Eric Fischgrund is the founder and CEO of FischTank, a marketing and public relations firm supporting clients in industries spanning technology, healthcare, sustainability and financial services.
Getting media coverage for a new idea, brand, product launch, company announcement, etc. is something that has long challenged and often troubled entrepreneurs, CEOs and marketing executives. Let’s be honest, it seems easy.
You just email a reporter and tell them about how great your company/product/announcement is, they email back immediately to set up an interview, and soon an awesome piece publishes on Forbes or The Wall Street Journal, and Good Morning America and The Today Show are planning a segment.
Then you wake up, because the truth is, it’s not easy. It’s frustrating and challenging, and hiring professional PR firms can be expensive.
But there are steps you can take to create a baseline media relations program that, while not the same as hiring an agency, can be effective and productive for when you need it.
- Determine your messaging and audience. Don’t be one of those companies that uses all buzz words to describe your product or service. If you’re in business for the right reasons, your product has sales target. Tell an honest story of how you built the product/service, who it’s for, and why it’s different. Think about these messages and who they’re designed for, because it will be crucial as you…
- …Research the right journalists for your brand. Please, if you take away anything from this piece, let it be this. Find the right reporter by simplifying your process: 1) does the reporter actually write about my topic and industry? 2) is the reporter credible and will my message resonate with his or her audience; and 3) do I feel confident sending them a message and speaking on the record. If the answer to these questions is yes, yes and yes – you’re well on your way to building your first media list.
- Thoughtfully engage with (pitch!) a reporter. If there was a fool-proof pitch concept I could share with Mather Group’s readers, I most certainly would. But there isn’t. The best advice is seemingly the easiest – be authentic and respectful in your approach. Journalists, especially those for prominent media outlets, may appear and in fact often are intimidating, but you should still communicate with them the way you would a colleague. As we’ve already established, they’re the right audience, right? So you shouldn’t feel embarrassed telling them about why they (and their readers) should be interested in your product/service, and make the case for an interview:
- If they say they’re busy or to check back in, that’s fine too. Be respectful of their time and try again appropriately.
- Same approach if they say no. Consider laying off for a while and then revisit the subject again when you have something new to share.
- If they don’t respond at all, don’t be offended. They’re professionals, many of them receive hundreds of emails a day, and it’s not their job to answer you.
But if they say yes?…
- …Be transparent and play by their rules. Don’t try to spin seasoned reporters, don’t ask to see the story first, and don’t act like they owe you anything. Tell your brand/product story but do so in a way that provides value to their readers, not to you. Oh, and once the interview is over? They still aren’t obligated to write a story. Provide value and communicate effectively, and you improve your changes.
- Maintain media relationships. Whether or not the reporter writes about your company or product, keep the relationship going! Send them industry news you think they’d be interested in. Share insight on things that are happening (provide value). Follow them on social media and learn more about them as people.
This overview is really just a formula, and longevity is required for ultimate success. Journalists will sniff out a fake, meaning your ability to provide value and be authentic, is paramount to your ability to “stay in the news.”