Owned media is complex. It’s often the most challenging thing a communications team can take on. It takes a long time to create, it takes a long time to gain traction, and it takes a long time to get results. 

But with patience and hard work, the results are outstanding. Unfortunately, the patience piece of that formula is usually the most challenging part. Because it takes as long as it does for meaningful results, many executives dictate that the work stop and the comms team goes on to work on something else–and then everyone moans about how it doesn’t work. 

If we’d started Spin Sucks today versus 2006, it wouldn’t have made it the three years (THREE YEARS) it took to gain traction. Like every other executive, I wouldn’t have had the patience to keep going. To this day, I’m not sure why we did keep going when the results were so dismal, but I’m glad we did! 

Owned media is definitely worth the time and effort. It’s afforded my business tons of opportunities it wouldn’t have otherwise had—and it’s helped our clients’ organizations scale much more rapidly. But making the case that you need to do it for a year, let alone three, before seeing results is crazy. 

Owned Media Takes More Than 29 Days

Last year, Trump ended his blog after 29 days. Twenty-nine days. Do the rest of us stand a chance if someone who thinks his you-know-what doesn’t stink doesn’t make it longer than 29 days?

In true Trump form, he told The New York Times that the decision to shutter the blog, launched only a month prior, was merely a pivot to a new social platform. Although he has not conceded that he stopped blogging due to low readership, the numbers show otherwise. The Washington Post reported dismal numbers, noting that the blog “attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish.” 

I don’t care who you are or why you’re doing it, 29 days is not enough time to gain traction. While it certainly makes me smug that Spin Sucks is a better blog than his will ever be, we’ve all been in the spot of an unsuccessful owned media campaign—blogging or more.

Let’s talk about ways to ensure your efforts are more successful than his—in less time than it took Spin Sucks to have success.

Take a Stance

When we started blogging at Spin Sucks, we worked very hard to play Switzerland and be all things to everyone. We looked at both sides of an issue and tried to be fair. For example, if Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock when we started blogging, we would have gathered comments from all sides and attempted to present the case without bias.

That may work if you’re an investigative journalist, but it does not work if you’re building a brand via owned media.

As you can imagine, that approach bombed. No one read it because no one cared. People want to know your stance on things that are important to you. After all, and especially today, people buy from organizations with the same values. If I said I thought Will Smith was right in slapping Chris Rock (I don’t), I’d attract a different audience than if I condoned him.

It took me three years to figure this out—and I give you this gift in less than a minute. Take a stance. Showcase your values. Stand up for what you believe in. It will push some people away, but that’s OK. You can’t be all things to all people.

I learned this lesson three years into our blogging career when I got on my soapbox about unethical behavior in the communications industry one day. Without even realizing what I was doing, we began to gain traction. We had some haters and trolls—and that didn’t feel good—but we also had an enormous group of people who stuck up for us. And that felt amazing, not to mention began attracting leads.

Owned Media Is About Thought Leadership

I have a coaching client who has a client that refuses to let her and her agency interview subject matter experts at their organization. The client keeps telling her and her team that they’ll have to figure it out by researching and using Google. As you can imagine, when they submit content that they “ghostwrote” for the subject matter expert, it gets handed back as no good, and they’re asked to rewrite it. But still, without access or the information they need to be able to write something the client is happy with.

I’ve spent the last couple of years working inside organizations for clients, and I’ve found outsourcing work like this to agencies or solopreneurs is exceptionally challenging because you have to be overly organized and almost predict what they don’t know to be able to get good work from them. 

Beyond them being a bad client, she’s struggling with how to help them create content and earned media opportunities without access to the people who are the thought leaders. If you’re on the corporate side and are outsourcing owned media, write creative briefs, include links to information that will help guide the thinking, outline messaging, and make the subject matter experts available. 

If you’re on the agency side, insist on these things to be most successful. When I’m working on the client side, I always consider it a failure on the part of the internal team and me if we get something crappy from the agency. It means we didn’t do our job to prepare them.

No one can create thought leadership without thought leaders. It’s not a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity. Insist on it or walk away.

Pillar Content

A long, long, long, long time ago, Jay Baer and I talked over drinks about how to repurpose content. We were both content machines, and everything we both produced was brand new. That’s great for an existing audience who reads, watches, and listens to everything you do.

Oh. Wait. No one does that. Literally no one. You can repeat yourself 100 times, and it will still be new to most people. You should repeat yourself because most human beings have to hear, see, or read something upwards of 15 times before it sinks in.

This is where pillar content comes in. Next week, we’re going to spend some time talking more about this concept—so tune in for that—but the gist is that you create something big and repurpose the heck out of it.

I’m fond of webinars and eBooks as pillar content because you can repurpose the heck out of those. An eBook can become a series of blog posts, social media graphics and videos, an infographic, an earned media release, and sponsored or native content. You create it once, and voila! You have all of this content to share for weeks and weeks and weeks.

It’s never a small undertaking in your owned media efforts, but it’s highly effective. 

Search Intent Is a Must

One of the first things you learn how to do in the PESO Model™ Certification course is how to attach your owned media efforts to search engine optimization. It’s that important. 

I am shocked every time we start to work with a new client who has created a ton of great content but has not optimized it to be discovered or distributed. It happens all the time, which is insane, but I guess we wouldn’t have clients if it were the other way around. 

No one will find your owned media if you don’t use the other media types in the PESO Model to distribute it—and no one will discover it on their own if you don’t have it optimized. SEO is a scary acronym for most, but it’s pretty easy to understand if you take a few minutes to figure it out (or take the PESO Model Certification course because we teach it there!). 

Learn how to use priority keywords or phrases, anchor text, and linkbacks, and your efforts will be far more successful, more quickly than most.

Pay Attention to Topical Issues

On top of understanding search intent, pay attention to the conversations happening on social media. A few days ago, I was going through our monitoring on Truescope and found that a youth sports organization in Houston had vandals burn down their equipment and apparel storage. Because we work with an organization that provides grants to youth sports organizations, we asked the client if they could donate some equipment, apparel, and cash. Now, not only are they donating to that organization, we’ve been able to create owned media content from it AND use the PESO Model to distribute it. 

You can use your monitoring tool, of course, or you can do a hashtag search to see what’s the topic du jour. I’m not sure I would have found that particular article on Twitter without Truescope, so it’s wise to do both.  

Build Community

I have a really good friend who always says that comments are currency. That has always been my philosophy, as well. If you’re going to spend your time commenting, engaging, or participating in conversations, the least I can do is reply. I get made fun of this for it, but I believe it’s what builds community, trust, and engagement. 

One of the critical failings of Trump’s blogging effort was the lack of audience interaction. Your owned media program will also falter if you don’t allow comments and use your blog only as a one-way megaphone. 

Social Media Is Not Owned Media

I’d like to say Trump’s biggest misstep was that he expected the same footprint he had on Twitter, but that’s just one of his missteps. A blog is not social media, and you have far more control over how your story is told and how it’s distributed. Because owned media is only one-fourth of a PESO Model program, it should be used in addition to social media. Use it for distribution and promotion—community building and engagement. 

Owned Media Takes Time

It does take time—longer than a month, but not the three years it took us. I like to look at owned media, and blogging in particular, as a Century ride—100 miles on your bike. You can’t just go out and ride 100 miles at one time without preparing for it. You have to train, you have to build your endurance, and you have to prepare your butt to sit in a saddle that long. 

Blogging is the same. If you are impatient or expect your site to jump to the first page of Google results overnight, blogging is not where you should spend your time.

But if you’re consistent, understand search intent and trends, are willing to take a stand, and have access to subject matter experts, you’ll succeed. And then you, too, can say you’re a more successful blogger than Trump.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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