Working in media relations today can be a challenge.
With shrinking newsrooms and more PR practitioners than ever, getting a journalist’s attention can be grueling. Many experienced PR pros agree that we need to seek out new ways to garner their interest.
One underused tactic is incorporating the use of original research in our media outreach.
What is ‘original research’?
It’s information your brand or client creates and publishes for public consumption, says Michele Linn, co-founder and head of strategy at Mantis Research. In addition to positioning your client as the authority, it’s one of the most effective ways to garner backlinks, according to SEO PowerSuite’s Link Building in 2017 survey of 628 SEO professionals.
Plus, PR pros know that if there’s one thing journalists love it’s data.
“It’s easy for journalists to find people who are willing to share an opinion on a subject, it’s rarer to find someone who has data points related to that topic,” says Laura Kane, chief communications officer at PRSA. “Original research and related data make you a credible source for reporters and can help you develop a following of interested stakeholders.”
What does it cost?
While research can be expensive, it can also be produced on a budget.
One option is to analyze publicly available data. RENTCafe, a nationwide apartment search website, analyzed data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau to compile a report on renting versus owning a home. The story was covered by publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Realtor.com and The New York Times.
Surveys and polls are options that you can do yourself.
‘Many brands are DIYing their research with great results,” Linn explains. “If you’re getting started, understand why you are conducting research.”
“For example, if you’re trying to get media mentions, a short poll based on a timely, newsworthy topic may be your best bet,” says Linn. “If you’re trying to lead the conversation in a specific topic area, a more robust, state of the industry report that can be repurposed throughout the year would likely be a better bet.”
Linn suggests that if you want to conduct your own research, you might want to hire a consultant to help design the survey, for example. This will help ensure you’ll get better results, yet allow you to do most of the work yourself.
However you choose to go about it, be prepared to provide the details of how you conducted your research to journalists. Good relationships with reporters are built on trust. Be transparent with how you conducted your research, the sample size and other details.
How to use your research
For PR pros, research can be used in press releases, pitches, blog articles and social media posts. It’s another way to connect your PR, content and social media.
“Original research can be an investment that pays dividends long after you hit ‘publish’ because it inspires dozens of content and social assets,” says Linn. “Think webinars, blog posts, infographics, podcast interviews, datagraphics on social and much more.”
How to pitch your research
Approach it by first thinking about the headline instead of the findings. To get a journalist interested in your story idea, you have to grab his or her attention.
“If you’re not able to gain the initial attention of the audience, sound evidence and robust analysis won´t be read by anyone,” says Jorge Benavides senior researcher at FUNDESA.
While the data is the star, be sure to provide a story along with it. If you’re working with a researcher, he or she is trained to do research, not tell stories. As the PR pro, use your storytelling skills to craft a narrative around the data.
The combination of a story backed by data makes for a compelling pitch journalists may find hard to resist.
Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.
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