One of the most effective ways to build your firm’s profile is to get your company’s story out to the influencer segment of your brand community: the media. Although this is often referred to as “public relations,” that’s a misnomer. Although the public is the ultimate target of your message, your immediate target is the media, so you should see your efforts as “media relations.” Understanding this will help you focus your efforts where you should: on building relationships.
Identify Your Recipients. Time Your Pitch. Show Some Respect
Not every media outlet or journalist is going to care about your story. If you’ve created an industry-specific innovation that, for example, enhances a company’s generation and nurturing of online sales leads, sending a press release to Montel isn’t going to work. If, however, your product or service will make every woman on earth more empowered, more beautiful and healthier, then, by all means, reach out to a producer on OWN—the Oprah Winfrey Network.
To assemble your potential list of media contacts, start with the industry-specific media that cover your business sector, and that you or your team personally access in print, online or elsewhere. The size of your list is less important than the relevance these media have to your sector.
If possible, get the media outlet’s rate card, many of which include a year-long editorial calendar. This will help you understand how to frame your topic in a way that will match what that media outlet is interested in. It will also help guide the timing of your pitch. A new sunscreen innovation pitched in October would, of course, capture more attention if you instead pitched it in May.
Lastly, be mindful that journalists are, like you, busy people. If you send them an idea, press release or rich-media pitch that is nowhere near their radar, you’ve wasted everyone’s time. Not a good way to start that relationship thing mentioned above.
Craft Your Story
Whether you send out a printed press release, introductory email or full story outline for a feature article, in whatever form you choose, keep the content concise. The classic approach of addressing the 5 Ws is what defines a good release or story outline.
Provide complete contact information and keep your overall company story modest. Focus on the innovation, breakthrough and reason why your news should be their news. Follow up with a phone call or email to show that you mean business and are interested in forming a relationship.
But don’t try to get all intimate right out of the gate. Journalists don’t want you to be their best buddy, but they do appreciate interesting stories they can craft under their byline.
Make Life a Little Easier for Journalists
You should establish an online media centre that offers current company information, product or service summaries, profiles of key people, news releases, and various “art” in the form of JPEGs, MP3s and QuickTime videos. Keep this content current with updates, imagery and links. Vary the media you upload by adding video or audio clips. And keep in mind that this environment is an expression of your brand, so make it look sharp and easily understood—just like you and your company.
Be Realistic. Not Everyone Cares About Your Story
You can never control what the media will cover or ensure that, if you do get coverage, the story will be positive. That being said, if you’ve made the effort to establish professional and candid relationships with appropriate media contacts, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll receive balanced coverage.
Still, there’s a caveat to all this. Sending out a few releases and creating and maintaining a well-organized online media room are not going to get the entire job done. You just might have to pay for people to recognize you. That’s called advertising, and it still works really well—although rarely on its own. Just like media relations.
Wayne S. Roberts is president and chief creative officer of Blade Creative Branding, a firm specializing in strategic branding, creative advertising and innovative online solutions.
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