Content is like everything in life—all that is available straight away and to everyone has a poorer power to attract than the things that are offered exclusively to you. Almost everyone is fighting over products that are in short supply. This is just how we operate—if we can’t have certain things, we want them all the more. How important is exclusive content in everyday relations between PR pros and journalists? And how to make the most of it to give your readers an incentive to take action?
„Exclusive content is a strange beast. It goes against our natural inclination to make as much available to as many people all the time. Yet, if done right, exclusive content can be incredibly effective at getting your audience to take action.” [Julie Neidlinger]
Exclusiveness equals uniqueness—in terms of both quality and demand. As a PR specialist, you can dispense it in two ways:
- by deciding for yourself who should have access to your unique content,
- by sharing this content with everyone, but on certain special terms or through selected channels only.
A press embargo is nothing else but a ban on publishing certain information or news until a specific date or certain conditions have been met. Such embargoes are often used by businesses for making new product announcements or before the official publication of financial reports. By giving the news outlet advance knowledge of certain details before they see the light of day, they give reporters time to prepare their stories or close some gaps on missing data. Today embargoes often take the form of gentlemen’s agreements (however, sometimes lawyers are involved in preparing relevant documents).
If you’re a news provider and have more materials with added value, a good solution for you may be to use the VIP zone — a dedicated place in your newsroom where you can publish exclusive materials for a restricted audience.
Make it exclusive — if people can’t have it, they want it all the more
“But why should I rank media outlets according to their importance and share my ‘exclusive’ materials with some journalists if my aim is to reach the widest audience possible and have the greatest number of publications,” you’d ask. Check out these PR contributions taken out from a discussion on Quora:
„It can help to secure your piece because most journalists don’t want to write about something that’s been covered already, perhaps by a competing title. There is also potentially the kudos of being the one to break a great piece of news or content.” / Jemma Watkins/Quora
„When content competition is as high as it is today, getting a fresh, original piece of writing—and probably more importantly thinking—is hard won. Giving a window of exclusivity, even if the story is followed by another title, gives the original publisher the right to boast that it got it first.” / Ian Edwards/
„We incorporate offering exclusivity as part of a broader media relations strategy. All the pieces have to fit, consideration of the value of the news we are offering, the target and importance of the publication and most important, relationship with the editor/reporter. Working with a B2B company that produces research and thought leadership commentary, we find most publications appreciate the opportunity and will work with us for a specific date of publication that matches a broader marketing launch. Yes, the risk of delay or lack of article focus comes into play, but when doesn’t it?” / Jason Graham/
Let me also quote a friend of mine who works in the same line of business (she’s a PR pro in the financial sector) and agreed to share her experience but prefers to remain anonymous:
“It’s definitely worth it. You have to identify the key media in a given field and focus your efforts on them. This guarantees better effects than wide distribution, also in terms of reach, because key journalists are quoted most commonly. Several times I have offered a story to only one journalist who turned it into an article promoted through top channels and cited by all major media. I think that I wouldn’t have achieved such a result had I sent this story to everyone.
Also, if our story is complicated, it’s worth to sit down to do your homework really well and make a wise choice of which journalist should get this embargoed material—if we give it to a journalist who is an expert in a given field, we’re minimizing the risk that our story will be presented in a way that could harm the company’s reputation.” What stories does she offer as exclusive content? Usually, it’s different kinds of analyses and reviews of the Polish and international markets. According to her, such an exchange of information has a very good effect on our cooperation with journalists, “It helps to reinforce relations and lift the journalist’s ego ;-) (‘they came to me because I’m important’ ;-).”
When asked about how she thinks journalists respond to a press embargo in relation to an agreement proposal, she admitted that it depends on the type of news. “If they were first to discover a story and we’re asking them to wait with breaking the news until a certain date and guaranteeing them publishing priority in return, then it happens that they’re a bit hesitant and afraid that someone else could beat them to it (e.g. someone could get information from another source and not check their facts directly with the news provider). On the other hand, if we’re offering them a report or an analysis of some sort based on an exclusive arrangement, they remain rather calm because it’s part of the gentlemen’s agreement—we’re offering exclusive content so we reserve the ‘right’ to ask them not to publish it, for instance, before day X (because we planned some other activities centered around this subject that we need to coordinate),” she reveals.
Should we have the arrangements concerning the embargoed content written down on paper? “If our news is market sensitive and publishing it at the wrong moment would affect the company’s performance on the stock market, for instance, I would recommend eliminating such risks. I, myself (during the nine years of working in the widely understood field of communication), never had to resort to any such formal safeguards like signing an agreement.”
Journalists’ perspective — why they love a good scoop
What do journalists think about exclusive news? Justyna Bakalarska from Marketer + magazine puts it bluntly: it’s a win-win situation. “It’s beneficial for both sides: the news outlet, as it releases an exclusive, high-quality content before anyone else, and the PR department (that is: the news provider), because major news is publicized by these media channels to which they attach the greatest importance. Only then our story is distributed through other communication channels,” explains Bakalarska. What, in her opinion, do media get out of such arrangements? “First of all, a bit of peace and comfort :) Today, when you must constantly hype your online presence, use multiple channels, and stay informed—while journalists do work 24/7—exclusive news or early press conferences definitely improve the work comfort and the feeling that crafted materials are of adequate standard. Also, it reflects well on the power of the medium which we represent,” she continues.
When I asked her about the most important, from her perspective, aspect of exclusive content, she pointed to the fact that we should make sure our ‘exclusive’ content is truly unique: “If we release a certain piece of information to several media, it’s worth to offer each medium something special—e.g. an interview, a special photo shoot, commentary, etc. If PR pros do want a given story to be published in a specific news outlet, it can’t be exactly the same as what their competitors get.” Justyna also emphasizes the importance of the homework PR pros must do before they get in touch with a journalist—a thorough research and studying the needs of the medium we want to work with is a must! But if the above conditions are met and your news turned out to be of value for the journalist you contacted, you may be sure that he or she will treat you more favorably in the future.
Do these activities even make sense in today’s speeded-up 24/7 media world? “I remember a situation when the editorial team I was part of received an embargoed piece of news from Prowly. When it was finally released, the number of views and positive reactions proved the enormous success of this effort. So—if a story is truly valuable and the journalist has the opportunity to read it and prepare his material in advance, and then publish it at a specific date agreed upon by both sides—I think it makes perfect sense,” argues Justyna.
So what’s it going to be? Can you handle a revolution in your media relation?