even journalists that cover a category like small business or wellness every week and are constantly in need of experts appreciate it when a would-be expert approaches with a few ideas of when/how they might lend their voice, as opposed to the vague and presumptuous, “You should include me in your next story.”

Important note: Even if the piece you liked was published just a week prior, the fastest way to irritate a journalist or editor is by emailing them, “Hi, you wrote this piece and I was wondering if you could revise to include my business in it as well.”

It may be just a quick change, but once the story’s live, the people who worked on it are looking forward to the next slate of deliverables — and writers often have no ability to go into a CMS and change the copy. Suggesting that they take special effort to go back into a finished assignment and do you a favor is the worst possible approach. Don’t do this and don’t ask your PR team to do it.

The worst #mediapitching strategy ever: 'I read your article on my industry. Would you be able to revise and include my company?' Figure out a better approach. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

How to use earned media in content marketing: Do you want to see your own words or company news in the outlet?

Do you want to see your own words or company news in the outlet?

While this is also an ambitious strategy that almost always requires support from a PR team, it’s a better long-term strategy than simply saying, “Hey, why don’t you include my company in your article about XYZ?” If you feel that, overall, you are a fit for a publication, you’ll want to approach it as a business relationship to potentially be built.

Before you approach an editor or staff writer, producer or frequent contributor, find out:

  • Who on the editorial team writes or assigns articles? How do they like to be approached? This information is typically available in media databases and on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Which contributors that are in the loop with the publication seem to use experts the most often?
  • Does the publication accept guest blogs from industry experts? If so, you may decide to position yourself as a potential guest blogger rather than an expert who gives commentary. In that case, if you don’t have existing examples of posts you’ve written on that subject, create a sample guest blog (with the help of a ghostwriter if you’re short on time).
  • If you are trying to get on TV or digital segments as a guest, the first question asked may be, “Do you have other clips of yourself on camera that our team can review?” If the answer is no, it’s back to the drawing board — but don’t despair. Self-produced digital videos are usually all that most producers and talent bookers require, so put your team to work writing and producing a video that showcases your on-camera strengths. Ideally, the piece will be something you can post on your own site and social channels too.

Note, many “expert contributor” opportunities in business publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes.com are fee-based, but for the efficiency of execution and clarity of brand messaging, many marketers these days prefer P2P.

Do you admire some aspect of the featured company’s business strategy or execution?

If that’s the case, then the article itself may not actually belong in any kind of content marketing bucket. It might better be shared with your sales team, web developer, product team, or just tucked away as competitive research to help you better develop your brand.

Rebuttal essays, LinkedIn trend-jacking and other ways to use your competitors' #earnedmedia to power up your own content marketing. Click To Tweet

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Lena Katz

About Lena

Lena Katz's credits as a development producer, casting producer and locations manager include cable TV (WEtv, Revolt, HGTV), and digital-first productions (WhaleRock, mikeroweWORKS, Tastemade). She worked directly for major brands including Suzuki, Hormel and Brown-Forman. Learn more about her company at Variable Content.

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