This article originally appeared in Construction Business Owner.
A good public relations (PR) strategy is one of the most effective tools marketers can wield because consumers are more likely to receive information from a news story than they are from a generic marketing message delivered through another channel.
People realize that—unlike other forms of marketing, such as social media posts or direct mail—control of the information presented in a news story belongs to someone else, namely the editor, who determines if a story is worth sharing with readers, viewers and/or listeners.
It’s this stamp of editorial approval that makes a story generated through PR efforts desirable, and thus more effective, than any other avenue business owners can take to generate awareness about their company’s products or services. It’s also why media relations is such a vital element of any comprehensive PR strategy.
A June 2018 study by The Media Insight Project, “Americans and the News Media: What They Do—and Don’t—Understand About Each Other,” found that 6 in 10 respondents “consider most news reports accurate enough that they can trust them and don’t have to check multiple sources to verify information.” The study also found that 63 percent of respondents “actively seek out news and information.”
The beauty of media relations is that marketers can share the news stories they generate on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram with their consumers, who, as the study showed, are actively seeking news and information. Media outlets also benefit when you share their content, making effective media relations campaigns a win-win for everyone connected to your business. To excel in this important element of PR, consider the following three steps for getting your message out and making it count.
1. Know Your Audience
What business owner or leader wouldn’t love to appear on “Good Morning America” or be quoted in The New York Times? Unfortunately, that’s putting the cart before the horse. For most businesses, the first move is to cultivate relationships with local and trade industry media personnel, because the probability of generating news coverage is much greater than landing a national primetime television slot or front-page story. Local print, broadcast and online outlets are the most logical place to begin media relations efforts.
While consumers have a plethora of information sources from which to choose, local media remains a powerful source of news and information in most communities. Just as important, local media is much more likely to report on local companies that have strong ties within the community.
National business and trade industry media also offer exceptional opportunities for companies to generate awareness about their product or service with potential customers. Trade industry websites and publications are the go-to sites for peers and customers in your industry and are an excellent way to reach a niche audience.
After creating a list of local and trade industry media outlets, business owners should get to know the reporters and editors who work at those outlets. Read news stories and featured articles to better understand how reporters cover their communities or industries.
While developing media relationships, think of reporters and editors as customers and partners. Cultivate those contacts so that when you have news to share, the editors and reporters are familiar with you and your company. Remember: Always triple check your facts and make absolutely sure you are using the correct spelling of the reporter’s or editor’s name.
2. Pitch Media Personnel
When working with the media or pitching a story idea to them, you have to put your best foot forward. Reporters and editors excel at sniffing out false information and self-promotional hype. If you distort or inflate the value of your product or service, then you’ve already failed in your efforts. A reporter or editor who receives a press release or story idea with exaggerated claims about your company may call you out on it and will definitely be wary of anything you send in the future.
One way to get on the media’s radar is to share news about your company. Before contacting an editor or reporter, be sure you know what your “news” actually is. Reporters and editors view news as something that has not happened before (in the exact way or through the exact people you are featuring) or as something that is truly unique, such as having the biggest, fastest, smallest, or most-awarded product or service on the market.
It is important to also keep in mind that what is news within your company may not be news in the broader sense. For example, the fact that your company broke a sales record is important to your business but probably doesn’t interest the general public.
While developing media relationships, think of reporters and editors as customers and partners. Cultivate those contacts so that when you have news to share, the editors and reporters are familiar with you and your company.
Pitching feature stories about your company or executives is another way to gain the media’s attention. Before you contact a reporter or editor, run a Google search to see if the topic has been covered, and if so, how frequently it has been covered. If the story you’re pitching already has been featured somewhere, look for ways to provide a new angle or contradictory insight.
Submitting a byline can also be an effective way to generate media coverage about your company. Because your column is published in an independent news outlet, the readers are more likely to view the content as important and accurate because it’s passed through the editorial filter.
3. Follow Up
Editors and reporters are deluged with pitches, so don’t feel insulted if you don’t immediately receive a response. Be diligent, but courteous, in your follow-up efforts, and avoid simply resending the same message over and over again, asking if they received your first (or last) email.
If or when you receive a response, provide answers to follow-up questions in a timely manner, as both editors and reporters work on deadlines and need answers as quickly as possible. If applicable, provide links to video or photo files and other background information or sources for the story.
A significant portion of the news that appears in the media, especially business news, is the result of media relations efforts by a PR professional. Reputation, messaging (the right story idea) and timing all factor into getting it right. Follow these three steps and you’ll be on the path to a media relations strategy that will yield tangible results for your business.