In November George Chilton, Creative Director at Hubbub Labs, gave a public relations-focused talk titled “How to tell your story in the media”. George has summarised his key takeaways in this article.
Public relations (PR) is a mysterious thing for many people. It is an impenetrable world full of celebrities, magazine centrefolds and television interviews.
In the startup and small business arena, there is a big misconception that PR is only for glamourous individuals and enterprises with huge marketing budgets. It seems so far beyond the reach of entrepreneurs and startups that it often gets ignored.
But the truth is, just about anyone can be featured in the media and experience the same benefits as the major players do. All you need is the right strategy, the right story and some patience.
Here’s how to develop a plan that will improve your chances of getting press and help meet your business objectives.
Step one: Decide on your media goals
Before attempting to hit the headlines, you need to have a solid plan that identifies your objectives, audience and message.
While every mission is different, when it comes to media goals, a company typically wants one or more of the following things:
- To build social proof
Social proof is your reputation in the public eye. Founders and experts can raise their profiles through interviews on television, radio, and popular podcasts, or through “thought leadership” articles, public speaking, and other mainstream channels.
These appearances and features can have a direct return on investment, bringing new clients, partners, or investors on to the scene.
More importantly, however, they build trust and awareness. When a company displays media logos on its website, it demonstrates legitimacy and expertise. The return on investment of this type of brand building is cumulative and somewhat intangible. Nevertheless, it eventually establishes a founder and company as an industry leader, and this in turn strengthens networks and presents myriad opportunities.
- To make an announcement
Typically, companies make announcements that align with their business objectives and mission.
Founders seeking investments, for example, may choose to woo investors with news of important milestones, partnerships, or case studies. On the other hand, companies hoping to increase brand awareness and acquire customers may announce launches, updates, and even customer success stories.
Usually these announcements will take the form of a press release; a time sensitive notice given to journalists in order to help them write a news article or review.
- To react to negative press
Bad reviews, news – and even mismanaged publicity campaigns – can affect a brand negatively, leading to drops in revenues and investor confidence. Companies wishing to change the storyline, put across their side of things, or even simply to apologise for wrong doing, often put out a press release, and/or hold a press conference.
Step two: Consider your audience
A targeted message is an effective message. Startup PR teams need to carefully consider where to send their guest articles, press releases, and pitches.
When it comes to thought leadership articles, both message and publication need to be in tune. Founders should offer beneficial information, insight, or advice to an audience that needs it. Guest articles must be therefore be highly targeted: not only must they impress a commissioning editor, but they must also resonate with the readership AND meet company media goals.
The same goes for a press release announcement. If, for example, a company aims to increase its B2B client base, a series of announcements in industry vertical publications would be more effective than targeting broader or more popular magazines. Likewise, a company seeking funding, would be better served sending a milestone announcement to a financially-focused publication which is popular with investors.
Once the target is set, the PR team needs to carefully research and send the press release to journalists that cover the kind of news that it is announcing.
Step tree: Implement your plan
When writing and directing a pitch – which is simply a well structured email – you need to consider who is going to read it. Journalists are extremely busy and receive hundreds of pitches every day. So:
- Have a clear, buzzword-free email subject that explains the content of the email clearly.
- Make sure you personalise your email, address the journalist or editor by name.
- Do not try to sell your product or service to the journalists, instead explain your differentiator and value in a jargon-free way.
- Never offer to pay for coverage. Featuring in the media is based on merit, not money (advertisements and sponsored posts are legitimate, but have less impact).
- Explain why your story or article is important and is right for that particular publication.
- Show why the announcement is timely.
- Explain the terms of your story; explain whether it is exclusive, embargoed or non-exclusive (articles are nearly always exclusive).
- Include an exploding deadline – a date by which the journalist or editor should respond, so that you know whether to send the story to another publication.
Step four: Amplify your coverage and repeat
If and when you get some traction in the media, it’s important to consider your next steps. Sharing on social media channels, linking to coverage on your website, and including logos are all key ways of ensuring your own market sees your growing media presence.
Be sure to plan out an announcement calendar so that you can maintain a presence in the media throughout the year. Bear in mind that you can hold off on announcing company news in the media if it would make more of an impact at a later date.
Finally, it’s important to understand that not every story will make it and not every piece of news will go viral or have a big impact. Your job is to be persistent and keep pushing your message out there. Little by little you will see your brand recognition grow and you will begin to reap the benefits of a well planned and executed PR strategy.