Outlet: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI)
By: Libby Carew, Libby Carew Communications and Public Relations
The next time you scan the news and wonder how your competitor landed that interview or product mention, chances are that it has nothing to with chance. Companies featured in the news are there because they spend time building relationships with reporters who cover their sector. They do this by having a marketing communications plan with a strong media relations component.
If you haven’t been thinking about a media strategy as part of your communications planning, you should. Yes, advertising is important, as is digital marketing and social media. But getting your company into a position where it can generate news coverage is a powerful channel for getting your messages into the market. Why don’t companies issue news? Usually it’s one of two reasons. Either companies are so busy running their day-to-day operations that issuing a press release is an afterthought, or they don’t have staff with communications expertise so the task is delegated to an employee who has other things on their plate.
Working with technology companies of all sizes and helping them build effective communications plans, I often come across these classic mistakes that they make. Here’s a round-up of tips of what to do when communicating with the media.
Some companies issue a press release twice a year and expect headlines. Relationships with the media take time to establish and there’s a flurry of releases and Twitter feeds coming at them. Take time to research the journalists, bloggers and influencers who cover your industry and start building relationships with them. Sending a “blanket” press release to the largest possible list of media covering anything and everything won’t get you results. In fact, it could land your email on a news outlet’s blacklist.
Make sure you have the right staff or team working with the media. They should have an in depth understanding of how journalists work – their deadlines for filing stories, their focus and how they prefer to be contacted. Some reporters prefer Twitter, others; email. Some you can call; others, not.
Before you start to write the press release, take a step back. Be objective and ask yourself if what you’re planning to send out is really newsworthy. Is there an interesting angle? Is there a hook that will grab the media’s attention? Make sure your press release gives some context to what’s happening in the industry and the market gap your product addresses.
Here are some ideas that companies often miss for issuing press releases:
Customer wins- Consider doing a joint press release with the customer you just landed. Through a joint release, you can leverage the brand awareness they may already have with media who are tracking news about them, thereby putting your company on the media radar.
Become an industry expert- Reporters cover multiple industries and need access to industry experts for stories they are filing. Your company has amassed a lot of knowledge about your industry, so you can position your company’s executive as a thought leader in the industry and introduce them to the media. (Tip: Make sure they are media trained.)
Trade shows and speaking events- Many companies pay expensive fees to attend a show but do not engage with media and analysts who cover these shows. Every day the shows generate news, tweets and articles that go out to key audiences.
The first press release was issued by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 when one of their trains jumped a trestle at Atlantic City and plunged into a creek killing 50 people. The New York Times printed the release word-for-word. The press release is still the tool that reporters use to file their stories. The format for writing the press release has become standardized and should be followed. Use less hype and more facts. Put the most important information in the headline and first paragraph. Then, link your press releases to your social media campaigns.
Make sure your media spokesperson has had media training and is able to speak to any number of topics related to your company. Interacting with the media is important and you need to make sure your spokesperson is ready. Research the media outlet, understand the reporter’s interview style and make sure your CEO has 3 key messages in mind going into an interview.
The same way you have schedules for product releases and service updates; do the same with your communication planning. Consistency is key. Some companies issue a news release, start to build relationships with the media, and then go quiet for 2-3 months. With a little communications planning, you can develop a schedule for releases. There will come a day when reporters covering your industry will come to you asking for news. This is your path to successful media coverage.
Libby Carew operates a public relations and communications practice in St. John’s. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 709.725.7627.