Journalists, like businesses, are in the relevance business. Most of us have jobs because we are able to provide content which is interesting to our particular audience.
Similarly, businesses should seek out relevance over and above all other metrics when looking for media opportunities. If you are a private company selling artificial intelligence solutions to the power generation sector, a mention in the Financial Times might impress the board – but positive coverage in a far more niche publication read by power industry CEOs and tech bosses will help you sell more units.
Think like a journalist
Many companies spend fortunes on marketing consultants who come up with slick mission statements and mantras. But marketing-speak is death to communication with journalists, who prize plain talking. Meaningless slogans like ‘together we are better…just do it…think different’ may work fine on a billboard, but they can get in the way of finding out what is important and interesting about your company if they leak into the PR or marketing communications.
Publications will attract readers all day long if they can solve a problem for them. So focus on the new way your business solves a problem, back your story up with evidence and some original-sound quotes then pitch that story to the most relevant publications you can find.
How to make paid B2B editorial content pay off
Your business may solve a problem for consumers, but that does not mean journalists will see it as news.
So it may be that you need to invest in paid editorial, which will be flagged as sponsored content and which most B2B publications offer.
Although this content is essentially marketing, for it to work well it has to be produced to the same standard as the independent journalism in the publication. Better B2B titles (like Press Gazette!) will work with commercial partners to ensure sponsored content is crafted in a way which is worth the time of readers.
Brands should insist on evidence upfront and after publication on how they are going to get return on investment from marketing spend. Online publications should be able to share detailed information about who is accessing marketing content, how they are doing it and what they are clicking on.
PR and when things go wrong
Many businesses today treat PR campaigns like indiscriminate bombing missions. As if sending thousands of PRs out to journalists and then following them up with often automated emails will lead to anything positive. Often this will just lead to coverage in low-grade sites and a lot of annoyed reporters and editors blocking your emails
A targeted response will gain far better results. There will be a few key publications which engage with the particular audience you are after. Focus on these. Find out the particular editor you need to contact. Make sure you give then a targeted email which explains how what you are sending them solves a problem for their reader. Then, by all means, follow up with as many follow-up emails and calls as it takes to get to a yes or no.
It will not do any harm at all to include something complimentary about the latest piece the reporter or editor has published, or some general flattery, in your email opener.
Why it’s good to talk
Crisis management PR is big business and books can be written about it. My one major tip is that ignoring things and hoping they go away is a recipe for disaster. If your house is on fire you want to chuck a load of cold water on the problem fast, you don’t wait to see whether the blaze will peter out on its own.
When it comes to dealing with journalists, don’t be like the SAS. Their policy of never commenting on operations has fuelled a mini-industry of outrageous tabloid tales which are never confirmed or denied. Better to keep dialogue open and remember that you can always talk on background to provide guidance for journalists without going on the record. #
If you can’t talk about the details of the problem you are suffering, at least talk around the subject and establish a relationship. Journalists are far more likely to give your company a fair crack of the whip if they see it as individuals they have a relationship with rather than a faceless corporate monolith.