With budget cuts felt across the corporate board, netting significant media interest is now more important than ever, especially considering that public relations (PR) as a genre is a practical, lower cost, high gain business expansion effort.
That said, let’s fast forward to the congratulations: say you’re a small to mid-sized non-profit with little success for your public relations efforts past. Well, a new dynamo of a Director who knows the media system whets its appetite with a story of, say, a local family racing hot-air balloon style, cross-country for your charity. Boom—two news channels, one newspaper, and three online journalists take the bait. After all the garnered buzz, you paste clippings to your wall whilst in wait for local crowds to charge the door, donating time, goods, and vitally: money!
…And you wait. Did the phone not ring off the hook as you anticipated? Did the crowds of philanthropists not amass? After all that publicity??
Certainly public relations, according to ANY reliable marketing guru, is worth its weight in gold. After all, if the media doesn’t know you exist, neither do potential sales targets (numerically speaking) at-large either. However, most business folk are under the gravely mistaken impression that PR placements (a high-end intellectual skill set in itself) and the airing of them is the end-all of the process.
Truth is, the consumer-attraction process begins with the media spot: that commercial, ad, interview, article, whathaveyou actually is the intrigue piece, that which nets initial attention. Yet, it is not the media’s responsibility nor function to drive down marketing costs, nor send masses to your door, even when the message conveyed is time- and action-infused to pique the specific interests or needs of your target audience.
Again, this is NOT the media’s job…it’s yours. Why? Simple mathematics really: unless you plan on spending tens and hundreds of thousands with ad and PR agencies, your notoriety piece is limited in focus and interest. Since the advent of the MTV Generation, ours is a short media attention-span, and we’re always eagerly latching onto the next story. Therein public relations spots run dry quickly…its staying power and sheer numbers reached are your responsibility alone to engage.
Larry Ahrens, Albuquerque broadcast-cable media expert, and CEO of business marketing/consulting firm extraordinaire: “Grab This Idea” Marketing, has decades of relevant expertise in this concept. He states that, ideally to be noticed by media during your initial pitch, “the first, last and only thing you must do is – be interesting. If the media segment or interview is about your business or something related to your business, be interesting with what you say. Drop the industry jargon and doublespeak. Have a point of view, make a point and make it relevant.” Relevance is key to both your audience and your pitch. If you’ve trouble discerning one, think in terms of a thesis or main point that resonates with that cross-reference of both potential consumers and the specific medium’s target viewership.
Secondarily, Mr. Ahrens notes that the sole mistake he discerns courting media is attempting to use the opportunity as a sales query rather than what it should be: a brief and poignant business narrative: “The truth is nobody will buy from you based on a media soundbite or a newspaper interview. Your media ‘moment’ is best spent building your brand and leaving an interesting, positive, memorable impression of the kind of business you are.”
With this advice in mind, how does the businessman take on additional tasks of publicist with relative comfort and considerable return for effort? Absorb these six simple tips into your repertoire of skills and you’re set:
Viral Responsibility: All of these tips are based upon the sole foundation that you write about your garnered attention as an experience itself via the apropos resource: newsletter, personal website, LinkedIn-Twitter-Facebook (the social network trinity), email group ‘send’ to both customer base and friends. Should you incorporate some type of clever buy-in, where the reader gets some kind of reward for liking and, most importantly, forwarding on the news to their own networks, you’ve created a viral experience of its own accord, exponentially rewarding you in return with new business interest.
E- Resources: Did you know that mainstream media, the kind corporations and individuals alike all dream of being placed in, now get most of their stories from internet writers? Where the original PR move was to bombard national venues with media alerts, now it’s far more appropriate and intelligent to net that attention from the dot-com genre, who are being courted daily by such paper powerhouses as The Wall Street Journal. So engage them all, with direct relevance between the site’s focus and your topic (it’s not our job to make the connection, no matter how obvious one believes it to be).
Community Event: the relevance of your information must be a resource to your circle of clients and partners. In that vein, you can list the placement itself, and its accessible release as an event to the community. Scores of local paper and electronic news sources exist for you to place the event of your news, for free, wherein your publicity will be regarded as a learning opportunity for those that avail themselves to the article, interview, or clip itself; meanwhile, you will be further regarded as an expert within your field to a wider audience segment. Also, recall the last statements discussed under the previous point: national media at large is watching the popular e-columnists that are watching you.
Business Organizations: Also, remember to list that community event with local business organizations related to the topic of your media, now released. Do this for the self-same reasons you would alert your community: the readership of the initial piece skyrockets, your credibility hitches a ride and none so much as business organizations look for the next expert to come and share his insight with the group. In fact, you may want to wisely offer your availability to lecture amongst those you’re sending the release information; many on the prominent speaking circuit are booked in just this fashion.
Media Queries: Queries may be formally placed within your business email or more casually cast to the business public, such as I will do, included within that medium’s professional circles. I consider it my own ‘casting call’: those eager for the public exposure jump on the chance, firing off media releases, written pieces, and general profile information into my related message account. They’re very smart, because I as New Mexico’s Business News Examiner get a good deal of my stories in just this fashion. So remember, with press queries of any nature, do respond quickly and adeptly, keeping your information perfectly germane to the querent’s angle. Journalists adhere to strict deadlines, so the sooner your response, the more likely you’ll be both viewed as a valued resource -and- featured in an upcoming story. Relevancy is key, as editors will become put-off should you forward too little, too much, or worst, irrelevant content they cannot use.
Here’s your learning exercise of the day: challenge your next business week by including points 1 through 5 into your schedule. Spend two hours a piece working them, and the returns will enchant you.
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