You might’ve heard the term “mat release” thrown around recently, if you’re in the PR world. And if you haven’t, you’re probably wondering what the heck that is and why should you care? But if you’re trying to get more coverage for clients, a mat release should be part of your PR arsenal in addition to time-tested tools like press releases, bylines and newsjacking — a few tools my Bospar team uses.
What the heck is a mat release?
The term “mat release” refers to the time when newspapers were designed, formatted and laid out by hand for printing presses, with articles type-set, print-ready and circulated in standard sizes so that editors could fill empty column space if needed.
Today, mat releases — a branded, consumer-facing article that is distributed to a network of print and online news publishers — have taken on new life as a way to gain media interest that’s especially favorable to brands. And for good reason! They’re one of the few PR assets that lets brands get their messaging exactly the way they want it on third-party sites.
Having control over content that will live on a third-party media platform is practically unfathomable to most press people. When it comes to earned media — no-cost coverage driven by media relations — brands are usually at the mercy of how the reporter or journalist translates and presents their story. This means they have little say over the final product, being forced to wait with bated breath to see how their brand is portrayed in the published piece. However, mat releases let brands get the credibility of third-party media sites while controlling the narrative.
The reason brands get this control is because mat releases are paid for. A PR agency partners with a mat release distribution service, which, in turn, partners with a wide variety of media outlets, pinpointing specific geographic, demographic or industry-specific readership and allowing the PR team to reach the most relevant audience for their clients.
As a result, brands get detailed reporting metrics because they’re working with PR to place the mat release instead of earned media sites. Because they’re paying for these placements, they get control over reporting, which tends to be more robust.
When should mat releases be used?
Mat releases are most often used when brands want to connect with a direct-to-consumer audience. This is because mat releases tend to be more consumer-friendly and persuasive as opposed to thought leadership pieces like bylines, which are more informative and non-promotional in nature. Due to this, most mat releases appear in smaller, local publications or newspapers, which draw in a wider audience.
Because local publications and newspapers are where mat releases live, public relations professionals should ensure mat release messaging resonates with the audience that reads a local newspaper or publication. This means avoiding highly complex and technical language and instead opting to make the mat release understandable and interesting to any person. This can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the brand’s goal for the mat release, such as providing educational consumer content or introducing a new product.
Maximizing the effectiveness of a mat release
Now you know what a mat release is and when to use it, but none of that guarantees its success. One way to maximize its effectiveness is to make sure it’s lightly branded with good information that’s useful to consumers. In other words, PR professionals should avoid making it sound too “sales pitch-y.”
The purpose of a mat release is to raise brand awareness and create an affinity with the consumer by offering them content of value not making a hard sell. Its content should reflect that and focus on being engaging and informational rather than a “buy me!” article.
For example, a beverage company that wants to promote a new drink could craft a mat release demonstrating how the drink can be used in recipes or discussing its health benefits. That way, the beverage company gets attention for the drink while also adding an incentive for the audience to care. It avoids overtly telling the audience to “buy the drink,” instead persuading them to come to that conclusion for themselves.
Another way to get the most out of a mat release is to be reasonable about the kind of announcement you’re using it for. Whether it’s a new product or targeting a critical audience, make sure that it makes sense for the kind of newspapers and outlets that run mat releases so that your client’s news is in sync with the readership of those publications. This means targeting food-focused newspapers or media outlets if a brand is promoting food or a lifestyle publication if a brand wants to show how its product can be used in everyday life.
Finally, mat releases can still be used even after they’ve been placed with a publication; they can be used as fodder for clients’ social media and internal usage. Clients can repurpose them as a blog for their website and create social posts based on the coverage they received from placements, allowing them to get the most out of their mat releases.
Remember: Mat releases aren’t an SEO quick fix
It’s important that PR practitioners let brands know that mat releases will not raise SEO ranking. In the past, PR teams used mat releases published with media outlets to get backlinks to clients’ websites, improving their SEO performance. But publications have grown more savvy to those tactics, which means public relations professionals shouldn’t try to game the system.
PR pros should avoid promising clients that mat releases will drive search, traffic and links because they won’t. Instead, they should focus on the tangible benefits clients will receive by doing one.
Mat releases are an effective way for brands to get their company in front of their target audience while having control over their messaging. PR professionals who don’t utilize this tool will miss out on low-hanging fruit; if they can directly get a brand’s message out there the way they want to an audience potentially interested in their product, why wouldn’t they?
Want to work with a team that’s had public relations success with various PR tools and getting coverage with clients? Contact us today!