When formulating round tables, public relations professionals need to decide whether to invite media to attend and whether to offer media exclusives. It is generally the major objective of a white paper process to gain positive media coverage for the ‘sponsoring organisation’, though there are a plethora of mechanisms through which the white paper content can be leveraged.

­Round table – media participation or not?

There is value, and there are limitations, in having a media outlet involved in the round table (RT). The approach taken will depend on the importance of the media involved to the ‘sponsoring organisation’s’ positioning and stakeholders.

Important elements to bear in mind when considering this question include:

  • Do not involve media as a round table participant if it will stop you from gaining the desired coverage from priority media (or any media you want coverage in, for that matter)
  • If involving a media outlet in the round table, however, helps achieve your media placement objectives – then it’s a no-brainer: go for it
  • The participating media outlet will want an exclusive on the content – so they get to use it first
  • That’s fine, but only if you are happy for it to be the only media outlet that covers the round table/white paper issues; or you can create a media campaign that still allows for other coverage (you may have a one mainstream metro media outlet and multiple B2B outlet media placement approach, for instance, which sounds feasible, strategic and useful to me; or you can crack a deal (unlikely) with the media outlet only using certain aspects of the white paper content and leaving some residual content to place/be discussed elsewhere
  • As I have written before, you can create a campaign for metro media that is based on one article or op-ed being placed and then you can leverage radio and/or TV coverage off that single placement
  • The other option is getting a media outlet present that is part of a broader network, so the syndication of the story leads to multiple placements, but just within one media ‘house’ (once again, an entirely feasible and potentially valuable approach)
  • You will be hard-pressed to contain a media outlet from leaving the content alone until the white paper is prepared and your coordinated roll out of its content is underway – they are insatiable and impatient animals (and live and die for exclusives)!

Public relations’ media coverage: giving an exclusive – yea or nay?

One approach to apply with securing media coverage is arranging an exclusive/placement with one metro publishing house and one exclusive with a vertical B2B publishing house. This may lead to more than one actual placement in both sectors. Additionally, there is generally not a lot of perceived competition between metro media and vertical B2B media:

  • One is published virtually instantaneously and one takes longer
  • Metro is often for a broader audience and B2B is generally for a more niche audience
  • Metro media is often more particular than B2B in publishing content (oh shoot me down B2B media!) so it’s generally much easier to get placement in the latter
  • After the content is used in metro media the issues not covered can be value-added to and used as a B2B media relations campaign.

And don’t forget, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush……..make sure you are smart when creating your media placement KPIs. Sure, get it so its business-relevant et al, but you also want to make sure you over-achieve, not, gasp, under-deliver!!

In other words, if getting that single placement is all important on different levels (strategically appropriate to target audiences, makes you look good in front of your organisation etc), then it may well be a prudent methodology to apply. Be smart about this on a variety of levels.

White paper for public relations results

The white paper features information gathered during the round table and provides thought leadership from all participants. Relationship enhancement/marketing activity that can follow with the white paper includes using it:

  • as the basis for a media program, either using an issues-based multiple placement or to generate op-eds to place in print media or one-off interviews on radio and/or television. These approaches are not mutually exclusive
  • as a direct mail piece to prospects of the sponsoring organisation to help generate new business
  • on the sponsoring organisation’s website and/or promoting it – and hence the organisation – through a social media campaign
  • as the basis for a speaking program at industry events
  • to enhance the positioning of the sponsoring organisation in a specific area (e.g. IT solutions, manufacturing innovation, food packaging). Alternatively, it can also help an organisation break new ground in their positioning, entering a domain they are not generally recognised as being experts in
  • as a means by an organisational leader, such as a CEO, stamp his or her authority/expertise on a particular topic. This is a particularly useful approach for a CEO who has recently joined an organisation
  • as an employee communication positioning device, which is an extrapolation of the point immediately above.

One final observation: whilst it might be stating the obvious, it does not take a round table to produce a marketing communication white paper. It can be based on a precept which is simply discussed internally by senior, or technically astute, employees. This can then be pushed out via various communication mechanisms as discussed above.

Another methodology is having a precept, then undertaking market research to support, extrapolate or challenge the precept. The research can be complemented by a discussion on a ‘white paper level’. So what you get here is in fact two elements of value to media, especially, but also to other stakeholders:

  • Statistics
  • Thought leadership.

From a public relations perspective, both have cut-through, both enable a sponsoring organisation’s positioning to be enhanced, so both are winners.

This is the final of a three-part series on round tables and white papers. The first post was an overall strategic discussion of round tables’ and white papers’ value. The second post featured tips on getting participants to attend a round table, facilitating it and taking an alternative approach to round tables.

 What did you think of this discussion? What is your experience in holding round tables and producing white papers? Have you ever invited the media? What were your media placement results?