A significant portion of any effective marketing program revolves around publicity. After all, your business can’t get very far if no one’s heard of it. Strong media relations, however, does more than just get your name out there. It boosts awareness of your brand, reinforces your professional credibility, and provides an invaluable resource for successful crisis management.
Though it can be overwhelming, creating a successful media relations plan can give your brand a decided advantage in your market. Here are a few guidelines to get started.
Before you jump into the spotlight, take some time to lay the groundwork for a solid business platform.
Set strategic goals. Think about what you’d like your media relations plan to accomplish. Are you trying to build more brand awareness? Boost sales or leads? Increase your website traffic? Also, consider your target audience. Who do you want to reach? How do you want them to perceive your brand? A little pre-planning can help you determine the most effective and relevant media channels to reach your objectives, and (just as important) to accurately measure the success of your strategies.
Find your news – and share it. “News” can be almost any engaging, informative update about your business: a new hire, a new product, a partnership, a white paper, a successful project, a community event, an editorial, or even an article that’s getting good media attention somewhere else. The type of news you share ties in with your audience’s perception of your brand, so it’s important to create a consistent focus and voice. Then, once you’ve identified the stories you want to tell, put them out there. Social media and blog pages are great places to broadcast your latest news – and if you haven’t already, create a special section on your website dedicated to “what’s new” about your business. Just posting regular news may not result in an interview, but the media will still be able to see your brand’s unique insights, interest, and expertise – and perhaps quote or link to your page in their own work.
Develop a media kit if you don’t already have one. Whether online or in print, your media or press kit presents a professional snapshot of who you are and what you do. It reinforces your brand’s credibility, and helps journalists and reporters tell your story more accurately. Media kits can include background or product information, employee bios, photos, samples of press releases or other previous media coverage, brochures, booklets, FAQs, or even videos. The exact contents can vary a little depending on your audience, but they should always be useful to your media contacts, and relevant to the story they tell.
Once you’ve established a clear direction for your media relations plan, along with a reliable news base, you can begin cultivating media relationships.
Make a list, check it twice. Identify the most applicable media channels for your goals, and get to know the primary contact for each one (after doing some research, of course, to be sure you’re approaching the right person). What are their marketing needs, and what kinds of stories do they write or cover? Study each publication or program carefully to be sure your story fits their angle. If you’re working with a specific reporter or journalist, it’s also a good idea to take a look at his or her earlier work.
Reach out. When you’ve got a good handle on the kind of media coverage you’d like, you can introduce yourself to your main contacts.
- Begin by commenting on their other articles with your unique perspective, and provide a contact person in your own organization if they’d like more info. Even if this interaction doesn’t bring any direct media coverage, it still helps your brand stay on their radar.
- Alternately, you can contact journalists and reporters directly via phone or email. Just be sure to personalize your pitch. How is your news relevant and meaningful, and why they should be interested? How does your expertise fit their audience? Even if they don’t take up your story, the more customized your message, the more clearly you’ll be able to identify the news trends that really interest your contacts – and the ones that don’t.
Keep the channels open. Reporters and journalists have busy schedules. Even if they’re interested in your query, it’s still all too easy for your story to be forgotten under the truckloads of assignments they tackle each week. It’s important to keep your media contacts engaged through regular communication, even when you’re not pitching a story directly.
- Include your prime media contacts in the loop whenever you post breaking news on social media – and don’t forget to share any new research, facts, or other information as it develops.
- Whenever media contacts want to interview your customers directly (a great way to add a personal touch to your brand), be sure to send them some background info to help create context. You can even suggest questions for them to ask.
- Be aware of deadlines. Most news organizations are flexible, but if you’re looking for wider coverage on a large project, give your contacts plenty of advance warning. Reminders are helpful, too.
Finally, ace your interview. The time your brand actually spends in the spotlight is perhaps the most important point of positive media relations. No matter how small or informal the opportunity may be, remember: your brand is on display, and it’s essential to look the part.
- When offered an interview, make sure the opening aligns with your brand and benefits your reputation. Do some additional research if the request comes from a media organization with whom you’re not familiar.
- Work fast. When the media asks a question, be ready with a response – or be able to find one in a very short time.
- Answer the good along with the bad. Avoiding or glossing over difficult issues will not only undermine your credibility, but also provide the media with potentially damaging press for the future.
- Be prepared – never do an interview off the cuff. Even if it’s just a brief phone discussion, offer to call right back after you’ve had a chance to gather thoughts, information, or other personnel.
- Find the right spokesperson for the occasion. This should be someone who can quickly and easily answer any questions put to them, and who won’t address subjects outside his or her field of expertise.
A successful media relations plan is essential to generating the right kind of publicity for your brand. No matter how large or small your organization, the relationships you cultivate with your media reps are among the most valuable for promoting public awareness and increasing ROI.