SMX Replay: How to use data storytelling to earn top-tier media coverage

SMX Replay: How to use data storytelling to earn top-tier media coverage


Getting your brand’s content referenced — or even linked to — by major media outlets can help to establish it as an authority within your industry and increase its visibility in searc. However, that kind of coverage is something most businesses can only dream of.

At SMX Advanced this year, Amanda Milligan, marketing director at Fractl, explained the techniques she used to create data-driven content that resulted in coverage for her client from the likes of CNN, the Today show, NPR and many others.

Listen to her full Insights session above, then keep on reading for her tips on how to pitch your content to publishers. The full transcript is also below.

When pitching your content to publications, Milligan recommends that you keep the following in mind:

  • Consider both the authority of the publisher and its target audience. Reader interest is ultimately what publishers will consider when making decisions about running your content. In your correspondence, include why their readers would find your information intriguing or valuable.
  • Find out how frequently a reporter or publisher posts content. If it’s monthly, for example, you have a much lower chance of getting published than if it’s daily or weekly. Also, look at the type of content they publish (text-only, infographics, interactives, videos, etc.) and make sure your content aligns with that.
  • Don’t be generic. Reporters and editors get tons of pitches every day, and many of them are still based on templates. Take the time to do research about the writer and the publication and reach out in a real, “human” way — it’s a person you’re reaching out to, after all. Think about what you’d say in real life and apply it to your online communication.

Can’t listen right now? Read the full transcript below

Introduction by George Nguyen:

Wouldn’t you love to have your content referenced by leading publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or even Search Engine Land? Well, we can’t guarantee you that; but, we can light up a path to help get you there. Welcome to the Search Engine Land podcast, I’m your host George Nguyen and you’re about to hear from Amanda Milligan, marketing director for Fractl.

At SMX Advanced, she delivered an Insights session on how to use data storytelling to earn premium media coverage for your brand. We hope it sparks some ideas, and if it does, do us a favor and pass this podcast around to your team. Enough from me, here’s Amanda…

Amanda Milligan:

Hello everyone. First of all, I want to apologize. My voice is a little hoarse. Apparently, that’s what happens when you choose to go to karaoke after the Search Engine Land Awards. I don’t regret it, though, so bear with me. I’m Amanda Milligan. I work at an organic growth marketing agency called Fractl, and today I’m going to talk to you about how to get really high tier links and brand coverage through data storytelling.

So, before I jump in, I want you to think about that one publisher you would love your brand to be mentioned in. Okay, think about that. We’re going to come back to it. But, when I say, “high,” “top tier,” “high authority,” — when we talk about it internally, we’re thinking typically those are publishers that have a domain authority of at least 70-ish. But, really what I’m talking about is the names, you know, right?

It’s the CNNs, the Washington Posts, but it’s also in different verticals, the publishers you’ve heard of, right? You can look at this list and say, “Yeah, I’ve read an article by them. People know who they are. That’s where I would love to get coverage for my brand, for my client’s brand, etc.” And, we did a report recently — this is kind of our bread and butter at the agency where we create data-driven campaigns — and we pitch them with our digital PR team. We wanted to see, we knew it was working in the short term, but we didn’t always have data about years past. We did a report recently. We took our four best performing campaigns and we saw that 50% of the links came in in the first month, but the other 50% was in years following. So, this type of strategy might be twice as effective as we have even realized, which was pretty exciting to see.

So, I’m going to take you back to three years ago, because this is where the example I want to present started. We had a client called Travelmath, I was actually on this account, so I love talking about this because their campaigns are really fun. They’re in the travel space and we did a variety of campaigns for them that were data-driven. We did “hygiene campaigns” as we like to say. We sent people out to swab different parts of airplanes and hotels and spoiler alert: the dirtiest part of an airplane is the tray table, so keep that in the upright position when you fly home. But we did a few others too. We even took data that already existed about airports, like the TSA, how annoying TSA was, how much the delays were for different airlines and we ranked the best and worst airports; we did a bunch of campaigns like this. And we were able to get coverage like this for them. And this is just a snapshot.

These are what I would consider pretty top tier, right? I just heard our name on NPR, we didn’t even pitch that, they just were talking about it because it was covered by some of these other places. We were also able to get some more of their industry too — the top names in their industry, so Lonely Planet, Travel and Leisure, etc. So, the reason why I’m saying all of this is not, I mean it is, it’s sexy, right? You love to report like, “Oh, we were just featured in this awesome site,” everybody wants to do that. But, it’s really the impact that happens after, too.

When you get coverage like that, we continue to see, in the following two years, coverage happening because we were generating these new studies, these new reports based on data and people naturally wanted to talk about it. They saw it covered on these other publishers and they wanted to use it too. And there wasn’t really anything else for them to link to that was like it. Amazingly, and I had just looked this up a couple of months ago, this year — we have done nothing, I have not looked at any of this in years — these reports, these hygiene campaigns, they’re still being covered. And, take a look at how they’re talking about them: they say, “study,” “according to,” “conducted research,” and that type of language is building authority for the brand. And this is all happening naturally because of our initial efforts when creating these types of campaigns. So, this is the fun little graphic we like to use.

Syndication_chart_Amanda-Milligan_SMX-Insightsthis — this is our mental checklist whenever we’re coming up with content. If it meets these three criteria, you’re much more likely to be successful.

Promotional-Trifecta_SMX_Amanda-MilliganLike I said, my name is Amanda. I love talking about this and I talk really fast, but if you want to chat after, I would love to talk about either the content creation part of the process, but also the promotions, which I didn’t talk about at all — that’s a whole separate probably hour long presentation. But, yeah, please feel free to find me after. Thank you.

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