Nothing upsets a PR more than seeing good ambitious companies waste valuable news opportunities.
Why? Two reasons, I think. Firstly, for most companies, particularly SMEs, real ‘news’ opportunities are a rarity, coming along once or maybe twice a year at the very most – so they really should be coveted, and optimised to the max. Secondly, publishing company news is among the most important external communications a company can make.
Survey after survey shows that even in a world of declining social returns, company news still attracts strong social media traction and positive responses. In addition to this, industry surveys also point to the fact that the media retains a very strong influence on C-level purchase decision makers, ranking alongside peer word-of-mouth in terms of being a key third party reference point.
These are very real benefits, so when an opportunity for real news comes up, it shouldn’t be squandered. Instead, real publishable news should be planned for, and incorporated into weekly management meetings, forming the spine of your communications plan. Built up over time, news stories dramatically increase your SEO, strengthen your digital footprint, and build your credibility.
Unfortunately though, here are some of the ways that many companies actually react when faced with real news opportunities:
1. They do nothing
This is the most common: doing nothing. This can be because companies don’t recognise the true news value of their milestones, or they are simply overtaken by other events. The net result is the same: a valuable opportunity to tell your story simply withers on the vine.The best way to overcome this is to appoint a suitable person to this task – either from inside the management team, and/or by outsourcing. Whichever route you choose, make sure that the individual on your management team whose function it falls under really ‘gets’ PR and its unique long-term value to your firm. Weekly or fortnightly updates will ensure that every opportunity is identified and acted on appropriately.
2. They write a press release (but don’t send it out)
Surprisingly, this is also common. Unfortunately though, in order to reach your audience, your press release requires a writer to read it, act on it and report it. Surprisingly, some firms write a press release, publish on their website, but make no further effort to communicate or ‘sell’ it to their key writers.
Are they hoping journalists are combing industry websites looking for their news? Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that – getting your news published is a very pro-active task, requiring research, pitches, and follow up calls – and getting any news published without some or all of these steps is highly unusual.
3. They issue a press release (but don’t research their journalist audience properly)
Again, surprisingly common.In my experience, the core journalist audience for every tech company is usually no more than a handful of individuals in a small number of publications. I recently saw a PR firm offering ’50,000 publications’ and ‘150,000 journalists’ in ‘80+ countries’. These sort of numbers are easily bought, simply by using a newswire service and spending indiscriminately. Sounds impressive, but to be honest, not really much use. The real trick for your PR is to whittle them down to the influential handful, who will read your release and hopefully publish your story where you want it to be seen.
4. They allow a third party to send out their news as their own
This frequently happens to SMEs, particularly where funding bodies are concerned. I have seen some extremely newsworthy firms reduced to no more than a namecheck in a list of other firms, as someone else makes their success about themselves. If you are going to be in a news story, make it about you and your success, rather than making up the numbers in someone else’s announcement. Take centre stage.
5. They send out important news at a trade show
On the face of it, this looks like a great idea: after all, the industry journalists will be there looking for stories. Great, except many other firms will be doing exactly the same, many of them bigger than you, so you are very likely to be lost in the background noise. The bigger the show, the more likely this is to happen.
For trade shows, I always go for ‘previewing’ instead. It is true that many trade journalists gather at shows, so it makes sense to make use of a trade show’s press office, who will issue your announcement and make sure it makes its way into press packs. However, release it as a ‘preview’: that way you can offer journalists the ‘exclusivity’ of an early look, while reserving the launch at a time that you can resource it properly, and when you have the floor to yourself.
PR is about recognising your company news opportunities for what they are, being prepared, and sweating them to make the most of them. To a professional PR, none of this is rocket science. But it does take preparation, research, and concerted effort to get the best result possible for your firm. In return though, you get profile, publicity for your firm and its products, validation, increased reach, a much improved SEO, and a credible addition to your firm’s digital footprint.
No other communications activity offers returns like these for the effort and outlay. And over time, you can build a proper, credible story, tracked and validated in your industry media. For more information on how to take full advantage of your media opportunities, contact me here.