You don’t need the press to get the word out anymore

Are you still hoping the media picks up your press release? Stop fretting and try something new, immediately.

Last week, I learned that Vocus, the public relations services company, acquired email marketer iContact.

That Vocus would add email marketing to its portfolio is interesting enough, but for now, let’s focus on how I found out about the acquisition.

Not too long ago, I would have read about it in the business section of my daily newspaper, in my weekly edition of PR Week, or in my RSS feeds.

The business section of my daily newspaper has shrunk to the point that there’s no room for such reporting in the print edition. Increasingly, we’re seeing pay walls blocking online content from all but paying subscribers. As more people turn to the Web for their news, pay walls mean that fewer people in a company’s target audience will see the articles media relations professionals worked so hard to get placed.

[Read what pay walls mean for PR]

The cost of publishing has driven PR Week to a monthly publication, the rest of its content posted to its website or delivered via email. And I didn’t see the story about the Vocus-iContact deal on PR Week‘s website. Instead, my feeds in Google Reader had the story—both in TechCrunch and Techmeme—but I saw it before I checked my feeds. That’s because TopRank’s Lee Odden tweeted a link to the PRWeb press release. It wasn’t a matter of serendipitously seeing Lee’s tweet whiz by. It was one of the items collected in my daily.

You can set up and manage collections as a content curation tool, but my daily—like many others—is simply a collection of the stories behind the links tweeted by people I follow on Twitter. People who follow me get an automated tweet when the daily is available, but it’s mainly for me, a way to see what people are sharing even though I can’t have eyes on my Twitter stream every minute.

Getting the right people to see your organization’s content once meant getting the article placed in the right media. With eyes turning to the Web and trust shifting to trusted individuals, content marketing is no longer optional for any organization that hopes to gets its messages out and its story told.

Content marketing is the practice of creating and deploying digital content (such as a PRWeb press release) so your most important audiences will see them, talk about them, and pass them along to others.

Companies like Vocus can’t send out a news release and call it a day. It was by sheerest luck that Lee tweeted the link so it would find its way into my daily. They need to make sure the release finds its way into the hands of the company’s external ambassadors, the ones who want to share it (and reward them for sharing based on the intrinsic motivators that drive that kind of behavior). They need to get video interviews onto YouTube, a white paper discussing scenarios about how email marketing could support a PR campaign.

These principles of content marketing wouldn’t come as a surprise to Vocus. In fact, it’s exactly what they’ve done, with Peter Shankman interviewing the company’s CEO about the acquisition:

Shankman has also tweeted the story:

Peter’s tweet is a genuine note of congratulations. It’s also a strategic bit of content marketing, something others might retweet; it’s a potential source of buzz. The fine balance between authenticity and a plan for ensuring the message spreads as far and wide as possible is just one dimension of a smart content marketing strategy.

If your company still relies on traditional media outreach as the cornerstone of its storytelling efforts, it’s time to become your own media company. Create media objects (like the video I so easily embedded in this post) and deploy them through your own resources. Activate your fans to help tell the story. Make sure the story shows up in the curated content collections maintained by trusted guides. Hire journalists to write company-sponsored columns about the significance of your news. And these tactics just scratch the surface of a smart content marketing approach.

The days of relying solely on the press to be your story-telling surrogate are over.

And, since I haven’t already said it, congratulations to both Vocus and iContact.

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. A version of this story first appeared on his blog a shel of my former self.


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