How to pitch and promote in the new world of PR
A New Age of Public Relations Marketing
The Field of Public Relations Marketing Has Evolved
Old-school public relations has a lot in common with old-school advertising. While ad agencies relied on the “spray and pay” approach, Public Relations Marketing professionals were hired to “smile and dial” to secure coverage that would ultimately sell your product, increase your brand awareness, and quickly propel your company to greatness.
But here’s the problem: The old-school model of media relations was predicated on the way people interacted with radio, television, and newspapers. People used to spend Sunday brunch reading a printed copy of The New York Times, and no one skipped through content or advertising they found annoying. There were no easy vehicles to share recommendations among friends or colleagues other than word-of-mouth, making “earned media” in publications the driver behind awareness and purchase intent.
The way people consume media has changed considerably. Alongside that shift, a transformation in the media industry has occurred. There are fewer top-tier print outlets, fewer long-form stories, and far fewer journalists, editors, and beat reporters at most traditional publications. At the same time, we’ve been introduced to a massive proliferation of blogs that make it hard to differentiate news from promotional content. Given all these changes, what’s a brand to do if all they want is to secure great coverage and build a long-term, successful media relations plan?
This post is designed to help your company develop and implement an inbound public relations strategy that drives awareness, creates marketplace differentiation, builds lasting relationships with journalists, and delivers results so that you’re front-page news — not yesterday’s news.
Be Your Own Storyteller
Lean Into Inbound Public Relations Marketing
Conventional wisdom around public relations suggests that you draft a press release or media kit, send it to journalists who cover your space, then cross your fingers and hope for the best.
However, there are three clear problems with this approach. First, journalists can’t be expected to work off of your company’s promotional plan. Second, writers need to focus on what their readers want. Lastly, modern journalists get countless submissions for stories every single day.
Below, we’ll dive into each of these issues and what your company can do to stand out while respecting journalists’ time.
1. Journalists Don’t Work Off Of Your Company’s Promotional Plan
The reporters you contact have their own priorities, deadlines, and editorial calendars to work with. Unfortunately, they are likely not sitting at their desks waiting for your email to arrive to file breaking news that you’re opening your doors or releasing a new product.
2. Journalists Need to Give Their Readers What They Want
The role of a journalist is to tell a great story that is relevant and newsworthy for his or her readership, so he or she might choose to write a different angle than the one that is most likely to drive traffic to your store or encourage people to visit your website for more info.
3. Journalists Are Drowning in Pitches
Think about how crowded your inbox gets. Now put yourselves in the shoes of a top-tier reporter, many of whom receive up to 250 pitches per day from marketers worldwide.
Reporters are bombarded with emails, phone calls, and tweets, which makes cutting through the clutter a significant challenge, especially if you don’t have the brand recognition enjoyed by Apple, Google, and other massive brands. You can wait forever for reporters to notice what you’re doing or you can think outside the box.
Blog Posts vs. Press Releases
This sounds easy in practice, but what does it actually mean? Let’s say you have an upcoming announcement that could potentially warrant press outreach, such as a product launch or a new board member. You can (and should) draft a press release to make it as easy as possible for journalists to pull information or quotes to file a story about your news.
You should also invest the same amount of time (or more) in crafting a blog entry with your perspective on the story, what makes it newsworthy, and most importantly, why your (prospective) customers and industry peers should care about it.
Let’s not forget one of the biggest benefits of sharing your own news: Creating your own content drives inbound interest to your website. Many reporters will include a link to your website in a piece of coverage, but you can’t always bank on it. Crafting a blog entry that is highly trafficked by customers, prospects, and leads will ensure that you’re sending the majority of people to the sections of your website that are most directly relevant to the news while helping your website rank highly for keywords related to the announcement.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on being a storyteller:
1. Create a narrative your customers care about.
A news story about your new product or office is going to focus on its implications for your industry or your neighborhood, depending on the publication. What your customers,
prospects, and leads care most about is how your news benefits them. Does it make your product easier to use or more effective for their business? Will your growth make their
experience with your service more seamless? More importantly, always remember to speak your customers’ language when crafting these posts.
Marketing expert David Meerman Scott has long espoused the notion that your releases should reflect how your customers think and talk about your product. Instead of crafting your releases and blog posts to try to impress reporters, make sure they resonate with your customers. Replace overly complex terms with words and problems your audience actually uses every day. If you’re not sure whether an announcement passes this test, try it out – send it to a long-time customer you trust to ask for their insight before publishing.
2. Think outside the box.
You may not always have a huge product announcement on the schedule, but there are unique opportunities for every company, big or small, to get noticed. Look at your company on a granular level and ask yourself: What are we doing that’s remarkable?
Maybe you host a company-wide flag football tournament for a local charity or offer perks that are unheard of in your industry. These stories may not be New York Times material, but by posting a blog or news update on your website, you keep your customers and followers intrigued and increase the likelihood of attracting traffic to your website.
Here are some ideas to start conversations and leverage your company as a thought leader:
- Use the format to your advantage.
- Instead of emailing reporters to tell them why your co-founder or VP of Marketing is an expert on a given topic, have them publish a blog entry on the topic first, then pitch it second so reporters know their take is interesting and relevant.
- Give your executives a voice in popular debates by listening to social media discussions and weighing in with your company’s thoughts and ideas.
3. Create remarkable content.
When marketers start writing press releases, we automatically default to the traditional “who, what, when, where, why” approach to content, which is often decidedly unremarkable.
Newsflash: Reporters are humans, and 99.9% of humans prefer remarkable, interesting, and dynamic content over bland, boring, and unequivocally promotional writing. When writing an announcement, either on your blog or as a press release, focus on what’s different, unique, and narrative-driven versus just going through the motions with a release. Don’t be afraid to spice up your releases a little bit for lighter announcements.
You could even provide some ‘Tweet This’ links for reporters, viewers, and customers to easily share your headlines and quotes.
The Role of Public Relations Marketing
Creating your own content and using your blog as a media resource allows you to not only create your own narrative, but to drive traffic to your site. However, if you’re just getting started, another great alternative to traditional pitching is to craft high-quality guest posts for industry blogs in your space. This will result in benefits for SEO and potential media coverage. Google’s search engine algorithm now rewards quality as much as – if not more than – quantity, so invest the time and energy to develop thoughtful guest posts for consideration on blogs in your space. This can often capture the attention of industry thought leaders and journalists while driving relevant traffic to your website.
Far too many companies sit and wait for reporters to notice or cover what they are doing. The first fundamental tenet of inbound public relations is to tell your own story first. Whether that story is told through blogging, social media, or guest content on other blogs, doing so will help you gain valuable traffic.
Inbound Marketing That Journalists Love
Marketing Meets Journalism
In a world of breaking news and social media, journalists often have minutes – not hours, days, or weeks – to find sources and file stories. As a result, reporters from top-tier publications simply cannot spare significant time trying to locate your media center or finding a phone number or email address to reach your marketing team.
To that end, best-in-class companies take the work out of coverage by making it intuitive, easy, and lightning fast to get the information they need.
That’s why your website should have a press page that hosts your media relations contact info, pertinent company statistics, recent news coverage, and other materials that would be of value to a journalist covering your company or your space.
Read on for some of the best practices on your press page.
Provide real contact information
Give visitors the name and contact info of an actual, real-live person that they can contact to get more information. This means replacing and “[email protected]” email with a real person’s email address.
Offer helpful industry data
Housing industry data that relates to topics reporters in your field might be interested in helps them do their job by providing context to the release. This increases the likelihood they will return to your site for future similar requests.
Decode your “About Us” page
The description of what your business does should be crystal clear to journalists. Far too many people stock their “About Us” pages with ambiguous language. If a reporter doesn’t understand what you do, there’s no way he will accurately describe it in a piece, so be clear, concise, and specific in the about section of your site.
Add social sharing buttons
Make it as easy as possible for media, employees, and customers to share your news with the world. Having Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn sharing icons on your press page and each press release will help spark social media discussion about what your company is up to.
Include profiles of your executive team
Your executive team is the face of your company and, most of the time, reporters will want information on your CEO, CFO, and/or CTO to develop stories. Provide high resolution images, bios, quotes, and the social media profiles of your executive team for reporters to investigate and reference.
Share your coverage
Reporters are less inclined to cover companies they’ve never heard of because it suggests they aren’t newsworthy. This can be a challenge for small businesses. When your company is covered, interviewed, or referenced in an article, post a link to the content on your Press Page.
Building Relationships With Media
Form and Maintain a List of Contacts
So now you have a great story to share, remarkable content, and a plan to get the word out to key reporters, but how do you build relationships with media members who cover your space on a regular basis?
Before we get into tactics, it’s important to clarify some guiding principles to building relationships with media.
First and foremost, respect their roles. Regardless of the outlet, a journalist’s job is not to sell your product or promote your idea. His or her role is to tell a great story, capture relevant news for her news outlet, and to be fair and reasonable in his or her assessment of your company’s launch, announcement, or product. One of the biggest mistakes people make in PR is assuming that journalists exist to grow their business.
By respecting their role and craft, you’ll get better results, manage expectations more carefully, and build a more lasting relationship over time.
Second, make sure you’re in it to win it for the long haul. Emailing every reporter who has ever covered your space for one announcement is spammy, and can often lead journalists to dismiss or discard future announcements.
As a result, think of reporter contacts as long-term relationships and value their time accordingly; only email them when you have something of value to offer that fits their beat, and be an avid consumer of the content they work hard to create every day — not just when it benefits you.
In the sections below, we’ve outlined four tactics you can leverage to identify, reach out to, and engage with reporters in your space.
Do Your Homework
You can typically find basic background and contact information for reporters on their news outlets home page under “About Us” and “Editorial Staff,” or by using the “Contact Me” button at the top or bottom of a story. If you have a small (or nonexistent) media relations budget, use Google Docs to build your lists and to aggregate the following relevant information from the journalist’s personal website (if publicly available):
- A link to recent coverage.
- Context from his or her Twitter bio.
- Link to his or her Twitter handle.
- General contact information.
For most outlets, email is the most effective way to reach out initially, but if you have breaking news you can always call the news desk or editorial department to speak with your contact or follow up on a news alert.
Leverage Social Media
One of the easiest ways to drive inbound PR results is by monitoring how and when reporters are talking about topics in your industry and responding with helpful content.
make sure you create a list in Twitter to make it seamless and easy to interact with what your media friends are talking about on a daily basis. You can also consider using this information to drive future content considerations. For example, if you see reporters constantly buzzing about an industry issue, consider creating a blog post in response and sending them the link instead of waiting for them to reach out to you.
Take Time to Personalize
You don’t start an email to your friends or colleagues with “Dear Sir or Madam,” so don’t do it to reporters you’re looking to build relationships with. Personalize your approach, tactics, and outreach to each individual journalist. Doing so is imperative to the success of your media outreach.
Give Before You Get
Nobody likes being contacted only when you need something. Find ways to add value to your reporter’s daily lives as well. You can share and promote their content when it’s unrelated to you, comment on great pieces they write to demonstrate genuine interest, or potentially provide them with sneak peeks to explore your business, your approach, or meet with your team. Media relationships should be a two- way street, so make sure you meet journalists half-way and deliver value.
Don’t Let Your Inbound PR Learning End Here.
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, don’t stop there! You’ve established the principles of Inbound PR, and learned what it takes to truly be newsworthy. You can download an ebook that comes with free press release templates and a promotional plan template for you to customize and use. Just click HERE!