The brands that are the most successful at content marketing have two common denominators: high-quality, brand-owned content (that aligns with their vision and mission) and a process for extending the life of that content through earned media. While it’s easy to pursue owned and earned media channels independently, marrying the two can have a profound effect on your brand’s digital footprint and your authority in your industry.
First, let’s define each type of content:
- Owned media (aka on-page content) encompasses all brand-owned content: your website, blog posts, ebooks, etc. Brands can exercise the most control over owned content assets.
- Earned media (aka off-page) is content outside of the hands of your brand. Think word-of-mouth and influencer marketing via shares and mentions and, in a more traditional sense, coverage secured via media relations. Influencers, journalists and the general public can influence earned media assets.
Combining the forces of earned and owned content leads to more brand mentions, awareness and influence, all top-of-the-funnel operatives. So how do you get there? Follow these steps to master it:
Step 1: Write amazing, audience-centric, solution-oriented content
The underlying ability to create high-quality, shareable content is universal with owned and earned content. It has the same characteristics:
- Gives a unique angle to a topic or story
- Shares new information
- Has a strong intro, body and conclusion
- Addresses a common question and offers a well-illustrated solution
- Is newsworthy: creates a stir, is tied to a current event, doesn’t cover stale news
- Is backed by research
- Has a clear audience in mind
- Demonstrates why the topic is important and whom it affects
- Passes the “so what?” test
- Has your target audience in mind
Bonus tip: It’s optimized. Your owned content should have two audiences in mind — a targeted group of human beings and search bots. The Google algorithm focuses on on-page content’s relevance, usefulness, social shareability and metadata when ranking search results. Owned content needs to be search engine-friendly, informative and unique to rank highly and gain attention.
Step 2: Develop a strategy for distribution and promotion
Your content strategy should not end at hitting “publish” on your brand-owned content. You need a strategy to improve visibility, engagement and conversions through earned media. Whether you develop content assets on owned media channels (think blog posts and infographics) to share on social media or create entirely new content (think bylined article and press releases), the strategies for getting earned placements are the same.
So, how do you share content to get earned media? Here are a few tips:
1. Identify the movers and shakers. With so many competing sources for your audience’s attention, you can’t rely on just organic tactics. You need a well-vetted strategy for building a team of brand ambassadors.
To do this, identify and reach out to a group of earned media targets: social influencers, journalists and brand ultra-users. Look for three things when identifying your target:
- Reach: The target has a substantial social following
- Resonance: The target’s audience is engaged — they respond, like and react to the content shared
- Relevance: The target is a good fit to your brand — i.e., their passion and audience aligns with your brand
To identify the people and publishers who would make a good fit for your brand, read this how-to guide on identifying influencers. Keep track of your targets in a spreadsheet or document.
ii. Connect with the movers and shakers. Content isn’t just magically shared. You must develop a strong pitch to get your content seen. Get your content in front of the movers and shakers with a rock-solid email pitch. Here are some elements of a good pitch:
- Subject line: Your subject line is compelling, descriptive and pithy
- Trusted sender: Be a real person. Always include a signature line with your LinkedIn, Twitter, website URL, and phone number to prove legitimacy. Introduce yourself in the first line of the email.
- Personalization: Address the recipient by their full name, then clearly state why you chose to reach out to them. Make them feel unique and special.
- Value creation: What type of content do you want to send to the recipient? What value does that content offer them?
- Call to action: What do you want to recipient to do?
Beyond the above format, consider these things:
- Send time: Tuesday morning is the best times to send a pitch. Avoid sending from 1-4 a.m. — if you are sending between those times, people will see you as a spammer.
- Relevancy: Is the proposed content relevant to the recipient?
- Clarity: Are you clearly stating your intention for connecting with them?
- Human connection: Do you sound like a robot or a real human? How well are you connecting with the recipient?
- Exclusivity: Does the email look like you are copying and pasting text?
- Grammar and spelling: Spelling and grammatical errors show a lack of professionalism, whereas good grammar sends a message about your attention to detail and ability to do good work.
- Avoid attachments: Email attachments typically do not get opened and can get blocked by email service providers.
Incorporate these elements in every email pitch — your recipient responsiveness will improve dramatically, and you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting your content shared.
Step 3. Track your success
Define campaign goals and track key content marketing metrics, including:
- Referral traffic: What external outlets did your owned media traffic come from? Look at your referral traffic.
- Lead generation: Which content is driving email newsletter signups, test drives of your product, etc.? Measure this in Google Analytics by setting up a goal.
- Brand awareness: How has your brand’s share of voice lifted by pairing earned and owned media efforts? Measure brand awareness to figure this out.
Focus on creating a holistic strategy for your content, both on-page and off. Create audience-oriented and problem-solving content through owned channels, with a strategic vision to amplify, and your brand will earn your audience’s trust, support and money.