Quite often when speaking to a prospective client, the first question I get is: “…so do you have the right connections in the media to get us coverage?”
Are we connected? Does our team have “good connections?” Sure. That’s the easy part of what we do.
The Message. The Story. It’s The Hardest Part.
Crafting a message and developing a story is more an art than a mechanical process. This was the message I recently took to current and potential clients when I was in Israel in March (2008). In meeting with CEOs and VPs of Marketing at leading Israeli high-tech companies I addressed the need for crafting a message that resonates with a company’s many publics including bloggers, analysts and journalists.
In twenty-five years of PR practice, I have found that it is no longer sufficient to build a traditional PR program. The notion of just pitching stories and badgering journalists no longer works. And while I take great pride in knowing that yes, I “know” and have relationships with many leading members of the media, I am equally selective about when I call on them to pitch a story.
The truth of the matter is that what has proven to be the most successful for clients in the last three years has been having them “being found,” when journalists are doing research on story ideas and industry trends.
So Where To Begin?
The first process is to clearly articulate a relevant message based on facts and endorsed throughout the organization. Then you must develop a messaging strategy and deploy a targeted blogger, media and industry analysts outreach relations program. Your goal, at this phase, is to build or strengthen effective relationships with bloggers, analysts and journalists who can not only help you hone your message, but also help you position your company, you technology, your products and your marketplace.
Four Elements of A Great Story
A successful story must have the following elements:
1. Truth and credibility; a compelling “hook;”
2. Independent endorsement;
3. Clarity of purpose and message;
4. An obvious answer to “why should I care?”
You must also know your target audiences and carefully tailor your messages to respond to their interests and to make sure you are found on search engines. A few well-aimed contacts can provide much more value than a random shotgun blast. Equally, tagging, social booking marking and participating in industry blogs can contribute to the entire process.
Case studies and customer testimonials are other important elements that help reinforce a message. Nothing speaks to the veracity of your story like case studies and customer testimonials. While it is not always possible to secure these — especially with a brand new product or technology — whatever you can do to generate third-party endorsements of your products, their performance, or the industry trends or challenges they address can be helpful in providing dimension and perspective to your story. Do not overlook story angles that include collaborators, resellers, partners, referrals, and the like. This changes the story from “he claims” to “they report” and lends credibility.
There is nothing that bolsters your company’s and products’ long-term success more than having a positive marketing story based on verifiable facts and told truthfully. To rephrase an old saying: “make it short; make it simple; but never make it up.” Take part in the conversation; consider developing your own company blog, or at the very least participate and join in on the conversation. Applying the basics of PR and introducing social media methods into the mix will not only increase your chances of visibility, but also add to quality and authenticity of the story you are trying to communicate.