Just because it’s exciting news for the company doesn’t mean that the media will care about your pitch. It’s important to understand how to produce content that respects what the media needs, to be published as a creator, or to be avoided as an irrelevant spammer.
I had some success in securing news stories. Many times, work would come from polarising industries – I’ve done PR for both an animal feed producer and a SaaS cybersec startup. Through failure, I managed to grasp what’s hot and cold for journalists of different beats. Yet still, many top 50 places remain out of reach. Just like for you, perhaps. It might be my lack of skill, but there are also the directives we all have to follow. I think that now, I have the courage to explore that. Hopefully, with these conclusions, you’ll refocus on producing content that the media wants.
Are “we” that cool?
In a utopian vision of my Manhattan agency bureau, my clients follow my lead. I might not be a national sensation, but I listen, and with their trust, doors open to many recognizable media. But in the reality shared by my agency friends and me, there are clients who unintentionally derail our PR efforts. The mantra goes like this: “X published a story about our competitors – when will we be there?” Simple: when we’ll agree on story ideas that appeal to people.
Brands tend to be egoistic. With the management considering over time as a natural part of their workday, they can’t help but praise themselves. So it happens that in their communication with the media, they start with “we.” On so many levels, there’s the “we” mindset throughout the press release and in the rushed statement from the CEO. Yes, it is important that your company is on a roll. Do talk about investments, new technologies, awards, and partnerships. But don’t expect much publicity from it, as from the media’s perspective, the very existence of a company isn’t that interesting. However, its relationship with people is. So, we have to be compassionate.
If you ever wanted to alienate strangers at a party, then just talk about yourself. The more you brag, the fewer listeners are there. It’s hard to stand an egoist as they make us feel worse about ourselves. Without a strong focus, we all become one for a while. When you feel lonely enough, try the opposite – talk about what matters to the listener and watch others flock in. The same principle applies to brand communications.
It’s safest to assume that the media knows best on what makes people tick. They select PR pitches that are interesting to their audiences, who in my view, are hungry for either advice, opinion, or entertainment. Just think YouTube – the views say it all. Company announcements are just a small bite of daily news. They are usually published to show market movement or because the story is about a big player.
Tell them the good news
Have you ever noticed that the world’s most profitable brands inspire rather than sell? Nike – one of my favorites – talks about empowerment and equality. Emirates Airlines presents the richest flying experience imaginable to many. And when Baumgartner did the 39 km stratosphere jump sponsored by Red Bull, I didn’t see a soda can in his hand. Even with pennies in our own budget, we should learn from the great ones. They step aside and understand that their clients come first.
So, with the proper mindset of creating content for the people, how can you get published outside of brand news? Let’s break down what makes a good news story – but without the “he said/she said” drama:
- Relevance: The pitch presents a similar story to what has been previously published by the medium.
- Change: The world has changed again; new problems appear; societies behave differently; businesses changed direction.
- Impact: This change will affect the lives of many and there’s a new future ahead.
- Proof: We know this as opinions, studies, or facts show that.
To see whether this concept would work for you, recognize the work of other players in the industry, then look outside of it. If you study enough news throughout the year, you might notice a strong correlation between the “vitality” of a story and the quality of these elements.
When strategizing PR, think of any brand as a content house. To craft compelling stories for the media, explore:
- Pitching a collection of links to the news stories that present the problem your company aims to solve
- Compiling public research into an infographic or an executive summary report
- Sharing a CEO opinion piece about recent news or an industry trend
- Responding to your competitor’s claims
- Offering access to key employees as industry experts
- Giving access to keynote footage from prominent events
Remember that you can automatically receive your competitor’s publications by email by playing around with Google Alerts. That should be enough to wake up your creative genius. Just aim to do better than them.
I assume that you’ll need at least two approvals to bring more humanity to your PR after reading this. I’d be happy hearing you chuckle now, but so often, that’s so real in that field. Don’t worry. To win your case for the client’s sake, try the power of contrast. Explain why your brand news might appear to be egoistic and what could change with a little bit of empathy while giving examples of comparable campaigns.
For more great tips and tricks, check out more of our PR 101 series where we break down everything you need to know to sharpen your PR skills. After you produce your killer content, learn how to garner coverage with our blog Public Relations 101: How To Land Coverage in Top-Tier Publications!
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