An effective media relations program should not be overlooked as part of a broader marketing and communications strategy to build awareness of your brand and convey your key value points to target audiences.

Pound for pound, PR can provide greater bang for the buck than traditional advertising. Conveying your key value points as part of a news feature or with a bylined thought leadership article that does not overtly promote your products or services often carries more weight and does a better job of seizing readers’ attention than an ad. But not just any media coverage will do. Your efforts should be applied to those media that:

  1. Focus on your market or industry sector and have an interest in the kind of stuff you do.
  2. Have the circulation numbers and audience reach to move your market.

It can take considerable time and effort to research and identify the media that meet these criteria. Even more to engage with each of these outlets one on one to introduce your company to them and discuss where and how your story could be a fit with their editorial plans.

So here is my top 10 list of key things to keep in mind when trying to garner coverage in the media, which may also provide you with a deeper appreciation of what defines “effective PR” and the challenges good PR practitioners face.

1) It’s not about your agenda: If you’re an Apple or a Google, it’s easy to dictate the terms of engagement to the media. If you’re not, it’s a different playbook altogether. You have to offer journalists what they need when they need it, which takes research and picking up the phone often, which far too many PR people are loathe to do.

2) Sometimes this is spelled out for you: Many publications, especially niche players like trade or industry pubs, plan out specific coverage of an industry, sector, trend or area of business development months in advance. It could be content for a section of a few pages, or to fill an entire issue. These “editorial calendars” can provide insight as to when and how a particular publication may be interested in your story, or in your perspectives on the state of your industry. It has been my experience that calling up an editor about an upcoming issue can often lead to additional coverage opportunities.

3) Be flexible: Often, the best way to get exposed through the media is to be a source of comment on a particular area that impacts on your business. The journalist is looking for subject-matter experts for a story he or she already has in mind. Depending on the opportunity, the best way to take advantage of this may be by offering a senior thought leader in your organization as a source to be interviewed, or by providing a reference customer who can talk about their experiences (though bear in mind they will likely not be able to blatantly promote your product or services).

With many trade and industry pubs, having willing and articulate reference customers who are primed to talk to the media is not only desired, it is the only way to secure coverage.

4) You can get whatever you want, if you’re willing to pay for it: No, that doesn’t mean that if you buy an advertisement you will get a story. If you insist on your message being told your way, subject to your approval, the journalist’s answer will most likely be “Our sales and marketing department would be happy to hear from you. Here’s the number. Bye, bye.” If what you want is an ad, then buy an ad.

5) Very rarely will you have final approval on the article as a whole: At best, you can push for the right to double check facts and figures that the journalist will include in the story and verify any direct quotes from yourself or your staff that the journalist intends to include. For this to be a well-rounded news article and not a promotional piece, don’t expect you will be the only source, and that leads to the next point…

To be continued next week…

Leo Valiquette
E-mail: [email protected]
Direct: 613-769-9479