The corporate profile has long stood as the holy grail of public relations. The glossy photo spread, multiple pages of analysis on the firm, CEO or product suite, and the knowledge that you have scaled Everest to deliver a dream piece – what is not to love?
Any media relations professional that has been in the industry long enough has experienced the joys and pitfalls of landing a corporate profile. Those pitfalls can outweigh the joys: That one quote that the CEO hates, the unflattering photo, or the potential that the reporter will present a balanced (gasp!) view on the story you are trying to push. The fear that a negative profile can destroy a brand, threaten careers and end client relationships.
As a result, many companies, media relations and marketing firms have moved away from pursuing these risky profiles in favor of content they can control – owned media, as we say in the industry.
So why bother with these pesky profiles?
In this day and age, there is no shortage of communication channels that brands can use to place their own articles to reach their audiences. LinkedIn is tailor-made for executives to craft their own narrative, but many social media platforms and self-publishing sites offer a safe and easy way to promote a firm’s story or thought leadership.
Take Ray Dalio, the controversial leader of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. After a string of feature articles where Dalio felt the media misconstrued the Bridgewater story, wrote a series of LinkedIn posts from his personal account. These posts garnered tremendous attention, and some resulted in generating news themselves. Dalio now frequently posts market commentary, musings on the economy and excerpts from his manifesto, Principles. Media be damned.
This certainly isn’t a new concept. Former Yankee Derek Jeter launched The Player’s Tribune, an entire media outlet created to allow athletes to self-publish articles to combat “unfair” or “biased” media coverage.
The digital era created powerful content marketing tools that can track leads through the sales funnel, from prospect to sale. How do you quantify the value of someone reading your Wall Street Journal profile? How do you even know if anyone read it?
With a glowing piece of owned content and a smart, paid social media promotion, however, you can deliver your content to your exact audience, know that they opened it, and direct them to specific landing pages on your website.
Sounds like all media relations professionals should close shop, and take their place alongside other relics of the past, right? (speaking to you, saxophone soloist from 80’s rock bands)
Not just yet. While these strategies have tremendous value when executed correctly, they also discount the most fundamental of human conditions – we all seek third-party, independent validation in one form or another. It’s important. And it’s no different in B2B corporate communications.
Communications has tried to narrow the metric gap between public relations and marketing by trying quantify the value of earned media coverage. This gave rise to the Advertising Equivalency Value or AEV, which tries to show much an equivalent amount of print space would cost.
The AEV has been widely derided, and for good reason – the two forms are not the same. But now the tracking tools exist to really show the value of this material. Many of the same tools developed by marketers can show the value of industry profiles.
Within the framework of a strategic communications campaign, earned and owned profile pieces and thought leadership work best in tandem. Earned media, or the glossy profile, should ideally drive outcomes – unearthing new prospects, generating inbound calls, or reaffirming a buying decision. Owned media, on the other hand, should be considered outputs – pieces of content that reinforce a brand’s value proposition and act as touchpoints leading to an agreed upon outcome.
Profiles are hard. They take time to develop and they are vanishingly rare. But there’s a reason why smart communicators still pursue them. They’re worth it.
Jon Brubaker is a vice president in New York for Cognito