By: Jeannette Bitz
Making sure your company’s PR efforts support the business’ goals is a constant grind. I wrote about this a couple of years ago but the insights are even more important today. Not only are there various responsibilities to juggle, but many marketing VPs are responsible for making sure their PR firm is driving constant coverage on news and trend stories. Some marketing VPs are under pressure to see their company covered in the business press while others need to find a way to map their PR efforts to a business outcome.
Separately, the media is under constant pressure to keep tabs on the changes in the tech industry; who’s behind the latest DDOS IoT security attack? Will Samsung recover from the Galaxy Note 7 device debacle? How will the next president elect impact the economy/tech industry? In addition, the media is bombarded with PR pitches. What’s even more challenging is that reporters are outnumbered by the number of PR pitches they receive.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 5 PR people for every reporter. 15 years ago, there were two PR people for every reporter in the US.
- 2000: 65,900 news reporters, and 128,600 public relations people
- 2015: 45,800 news reporters, and 218,000 public relations people
This is a huge change, as companies seek to bypass a shrinking media industry and tell their own stories. We are only seeing the media landscape shrink further as buyoff options are offered to help media outlets drive a profit, see “‘A Grim Halloween for The Wall Street Journal.”
Certain media tactics can help you garner more press coverage and increase your visibility compared to your competitors. First, be clear about what your message is, who your audience is and what will compel them to respond. Understand and clearly articulate your buyers’ pain points and how your offering solves them.
Engage with the right outlets and reporters
Know who within your target customer base will be the easiest to influence and also has purchasing power. How does this group get information: through social media, blogs, trade outlets or search? What pain points will buyers have if they don’t change how they do business? Once you’ve narrowed this down through an online search, review media kits or background information about the different publications or blogs to confirm if you’ve identified the right outlets. Also, pinpoint which publications mention your competitors and target them in your media outreach.
Most media outlets encourage reader participation and look for meaningful feedback. While reporting the news is still core, reader engagement, social shares and engagements is important. Media outlets have moved to a community model, encouraging reader comments and engagement on their sites. Don’t promote yourself. Instead provide insights you have gained from your experience. This strategy not only builds credibility with reporters but also positions you as a resource for future stories and helps you gain attention when you want them to cover product news.
Connect to bigger trends
Connecting to bigger trends requires that you regularly monitor the news for stories that are relevant to you or about which you have an interesting point of view. Companies successful at generating more coverage and gaining share of voice dedicate multiple resources to trend tracking and pitching.
Such monitoring helps you find places where you can insert your opinion (not a product pitch) and better position yourself for inclusion in broader trend stories. Be clear ahead of time about which trends are relevant for you and your buyers and develop pitch points so you can respond quickly. Don’t be afraid to take a stand or contrarian point of view. The more interesting your perspective is, the better the chance you’ll be quoted. But use common sense. Don’t ever take advantage of tragedies to promote your product.
Data Is a bonus
Reporters often look for unique data that may support or counter a premise about an industry event. Whenever possible, provide supporting market research and infographics as part of campaigns and press releases. You may even find it worthwhile to conduct your own survey on a topic relevant to your market, publish the results in a paper and announce them in a press release. Proof points can be a great way to gain attention, as the media love numbers and percentages that can validate ongoing trends and market opportunities.
Respect the reporter relationship
Many companies make the mistake of treating the media as a one-way conduit for telling their stories; they do not respond when a reporter asks for a perspective or quote on another story. The more you can help a reporter in his or her quest to write a story, the better the long-term relationship. Some reporters, particularly in the business press, will offer to keep information on “background;” what you say will not be attributed to you. You won’t get quoted, but if you help the reporter out, he or she may be more likely to respond to an email request or phone call in the future.
No one tactic will help you trump your competition when it comes to press coverage. It takes a mix of them to keep your name front of mind, even in the absence of news. Remember, the more helpful and reliable you are as a source, the greater your chances are of developing strong relationships with reporters and of receiving greater coverage in the media that matter to you most.