Public relations and reputation management are an often overlooked piece of integrated marketing strategies.
Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about sales funnels, social media engagement, and commercial spots that we forget the arguably the best marketing that you can do might not cost a thing.
What is this magical platform you might ask?
It is the oldest medium in the world, the earned kind.
Earned media doesn’t come easy. Consistent exposure doesn’t happen overnight. Media gets a bad rap a lot of times, but when the time comes when they are needed, good relationships and direct phone lines can mean the difference between timely coverage and massive exposure or being relegated to file number 13.
I recently attended a lunch workshop held by the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania in Downtown Pittsburgh and was reminded of a few things that I believe your business could do to get more consistent coverage from earned media.
1. Cultivate Personal Relationships with Members of the Media
Your network will always be your most valuable asset when you need to get something done. When it comes to media personalities, I find that people often either think that members of the media are celebrities that are inaccessible or they think that they are in danger of of always being “on-the-record” and shy away from getting too chummy for fear of it backfiring.
In reality, some of the most gregarious people I’ve ever met have been members of the media. While some might act like the local equivalence of Kanye West, by-and-large, they are just normal people doing a job they love.
Find opportunities to get to know them. Put down your cell phone at community events. Exchange business cards, let them know who you are and what you do—specifically the ones that cover the type of stories you would be included in.
Reporters are always looking for good stories to take to their editors, so it’s a great idea to be able to feed them those stories instead of always needing to send press releases to the news desk where it’s easier to get lost.
2. Follow-Up with Decision Makers
One of the biggest blunders I see in public relations is a lack of follow-up.
I genuinely belive that most businesses think that by following up that they’ll be seen as pushy and annoying and more likely to be part of some media-centric soup-nazi retribution, but I find that is rarely the case as long as it isn’t done excessively.
In other words, don’t follow up every time you send over a time and date for your monthly lunch-and-learn, but if you win an award or have some sort of landmark event in your company or organization, follow up your press release with a call to your media contact or the editor to see if they received it while letting them know the angle you were thinking and an assertive-not-desperate request to have someone out to cover it.
3. Do the Work Up-Front
We all have this idea that reporters and our media contacts are investigative reporters or secretly want to be. And, those people definitely exist. But even those reporters are dealing with unparalleled staff reductions and piles of stories and events that they have been assigned to.
When you send a story over to a media contact or the newsdesk, make sure that you have given them all of the information they will need to write the story. Provide them the industry facts and statistics that will give depth and context to their story. Take the time to provide multiple quotes about a myriad of different angles on the story.
The less background research a reporter has to do, the more likely it is that your story will get picked up.
4. Check Your Ws and Cross Your Hashtags
This one should go without saying, but make sure that your press release or email pitch includes sufficient details and basic information concerning the who, what, where, when and why.
Also, as silly as it might seem to those outside of the media, there are specific rules that the media want followed when it comes to things like formatting press releases.
Some media outlets might not care as much as others, but it’s always a good idea to abide by industry standards when in doubt. This includes letting the media partner know when the story should be considered for release and marking the end of your press release or story pitch with three hashtags.
It makes things easier for them, and the easier it is for your media partner, the better chance you have of getting your story written.
5. Sell the Value
Make sure that you sell the value of your particular story to the audience that your media partner is trying to reach.
Facts are good, but remember that every medium is a business that need to make money. If you can convince them that what you are offering is mutually beneficial, it will go a long way toward getting their attention.
Mind you, I wouldn’t put this small sales pitch in your actual press release, but a few sentences in the body of your email or the cover sheet of your fax might be just enough to get someone’s attention.
We are in an economy of attention and perceived value. Remember that you are only one of dozens of press releases and pitches that are going to come through the newsroom on any given day. Anything you can do to set yourself apart while still being appropriate will give you a leg up on everyone else competing for time and space.
One other option to consider is to contract with a full-service marketing and advertising agency like EM-Media. Agencies have the ear of media partners because they spend money on advertising and have cultivated deep personal and professional relationships with decision makers and influencers over the years.
More on that another time.
If you’d like to know more about working with an agency, feel free to contact me or another team member at EM. We’d be happy to learn more about what you are doing and see if there is any way that EM can help.