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You have been there before; the media is covering a topic that is relevant to your business, but you still cannot find a way to get yourself into the conversation. It seems the media is not interested in what you have to say, or maybe you don’t know what to say. In the end, it goes by as a lost opportunity.
As always, barring doing something terrible, there is no sure way to guarantee that you will end up in the media. However, you may be able to follow some steps to ensure you have the best shot at making it into the news. See below for four steps to take when trying to catch a media wave.
Listen To What They Are Saying
It may sound obvious, but many times reporters complain that they receive pitches about things that are not remotely relevant to the discussion at hand. Sometimes a pitch that seems relevant to you may not seem relevant to a reporter. For this reason, make sure to connect your pitch to what is going on in the body of the email—always remembering to keep a certain degree of brevity.
Look At Who Is Listening
Different types of people are going to be interested in different types of news. Although it is almost certain that when the topic is relevant to your business the audience is one that would benefit your business, make sure to be aware of who is listening so to craft your message accordingly. A quick look at the response to the news on social media will also give insight at who is listening and what they have to say about it. Do they have any questions that you may be able to answer?
Plan What Your Are Going To Say
This may be both the easiest and the hardest step. Sometimes you may know exactly what you are going to say but can’t get the media interested, and sometimes you know you would be of interest but you don’t know what to say. In general, you can break down what you can say into three different categories: advice or commentary, statistics, and solutions. When deciding which one of the three to present, ensure you have a credible pitch and target the needs of the audience you have already determined is listening to the news.
Join the conversation
Just because you cannot end up on TV or in the news doesn’t mean you have to be left out of the conversation. Now thanks to social media you can tweet or post directly in the middle of all the talking. You can reply to a commenter’s question, provide follow up to a news article, or just add your own commentary. By targeting a reporter with a well-crafted comment concerning their article, you may even be able to catch their attention and get an article of your own.
Hopefully the above will help you plan out your approach better the next time a topic of interest comes up.
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Since the beginning of the internet, business owners have been conscientious about how their business ranks up against the competition in appearing in online searches- their SEO. After all, less than 10 percent of users advance to page 2 of a Google search. Many understand that the more links and articles one gets online, the higher the chances are one will end up on the first search page. However, depending on one’s goals and techniques, the first page appearance might not be as elusive as one thinks.
A good way to start is to identify the key words one wants to associate their business with; let us assume “pay for performance pr.” Depending on the type of traffic one wants, one can choose what terms to focus on. For example, focusing on “pay for performance” public relations limits who looks at one’s page to those specifically interested in “pay for performance” as opposed to just “public relations.” It would be safe to infer that those looking for pay for performance public relations are those making business decisions, as opposed to students or just the general populace interested in the broad public relations field.
Once one has identified the keywords that one wants to focus on and “brand” their business as for SEO purposes, then comes the tricky part. Although all types of links do play a role in the chances of one making an appearance higher in the search list, those links that include the key words have a higher weight to them in the Google algorithm. As a result, one would want to have as many stories linking to their website as possible. The holy grail, of course, would be an article that, in this case, has “INK, a pay for performance agency,” as the link to INK’s website.
So, what should the link lead the reader to? Generally, it is not a good idea to link to the homepage of one’s business. Although in this scenario linking to our home page is not a bad idea because we are targeting business owners who are probably interested in the quick overview of INK, other businesses’ target audience may have different interests. As a separate example, consider one who is trying to link the keywords “malware remover” to one’s business. Given the industry, the most newsworthy stories such a business has are usually statistics of infections. Thus, one has to connect such statistics with the fact one is a malware remover. An example of a good link to include would probably be labeled as, “based on Company X’s malware removal statistics.” This link should then send the reader to the statistics itself (usually located in the website’s blog) as opposed to the homepage. This will then help generate more clicks as an interested reader then peruses through the rest of the articles and thus drives up one’s SEO even further.
Admittedly, getting the perfect link is hard. After all, it is the journalists that have the final say on what gets published. However, with a little bit of tact, one can guide the journalist by either presenting a press release or discussing it to increase one’s chances of having a good link. As always, it helps to have realistic expectations.
INK has had years of experience in getting ink, or stories, about clients. However, as one can see, getting placements can have a much wider and longer lasting impact than just increasing publicity.
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Good business owners have certain expectations from their PR firms before entering into media relations partnerships. Afterall, that is why they contacted the firms in the first place. After considering their options, the businesses have decided on the final PR firms because they felt that they were the best suited for their goals and had the best potential for achieving them.
On the other side of the relationship, the firms also have certain expectations from the business client. While it is the firms’ responsibility to get coverage and meet the client’s expectations, the firms rely on the clients themselves to help them achieve the goals. In a way, it is perpetuating the old adage, “the best way to get help is to help yourself.” Below are certain areas where businesses can help their PR firms achieve their goals.
Although the most obvious, this aspect is one of the areas that can cause the most problems between a business and their PR firms. When outsourcing their PR, it can be easy for a business to “forget” about their PR firm as other issues come up on the agenda.
If the business has a good PR firm, their firm will be constantly trying to reach out to news media and journalists. This apparent period of inaction is the incubation period for the news stories the PR firm is trying to land their client. In time, several of the outlets will respond and will ask for the firm to follow up with more information. It is here where the communication between the firm and client is critical. If the business has gotten in the habit of taking longer to respond to the firm’s members, they run the risk of missing out on great opportunities for publicity.
Aside from missing out on opportunities, keeping up the communication is a good way to create new ones as well. The PR firm that is up to speed about what is going on with their client will not run the risk of pitching old news and will also have new content to share about their client.
The media loves numbers. Numbers are a great way to add substance to an idea or a point a business may be trying to make. Taking a step further, numbers that focus on overall industry patterns and observations as opposed to the business specifically, are of the most use to the PR firms. While some journalists may run pieces that read more like an ad than an actual story, most of the time journalists are looking for objective statistics to report.
If a business is able to provide these numbers for their firm, the firm’s chances of landing a piece of publicity increase. Once the media has shown interest in writing about the numbers, the firms can then introduce some of their client’s execs as opinion leaders on what the implications are for the industry as a whole. In this way, everyone wins: the PR firm has better content to offer to journalists, the journalists can create pieces that are relatively clean, and the client gets the publicity and establishes itself as industry leader in the subject.
In the case where the information a business is trying to publicize is more specific to the business itself, the PR firm knows that the media will be wanting reviews and opinions from customers outside the company. Every established business thinks their way of providing a service or creating a product is the best way to do it. This is perfectly fine; it is the confidence every successful business carries. However, to stand out from all the other businesses that think their own product is better, what the businesses really need is outside customer reviews.
A journalist is more likely to want to interview a third party than a spokesperson for the company. Readers, in general, tend to be more responsive to third party reviews as well. Businesses should not expect the articles their PR firms manages to land for them to have all the language the business would have liked there to be. In such a case, an advertisement would be just as useful as readers can easily distinguish a self-aggrandizing article.
4. The 30,000-foot view
In the event the PR firm manages to get an interview for one of the business members, the firm will try to prepare whoever is interviewing to make the most of the interview. The interview will center around a main theme or topic for which the PR firm pitched the business’ expertise. A good interviewee knows the balance between answering the journalist’s questions and placing his or her business in the answers.
If the person answering the questions focuses too much on getting the business name or point of view into the answers, the journalist may consider not including the quotes in his article. This means that when the journalist asks about trends and prognostications, the right answer includes a broad answer that is then further illustrated with data that can be more specific to the business itself. If the answers focus solely on what goes on in the business, the journalist may feel the answers are biased and, in the worst-case scenarios, arrogant.
Good communication habits between the businesses and their PR firms should be enough to avoid most of the common mistakes. This does not mean that there needs to be constant communication, but rather a set schedule where the firm is kept in the know and an avenue for quick action when the time comes. Doing so will enable the firm to meet the business’ expectations.
As PR pros it may be a little easier for us to get caught up in all the commercialism of Christmas. Even Charlie Brown, a well-meaning people-pleaser got carried away. Unavoidably, the holiday season accounts for a large part of the year’s revenue for many of the retailers and this is especially true if you consider the season to begin on Black Friday. As such, many companies put the pressure on their PR people to make their product the best-selling one of the year. We try, we’ll admit that much, but although we can bring the horse to water and showcase the product for the whole world to see, we cannot force it to drink. It is bad enough that the general populace is left with a bad taste in their mouth when they see the retailers as taking advantage of the one time in the year when people are encouraged to be selfless and give. Alas, c’est la vie, but we can at least say with a clean conscience that the retailers generally offer discounts during this time.
Christmas always brings out a PR “unicorn”, some product that inevitably becomes popular and sells out. Aside from bringing us the occasional viral video of shoppers fighting over a psychotic laughing Elmo or beanie babies, this fad always puzzles every marketer in how something like that could take the season by storm. Even with Michael Bublé, who only seems to come out every Christmas, we know what to expect and aren’t disappointed when it is the same year after year. Maybe it is a carefully crafted PR plan where a company creates a limited number of items and strategically positions them in locations to quickly sell out. Once sold out then a quick pitch to the media creates the illusion that it is popular and drives demand straight to the producer because, afterall, it is “sold out” and retailers don’t carry the product anymore. Or maybe I am just too cynical for all things marketing and these products do somehow have a je ne sais qua about them that induces buyers to get them. I am still suspicious, however, and can attest that I personally know no one who has purchased a Hatchimal this year.
In any case, Charlie Brown would be the one to stress out about getting the Hatchimal or Elmo. It is a problem of being too nice and trying to please everyone. Fortunately for him, he had a Linus to comfort him and remind him of what Christmas really started from and why. If you know a Charlie Brown, be their Linus and use those communication skills so valuable to our profession to help spread the message and to bring men good cheer.
Merry Christmas from all of us at INK!
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Here at INK we have a “No Soliciting” sign pasted onto our front door. It used to be on the window, but when workers came through to do some renovations, they ended up switching it to the door. Regardless, we have the sign and it is at eyes’ height so unless one is either very short or very tall, it is hard to miss. Today a gentleman came through and handed us some information on IT related business and after asking for one of our office member’s card, thanked us and scuttled away. He’ll probably call in at some point in the future to pique our interest in whatever product he was trying to sell. I assume it will be met with a quick “not interested” and maybe a comment about the no soliciting sign.
While pitching the client’s story, PR people work in a similar fashion except that instead of going door to door, they send emails or make calls (mainly send emails). Accordingly, every good PR person knows that pitching to a journalist who is well known to have a “no soliciting” sign is a waste of time and the best that could happen from that situation is if the journalist ignored it instead of subjecting it to public shame. At INK, our bread and butter is ensuring that the clients get the placements they are looking for and as such our whole existence revolves around sending the perfect pitch. It also helps when the client’s story is actually interesting.
We pride ourselves in having at least some aspects of creativity- afterall we have shown hints of brilliance in the past. The perfect pitch is something the journalist will find interesting and because of that the good PR person knows to flavor the story in a way the journalist will find tasteful. Often times the flavor is not quite consistent with what the client would like and it is difficult to explain to the client that the story they want is too concentrated for the outlet’s taste. I suppose PR people not only have to be good salespeople but also good chefs.
As a result, good communication is critical between the client and the PR team to even begin to create a well-pitched pitch. The client chooses what outlets they want placements in, and then INK goes ahead and crafts a story on the client that a journalist would find attractive. Even among industries that write about the same idea, the topics that the journalists will find worthy of their time will vary depending on their individual personalities. Usually the story will then also vary and as mentioned above, it can be hard to show the value or importance of modifying the message to a client who has one or two specific messages in mind.
Remember, we still keep the same message; we just modify it so that the journalist finds it more palatable. Consider how much pizza you have eaten in your entire life. That is the message. All the toppings are just different flavors. Undeniably, you probably prefer some type of pizza over another, but in the end… it’s just pizza. Journalists are like that and they won’t eat the metaphorical pizza unless it has the toppings they want. Thus, the perfect pitch.
In the end, however, just like the gentleman who came in and delivered his information, the end decision lies on who gets the pitch. In this scenario, it’s us, but for the pizza, it’s the journalist. Many times, it turns out that even if you do deliver the type of pizza the journalist loves to eat, they won’t bite- maybe due to some New Year’s diet resolution or maybe because they have a full plate already. A good PR person excels here as well. Rejection is normal, but the good PR person consistently sends out the perfect pitch, because even if the journalist may not be hungry for it today there is a good chance he or she may be hungry for it tomorrow.