To understand if owned media should be part of your PR efforts, answer the following question: Does the media cover every pitch, news release and positive story from your company or client?
Even the glamour tech giants—think an Intel, an Amazon and the like—can’t say yes to this question. Everyone wants greater media attention. Owned media—specifically, corporate blogging—offers a way to accentuate your earned media efforts and more.
For those who might be thinking that blogging’s time has come and gone—or to borrow from the French: “blogging, it’s so passé”—some historical context is in order.
BusinessWeek cover story
Corporate blogging began to gain traction shortly after the dot-com meltdown 20 years ago. A 2005 BusinessWeek (no Bloomberg yet, still owned by McGraw Hill) cover story proclaimed, “Blogs Will Change Your Business.” The story couldn’t have been clearer about the stakes with this onerous passage: “Look past the yakkers, hobbyists and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up … or catch you later.”
Still, tech companies perceived corporate blogging as a platform for fluff. Introducing a vegan option in the company cafeteria? Throw it up on the blog. The finance department uses Rubik’s cubes as a team-building exercise. Write it up for the blog.
That changed in 2010 when Google announced on its corporate blog the decision to exit from the China market. Here was Google, one of the most influential companies in the tech sector, communicating a piece of news that would forever change its trajectory, and they chose a blog post. Not at a press event. Not in a news release. The action gave street cred to corporate blogging.
Yet, it wasn’t that much later the media reported that companies were throwing in the towel on corporate blogging. A 2012 USA Today headline flatly stated: “More Companies Quit Blogging, Go with Facebook Instead.” Huh?
This is the danger of assigning headline writing to interns. Still, the intern didn’t come up with the ludicrous premise that Facebook has replaced blogging as the new shiny thing for directly communicating with the outside world.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '20 Technology PR Magazine
(view PDF version)
Fast forward to today, progressive PR teams—consultancy as well as in-house—are investing in owned media in a way that it becomes intertwined with traditional PR tactics. That’s how you gain synergy and boost earned media.
Debating whether to call it blogging, in-house publishing or a derivative misses the point. Sending quality information—defining quality as educational, insightful, amusing or a combination—to your target audiences never goes out of style. I’m going to continue using the term “blogging” as a catch-all for any form of online publishing controlled by the company.
How does owned media increase earned media?
Today’s journalists view corporate blogs as a credible source to supplement and even drive their stories.
For proof of this game-changing dynamic, plug the phrase [said in a blog post] into the Google news engine. Conducting this search on Oct. 21 at 10:22 a.m. brings up TechCrunch, the New York Times, the New York Post and the Washington Post with stories that tapped blog posts from Vitable Health, Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
Lest you think this is a cheap parlor trick, the same search on the tech-focused publication, The Verge, again pulls up stories which leverage blog posts ranging from Starbucks to Western Digital, a B2B tech company that toils outside the bright lights.
How do you capitalize on this dynamic? How does your company/client become a virtual source with the objective of generating incremental media coverage?
The answer lies in thought leadership, the de rigueur linchpin for tech PR as the Internet continues to commoditize news announcements on products. Write blog posts that deliver fresh perspectives on industry issues, ideally those that already have a high profile in the media. This way, you can reach out to relevant journalists with a pointer to the blog post as they continue to explore the issue.
For example, we support Nokia’s B2B business. In the early days of the pandemic when the Internet experienced a spike of usage, Nokia published several blog posts that quantified the amount of extra usage as well as provided a perspective on how the Internet was holding up and even the likelihood of “breaking.” This owned media morphed into earned media in Wired, Bloomberg and the list goes on.
Furthermore, by optimizing each post with on-page SEO, you increase the likelihood that journalists you didn’t pitch will discover the post through their own online searches. You can find the perfect proof point in a story from The Street (May 26, 2018) on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweets damaging the company’s reputation on Wall Street. Dive into the copy and you’ll come across my commentary thanks to a blog post.
The qualities of a valuable source still apply
Stepping back for a moment, consider what prompts a journalist to perceive a source as valuable. The source delivers a fresh point of view, often running counter to the conventional way of thinking. The source pushes the discourse into unexpected terrain. The source helps the journalist to view the issue in a different light.
The same high bar applies to owned media and publishing thought leadership posts. Unfortunately, many—especially those from B2B tech companies—treat corporate blogs like a sales channel with self-promotion trumping critical thinking. These same companies end up baffled that no one, much less journalists, pay attention to their content.
But if you do it right, beyond generating incremental media coverage, you’re cultivating a digital pulpit that allows you to directly counter inaccurate information and even fight back if the situation calls for it. Which brings us back to Google.
In response to the Department of Justice filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October, the company didn’t distribute a news release or send out executives on a charm offensive. No doubt you’ve already jumped to the punch line. Google published a blog post headlined “A Deeply Flawed Lawsuit That Would Do Nothing to Help Consumers,” outlining dot-connecting logic on why the DOJ is off base.
Here we are 10 years since Google communicated plans to exit China on its blog, and the company is using the same playbook. Did it work? While it’s too early to know how the antitrust lawsuit will play out, the blog post has definitely inserted Google’s voice into media stories.
Yet, you don’t need to be of Google stature to parlay owned media into earned media. Just think like a journalist.
Lou Hoffman is CEO of the Hoffman Agency, a tech-focused consultancy specializing in global campaigns. The firm operates offices in Asia, Europe and the U.S.