My previous blog talked about what your company needs to do to prepare for launching a media relations effort. I outlined the necessary steps for capturing media attention and ultimately getting that coveted media coverage. This blog covers the all-important subject of building relationships with the media.
Ensure You Have the Right Media Contacts
Once you have taken these steps and you are ready to start getting the word out to the media about your business, you need to think about who will be included in your media outreach. This is an important step! You want to ensure you contact the right people — in other words, the media outlets that focus on your target customers and the specific contacts at those outlets who cover your industry or subject area and would potentially write about your news or story. You want to research who your contacts are, but also what they typically write about, their contact preferences and how best to “pitch” and work with them.
Your Due Diligence
To succeed at getting your media contacts interested in writing about you, you need to focus on building relationships with them and that requires preparation in itself. The following are suggestions for building relationships with the media and putting your best foot forward in your media relations.
- Pinpoint who covers your market or subject area by researching who is writing about your competitors and asking current and prospective customers who and what they read. This will help you figure out the journalists and publications that will truly help you achieve the desired outcome — reaching your target customers.
- Familiarize yourself with each of the reporters, writers and bloggers you want to reach out to. Read their past articles to explore what types of stories they write and would be looking for. Also, try to learn about personal interests that you relate to and can mention to build rapport with them. You may be able to learn all this information just by following them on Twitter.
- Be clear and straight-forward when telling a journalist about your product or service — explain the problem you solve instead of using buzz words to explain what the product or service does. Help them understand what’s in it for their readers.
- Focus on finding out the journalist’s needs (for certain types of stories, sources, etc.) and how you can meet those needs. You want to find out what you can do for them before asking them to do something for you.
- Administer a little ego-stroking through heartfelt (not insincere) flattery. Remember, journalists are only human.
- Make it easy for journalists to reach you by having contact info (not a contact form) easily accessible on your website. You may want to indicate specifically who your media contact person is, providing both their email and phone number. And, more importantly, be available when a journalist wants to talk to you.
- Stay on top of any media contact moves. Since turnovers among editorial staffs are high these days, quickly learn about and build relationships with any new or replacement contacts to maintain momentum.
Remember: Before you begin your outreach to the media, you want to have done the following:
- Created a tight, coherent set of messages that speaks to and will resonate with your target customers, as discussed in my article entitled, “Figuring out what’s in it for the customer.”
- Generated real news and have a customer and/or customer case stories or examples to offer.
- Built a blog on which you are posting articles on a regular basis. To establish thought leadership, your articles should convey your knowledge, expertise and viewpoints on industry trends, conversations and developments.
- Given your website a smart, current and fresh look, and easy-to-navigate pages that are search-engine optimized, ensuring reporters, bloggers, etc. see the image you want to convey and find the information they are looking for.
- Established your presence on the top social networks — LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., and maintain weekly activity on them.
- Prepared content/materials such as eBooks, success stories, white papers and data sheets that provide cogent overviews but also delve into the problems you solve and/or the benefits you offer.
- Developed story angles to pitch that will appeal to your target audience or that tie your story to a current or upcoming news event (e.g. climate changes, the holidays, healthcare legislation). Timing is key, so if you have a story that is relevant to an upcoming event or news that’s about to break, you should start pitching it ahead of the news/event. Also, write a blog post about the upcoming/breaking news so that when a reporter does a search on the news, your blog post will show up.
Make A Splash with Media Coverage
If your company is a startup or new to public relations, you’ll want to try getting media coverage to help get the word out, build awareness and obtain that third-party validation on your product or service offerings. It’s one more way to help your business make a splash in the marketplace and generate inbound interest. By setting the stage for media relations and going into it with proper preparation (and expectations), you can radically increase your chances for success