Whether you're launching a new company, trying to scale your business, or prepping for an IPO, your first instinct might be to hire a publicist--and promote your brand's story in every media outlet possible.
But even if you spend a small fortune courting the press (and that's not hard to do!), there still no guarantee that you'll score placements in any of your target publications, or that you'll even like the final slant of the stories.
That's why, thanks to some serious disruption in the world of publishing and broadcast journalism, savvy brands are taking matters into their own hands--and creating their own headlines.
Instead of relying on the press to share their stories, top companies are actually becoming more and more like media outlets themselves. Some have launched in-house content studios. Others have acquired influencer networks. And the branded content they're creating is becoming so good, in fact, that it's starting to compete head-to-head with traditional content.
While I don't suggest turning down a magazine cover story or an appearance on the Today show, you don't have to wait for those opportunities to promote your company to millions of potential customers. Here's why brands, including yours, are in the best possible position to reach their audiences directly--no pricey publicist required.
1. Brands are becoming masterful storytellers
When building a company, you're constantly communicating and sharing your brand's key values and points of difference in order to grow your business. Initially, this storytelling happens on an intimate level with key groups such as clients and investors. Savvy brands are now taking these existing stories and repackaging them for public consumption.
Airbnb has embraced this brand-driven storytelling on its website and blog through a mix of video content, brand posts, and community posts that bring to life the "belong anywhere" brand message. Lush has gone a step further and overhauled its website to make it more story-driven. Now, the handmade beauty brand's site features article and video content intermixed with e-commerce. In both of these cases, the featured stories are exactly what the brands want to tell, without any lost-in-translation moments through media outlets.
2. Top creative talent is for hire
Savvy brands aren't the only ones that have picked up on this new content trend: Top-notch editorial content creators have made the move toward branded opportunities as well. Even if you don't have the in-house resources to churn out your own magazine-quality content, there are seasoned editorial veterans for hire that can do it for you. This can be done by tapping freelancers to ghostwrite blog posts, for starters.
3. Brands create their own media real estate
One of the main reasons brands have relied on the media in the past is that they needed these outlets for story placement. That's just not the case anymore, as brands are using self-published media to showcase their content. Platforms like Medium and LinkedIn allow brands to post written content, which these brands can then promote via social media and targeted advertising. Similarly, brands can create YouTube channels, which--according to a Google study--saw a 47 percent brand-channel-subscription boost last year.
Beyond open self-publishing forums, brands are creating their own dedicated publications. Gore-Tex created a platform to connect with its consumers about a love for the rugged outdoors with Experience More, a digital adventure magazine that has plenty of real estate for product integration. Earlier this year, Equinox relaunched its blog as Furthermore--a digital magazine run by former Self editor Liz Miersch--which covers fitness, health, lifestyle, and fashion.
4. ... and their own content studios
Brands' in-house content creation capabilities are on the rise, especially with more brands creating their own content studios. An early pioneer of these brand studios, Red Bull launched Red Bull Media House in 2007, and has created high-quality, on-brand content ever since (just look at the Space Dive documentary that aired on the BBC). Marriott Content Studio--head by entertainment industry veterans Karin Timpone and David Beebe--followed with projects like the unscripted series The Navigator Live in 2014. Pepsi got the memo just last month, and launched the Creators League studio for both branded and nonbranded content.
One commonality of these content studios is a central mission based on entertainment, not advertising. This approach is generating millions of impressions--all while providing opportunities for organic and on-point brand integration.