Press sounds so promising. And prestigious. But it can also be expensive and time consuming. Guest blogging on the other hand requires creating the content and some know how.
I certainly have my preference, but my experience only provides a limited amount of data. So I wanted to bring in some experts to share their experiences and help you decide whether PR or guest blogging is best for you.
The reality is, it really depends on what business you are in, amongst other factors. Here’s what the experts say about those factors:
One or the other?
“Guest blogging and public relations have become two sides of the same coin. Through guest blogging you build your brand and following, which leads to media mentions, and eventually to becoming a resource for journalists. Yet, many businesses take a reversed approach, they hire PR firms to pitch their startup to media before developing their message and building a following around it.
For example, I published one of the chapters of my book, SEO Like I’m 5, on the The Next Web, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of SEO, which was then covered by the Chicago Tribune and translated into French. Not only did I scored high-profile media mentions through guest blogging, but also it has helped me generated a lot of business.”
I agree with Matt here that creating great content is a great way to market your business and can lead to many revenue generating opportunities. It’s also important to acknowledge that guest blogging and public relations doesn’t need to be a one or the other proposition.
The importance of relationships
Ivana Taylor, a publication owner who receives pitches constantly, illustrates how PR can provide value:
“This is a pet subject for me since I get pitches from PR people ALL THE TIME for guest posts and I have to tell you that it’s really annoying. See this article for details.
When I think about paying for PR — what I’m buying isn’t a set of TASKS – what I’m buying is the PR professionals RELATIONSHIPS with media (which could include bloggers).
Unfortunately, I don’t think small business owners consider this when hiring PR folks because I am constantly getting pitched for what I call one-pitch-stands.
As a small business influencer and blogger – I IGNORE those because I’m looking for a relationship with experts and the PR person — so that the content is directed to my audience and the audience can trust the expert and their advice.
Guest blogging is great when your product or service is a TIGHT match for the blogger. Honestly, the only way to know that is to have read and interacted with the blog. This will not only increase your chances of being published, it will increase the promotional attention that the blogger will give your content.”
I like Ivana’s points about focusing on building long-term relationships, providing value through great content, and finding the right sites to get published on. I think this actually applies to both public relations and guest blogging.
Public relations is expensive
If you don’t have the time, relationships, or know-how to do public relations yourself, you’ll have to hire a PR firm. For a startup, this can be a considerable blow to remaining runway.
Amy Vernon, Co-founder & CMO of Predictable.ly talks about what to look for in a PR firm and acknowledges the risk of a PR firm over promising:
“A lot of PR folks claim relationships they don’t have. When I was a journalist, I dealt with some terrific folks in public relations and some really horrible ones who sent out copies of the same press release to the entire newsroom, not caring if it made sense or not. You need to do your research before hiring and not just take the firm’s word that they get results. Too many do not.”
Many PR firms don’t work on a contingent basis. So you pay regardless of if you get published. Conversely, if you pay someone to make content for you to guest blog, you will almost definitely get content back
Reputation and prestige
Amy Vernon illustrates the reputation value that public relations can provide.
“In Public Relations, the value is someone who understands how to properly craft messages and who has the right relationships to get you visibility. Despite the decline of “traditional” media, getting a mention in print in Vogue or USA Today or Time carries a certain caché, because there’s still a finite amount of space in the dead-tree editions. And those mentions are online as well, usually.”
I think the reputation value of being covered by a major publication can be especially valuable to b2b startups. Someone at a big company needs to be able to trust that you won’t break too many things.
Factors to consider
Kathy Murray, of McMorran Strategists, provides a framework for how to decide on the right strategy based on your business:
“1. Begin with what is the product? Who are the potential customers? B2B, B2C or some combination? Any potential partners that the startup wants to attract?
2. What do these potential customers read or follow – Facebook, LI, Twitter, Blogs, Instagram, and dare we say it – print newspapers/magazines – etc.? Are they geographically dispersed?
3. What is your content? About the product? The industry?
4. What is your following on social media?
5. Then, one decides how to spend their limited resources of TIME and $’s.”
This illustrates the point that the choice between guest blogging is not the same for every company. In particular, I think it’s important to consider who your target customers are…
Does your target audience read where you would be getting press? Your audience might not read sites that do press releases and cover stories about startup businesses. For example, if your customers are moms in the midwest, they might not be reading Techcrunch.
Your target market might read publications that don’t do press releases or coverage stories. They might read sites that focus on educational content instead. If this is the case, a press release about a product launch or funding milestone might not provide as much value or or build rapport as effectively as a guest post that provides educational or entertainment value.
What’s your story?
Not every business is worthy of being covered by a journalist. Journalist like to cover the most exciting and innovative companies and stories.
You need to have news in order to get coverage. Exciting news in particular.
A self-published book, or a web development agency, might not be very exciting to a journalist.
However valuable educational content is almost always of interest to many publications. Therefore it may be easier for a business without a major milestone to announce to get published on a site by guest blogging rather than pitching a PR story.
You can publish valuable content at any time. Guest blogging you can have a consistent pulse of content being published over time and across multiple outlets.
I have done public relations campaigns that have landed features on sites like VentureBeat and more. However I have been published on a higher quantity and quality of sites and gotten more results from guest blogging. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone in this experience, and make sure you got both sides of the story. If you’re thinking of using guest blogging to get more traffic and customers, check out my free guide by signing up below: