Sunday, October 10, 2010

Matte Releases: PR Branded Content for the Newbie

LA TimesImage via WikipediaHave you ever heard of matte releases? I'll be honest, I've been in school public relations for nearly ten years and that particular phrase never came up. So when it came up in an e-mail and subsequent conversation I was intrigued.

The matte (or mat) release is a consumer or community-related article that newspaper editors can run when they want additional content for their publication. This branded content from an organization is generated specifically for distribution through a syndicated service in the hopes of reaching multiple news outlets and thus a wider audience.

This caught my attention because I've seen articles that fit this description written by the PR person at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center (MMMC) show up in the Mansfield News-Mirror (a weekly newspaper owned by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

After reading one such article a while back, I contacted Angel Biasatti, Director of Marketing, Community Relations and Public Affairs at MMMC, and asked her some questions hoping she'd share how she uses matte releases:
How useful are the matte releases to you and your communication strategies? They are very helpful and assist Methodist Mansfield Medical Center in reaching individuals in our community and beyond to provide helpful health information.
Have you had success with using this type of branded content? Absolutely. Many of the community newspaper and magazine editors use our matte releases monthly to supplement staff-written stories to provide helpful health information to the public. With newspaper staffs being cut and spread thin, the content Methodist Mansfield provides is becoming an essential editorial tool.
How do you define success when using a matte release? We measure success in a number of ways – from formal methods such as community perception surveys to informal measures such as positive comments and feedback from community members.
What about items that do not get published, are those re-purposed online? Absolutely. All of our articles are posted on our website along with links to our health library at We also distribute them to other online sources we feel might use them.
I figured it might also be helpful to know what an editor thinks about matte releases. I reached out to Amanda Rogers, editor of the Mansfield News-Mirror, and asked if she thought this type of branded content could be beneficial. Her response:
It is useful, especially for large community entities like the hospital, city and school district. It would give you another outlet and the paper another way to connect with the community.
Expanding reach with the evolved matte release
It is certainly easy to see the value in getting this type of branded content in the hands of consumers and your community through the media. It is also something that companies can help you accomplish with more efficiency and reach that you could possibly do on your own. One such service is ARAcontent. In her post, The Evolution of PR Branded Content, Deirdre Breakenridge shares some thoughts on this service:
ARAcontent entered the fray in 1996 and “automated” the matte release process by creating a system for electronic selection of articles by editors at newspapers and web sites. ARAcontent specialized in professional content creation to highlight a company’s products and services that is distributed and placed in top media outlets. In 2010, ARAcontent is further digitizing the release of feature articles through an increased focus on media web sites and backlinks to client sites.  Content is search engine optimized and the company also helps to generate real engagement with consumers via social media.
These SEO benefits and backlinks along with the top-tier placement through ARAcontent could be an answer for a company or organization from a tactical perspective.

An ARAcontent spokesperson showed me how a national home décor company created a matte release using the company’s tools in order to increase search engine visibility for keyword phrases around a line of children’s bedroom décor offerings. Among the results were 291 recognized backlinks, 514 online placements in one month period with an online ad value of nearly $240,000 to go with some great Google-juice for tracked phrases giving them the left they were seeking in keyword rankings.

(Of course, there are others that provide similar services and comparable paid placement reach such as PR Newswire, North American Precis Syndicate and News Force Network among others.)

On your own or through a service, the matte release could be worth your time and careful research if you haven't already. Dust off those writing skills and prepare something that will resonate with your consumers or community. Figure out if this little-known (or often ignored) PR tool is worth your time.
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