Choosing the Media and Strategies That Best Fit Your Brand
Putting together a media plan begins with getting the lay of the land, so you can begin to weed out the strategies that aren't a good fit and identify those that are. Here's the minimum you need to know about each of the major tactical categories to make an educated evaluation.
Traditional public relations
Effectively implementing this tactic usually requires hiring a professional PR or marketing firm that knows whom to contact in, and how to pitch to, the media. The tactics associated with traditional PR center on you being interviewed in the following places.
Radio. There are three types of radio: traditional AM/FM, internet and satellite. Many PR professionals still consider traditional AM/FM and satellite radio interviews to be of the highest value when it comes to brand building. One reason is that the barrier to entry is significantly higher (Busy producers, who are pitched potential guests all day long, say yes only to interviewees who meet a certain level of professional achievement or expertise).
In addition, the listening audiences for traditional AM/FM radio are currently larger than most internet shows. Internet radio is, however, rapidly moving into the consumer mainstream. The 2015 "Internet Radio Trends Report" from XAPPmedia estimates that the internet radio listener base will grow to 183 million by 2018.
Mainstream TV. Often considered the big dog of public relations, landing a spot as a guest on a national TV show (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC etc.) is a win for any brand. Just be aware that the competition for placement on top networks and popular shows is fierce, and more often than not, it requires using the services (and paying the costs) of a PR professional. Since virtually every national show requires video proof of a guest's TV worthiness, it's a good idea to start by getting booked on local news and morning shows in your area and working your way up.
Newspapers and Magazines. Mention of your business (or person) in a magazine or newspaper can be a major boon to your brand. In addition, since most hard-copy publications have an online version, the chance for live links back to your website is good. Which publications you go after placement in depends on your business, objectives and audience. Possibilities include trade magazines, popular national or regional magazines, and national and local newspapers.
Blogs and Online Publications. Top interview venues used to be the purview of big glossy magazines and top-ten newspapers. Today, top blogs (The Huffington Post, Mashable, TechCrunch etc.) and online publications (Entrepreneur.com, BusinessInsider.com etc.) carry just as much prestige. Advantages of being covered by an online site include:
- Exposure to a larger audience
- Live links back to your website
- Permanent record of the interview
- Easy access to the interview
- Keywords associated with your brand
In addition to an interview prospect, these sites often offer the opportunity for guest blogging, book excerpts and placement of infographics.
In my experience, one of the most effective tactics for building brand and buzz is publishing. One advantage to this strategy is that for online pieces, you can include searchable keywords and get links back to your site. Here are some key tactics:
Blogging. I'm totally biased toward blogging as a strategy for building a brand -- it's one of the major ways I've seen brands built and people and businesses position themselves as thought leaders. Some people write exclusively for their own blogs, while others write primarily for other sites to establish their thought or industry leadership. Either strategy can work. The keys are quality, keyword relevance, timeliness and consistency of posting.
Writing a Book. One of the best tactics for building your personal and business brand is writing a book. But should you go with traditional publishing or self-publishing?
Traditional publishing is where a publishing company buys the rights to an author's manuscript. In return, the author is paid an advance and negotiates royalties for future book sales. In a traditional book acquisition, the publisher edits the book, designs the cover and book layout and handles the distribution. Traditionally published books still carry more cachet. The bar for entry is higher, and there are built-in quality controls.
Self-publishing is where an author takes a "do it yourself" approach to all aspects of the book-publishing process, including editing, cover and layout design, price and distribution. While many authors outsource some of these functions, they are ultimately responsible for the outcomes and the costs of these services.
One of the most popular forms of self-publishing is the ebook that can be read on a computer or ebook reader. I'm a big fan of creating ebooks that can be used for establishing credibility, marketing and branding and list building by providing the ebook in exchange for email information on a website.
Writing Articles. Having articles published in trade publications and national newspapers and magazines can add greatly to your credibility, but placing your articles can take significant effort. Editors are swamped with writers wanting to place stories, and most require a detailed query before inviting a writer to submit a piece.
Newsletters. Penning a regular email newsletter (once a month or quarter) is an effective way to stay front and center with your current audience and attract new fans. Many businesses offer a sign-up for their newsletter on their website, often in exchange for a free downloadable gift such as a podcast, webinar, ebook or other content. Some common traits of effective newsletters include:
- They're sent out on a predictable schedule. Clients come to expect that they'll receive your newsletter at given intervals, such as once a day, week, month or quarter.
- They offer mostly high-quality content. While you may include an offer or two, newsletters that deliver value will get opened, read and shared.
- They are branded and follow a structured template. Your newsletter should use the same visual elements as your website. In addition, by keeping the format and layout the same each time, you let readers know where to find the sections that most interest them.
The powerful thing about speaking as a tactic is that it puts you in front of a large audience where you're already positioned as the expert. There's nothing like talking about your topic to a room full of potential clients to elevate your credibility. While I still believe that "live" speaking has an edge over online, both are popular ways to build your brand.
Presenting at Conferences. This can include giving a keynote speech, offering a session breakout or being a panelist. Regardless, presenting at a conference is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval from that organization to your personal or business brand.
Conducting Live Workshops or Seminars. If you choose to put on your own seminars, all the work to make it happen falls on your shoulders. Alternatively, associations, universities and other networking groups often sponsor workshops for their members' benefit. The advantage is that they then do the planning, marketing and organizing. All you have to do is show up and be brilliant.
Webinars and Videocasting. One advantage of using the webinar or videocasting tactic is that anyone with a computer, tablet or mobile phone has access to your brand. In addition, with today's desktop technologies, producing a webinar is relatively inexpensive.
Podcasting. According to a 2015 report from Libsyn, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63 percent were requested from mobile devices. In part because of its accessibility, podcasting is fast becoming a favorite tactic of brand builders everywhere.
The bar for entry into podcasting is low. With an investment of a few hundred dollars, anyone can set up a virtual recording studio in their home office (or at their kitchen table) and begin broadcasting their brand message.
Despite the highly touted benefits of online connection, I still believe in the power of face-to-face networking. Tactics include:
- Referral marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing where clients and customers share about your brand with others in their network; you can also proactively ask your clients to provide an introduction to potential clients.
- In affiliate marketing, a business signs up with other companies ("affiliates") who agree to sell its products or services to their list of customers for a commission.
- Strategic alliances involve forming a partnership between two individuals or organizations who've determined they can derive mutual value from working together. The value can be measured in terms of financial gain, increased customer reach, expanded influence or broader knowledge.
- Networking groups, such as Young Presidents' Organization, Vestige, and Entrepreneurs' Organization, are made up of individuals who regularly attend meetings to offer camaraderie, encouragement and education to each other. These groups often invite guest speakers to come in and make a presentation. Besides this one-off visitation, your personal and business brand can be greatly enhanced by being an active member.
Social media is such a critical part of today's marketing and branding landscape that almost every personal or business brand must include it as part of their overall strategy. The key is to focus on one channel (two or three at most) that caters to the audience that's best for you and then work that vertical consistently -- and deeply. This can involve posting content, placing ads, active outreach and more. There are hundreds of social media sites, but the 11 most popular are:
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