Turning Away Free Press? How to Separate Journalists from B2B Leads

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Journalists and content writers are a beneficial part of the digital marketing environment and so many brands can benefit from considering journalists in everything from web design to conversion funnels. Journalists are writing constantly about new trends, new products, and new services related to brands, so it's critical to think about their user journey to make it easier for them to get accurate and timely information about your business.   

Time and time again in publication writing or marketing campaigns, journalists run into the same barrier: Gated content meant only for potential customers. These gates make sense for converting customers, but they also prevent brands with gated content from being wholly featured in content outside their website. In the quest for notoriety and backlinks, some types of gated content just don't work in your favor. It's time for a new way. A new automated marketing path designed to welcome journalists writing about your brand.


Automated Content Gates Don't Know that Journalists Exist

Journalists face an interesting challenge in today's conversion-focused landscape. They are often delving deeply into business websites, but for the purpose of featuring a brand, not making a purchase. Perhaps they're exploring a brand's current website and blog content to get a feel for their content. Perhaps they're looking to showcase a brand to promote their hard work and expertise.

Journalistic Non-Lead Research

For a marketing-forward brand, sometimes nothing could be better than a non-lead looking to read every scrap of expert content on your site. Your subscription blogs, your whitepapers, your infographics; journalists and marketers want to read it all. They even want to see your demos before writing about your brand. Otherwise, how can they describe how amazing and intuitive your product is to your future customers?

Journalists can guarantee that other marketers and industry journalists feel the same. If you have invited a journalist to do a piece on your website, or if they want to do one independently for their publication, don't you want that press? Of course you do, but your automated marketing doesn't know that. Yet.

Teach Your Automated Marketing to Stop Mistaking Journalists for Leads

The biggest blunder of modern automated marketing is that journalists and marketers look an awful lot like leads to the stats-machines. Like a very interested lead, a journalist will often start at the top-of-funnel, drawn in by an interesting blog post or awareness of your product. For their own purposes, they dive in to find out more. A journalist opens blog after blog, then explores your site to take a look at your service pages, the products you offer, and the case studies and testimonials available. They might even click open a few videos and get pretty excited about the ungated photos and demos available.

Identifying Journalists Preparing to Spotlight Your Brand

Sounds a lot like a ready-to-convert lead, right? But not really, because a journalist doesn't want to create an account, fill their cart, or talk to the chatbot. They aren't looking to engage and begin the buying process. Investigating journalists just want to explore and draw their own conclusions so they can make a detailed report for their audience. Even marketers working for you need to understand your brand and product in-depth and so will find themselves exploring your website. But most journalists will try to avoid going through lead-converting steps because, well, they're not leads and they're not going to convert.

Automated Marketing Paths


So the first trick is to teach your automated marketing to stop mistaking journalists for leads. The easiest way to do this is to let journalists identify themselves. Like flashing the press-cards of old, journalists want to be "disqualified" as leads but they also want full access to your gated content so they can reveal all the awesome things about your product in their content.

Consider how your brand can ask for and receive that information or provide a way for journalists to let you know that they are browsing with intent to write. You can offer a form, a button, an interaction with your chatbot, or even ask them to register as journalists instead of customers. Many online writers would jump at the chance to gain gated access without receiving content written to convert leads into customers. Being able to say "I'm a journalist" for access without pressure to buy is a content writer's dream come true.

Just Ask Them "Are You A Lead?"

One of the best ways to identify a journalist is to just ask them. Use your chatbot with a few canned button-responses, or your lead-qualifying pop-up if that's your jam. Essentially, all you need is an extra button added to your automated marketing options. Many brands are already savvy enough to ask "Can We Help You Today" when a lead has perused the site a little longer than usual.

Leads who are still in the "Just Looking" phase will quite happily answer "Not Yet" while leads ready to convert will say "Yes Please" and no one feels pressured either way. To identify a journalist who wants to read all your blogs and offers value beyond a simple customer purchase, just add a third button that says "I'm Here to Learn" or "Nope, I'm a Journalist."

Then, we suggest, roll out the red carpet. 

Modern Day Press-Pass Accounts for Journalists and Marketers

Some websites gate not just the special lead-ready content but all of their content right down to the top-of-funnel blog posts. This is very common when the content itself is the commodity, as with online newspaper and magazine publications or special industry-only sites like SHRM that seem compelled to keep non-industry-professionals from accessing without paying a content-fee.

These content gates often make sense in context, but they are also keeping your publication from being referenced and back-linked more often in marketing content and the publications of others. If you ask for money every time a content creator wants to reference your expert content, journalists and marketers are going to look for other sources. Perhaps those sources will be less expertly written, but they will also be free to access.

This is why it has become important to consider not just user and business accounts to access your gated content, but journalist accounts as well. Journalists are often willing to give their email address and may even be eager to join your mailing list to see your high-quality content. And in return for a discounted or free account, you get backlinks and positively written articles that site you as their expert source.

Assuaging Your Concerns About Corporate Espionage

Last but not least, we know that some of you brands out there are reading this and worrying that allowing a low-cost entry or an all-inclusive content tour for journalists will enable your competitors to see your closely guarded conversion content. First, there's already a risk of that because if competitors are willing to fill out a form, they can see your content already.

Second, your best defense is simply to stay informed. As we mentioned, journalists who really want to reference your expert content and investigate your demos are often willing to give an email address. So simply engage your journalists like a different kind of qualifying lead. Before you hand out all-access press passes, ask for a little information first and even insist on confirming it.

If a journalist is willing to give the name of their publication, and that publication can acknowledge the journalist by name and email works for them, then you're golden. You are dealing with someone who is as genuine as an account on the internet can be.


If you have been noticing leads who seem to investigate until they hit a gated or paid content wall, you might just be scaring away journalists. These journalists who leave when they run into a gate might have otherwise have written your praises to their audience or back-linked your pages as expert references. Don't turn away free press; start teaching your automated marketing to recognize journalists and make a unique press-pass path for them to investigate your content and write in-depth about your brand.

Interested in learning more about our approach to content marketing? Find out more here.

Megan Dunne

Megan Dunne

Megan joined Beacon Digital in 2017 with an official title of Account and Content Manager, which really meant she did whatever needed to be done to keep a three-person marketing shop going. She learned a lot, eventually setting her sights on building a well-oiled creative department capable of cranking out anything composed of words and design, and committed to making it good. Four years, 160 clients, countless campaigns, and a triple-threat team of content, creative, and production all-stars later, she left the walls of her beloved creative department to think big picture. Now, she spends her days putting plans into action in an effort to scale services, improve workflows, foster team growth, and bring teams together.