I’ll explain PR with a parable: when two people are introduced, they’ll most often kick off with a casual conversation: Where are you from? What do you like to do? Where did you go to college? Who do you know here?
What they’re really doing, is probing to find a shared interest or a common ground. And, if they’re successful, a little click happens.
That little click is precisely what PR can facilitate by identifying what people already want and then connecting it to what you want them to want. And don’t underestimate that connection. It’s strong. It’s an authentic level of relationship between you and your customer that no other medium can achieve at scale. A paid advertisement can support click moments, but not induce them very easily. It is at this intersection — where common ground is identified and a click happens — that you can actually work to change what someone wants. And here’s how to do it.
Then vs. Now.
Ten years ago PR was reliant on the all-powerful press release. Social media wasn’t dominant back then. Things are a little different nowadays, but the essence of PR hasn’t changed. We now have an opportunity to engage and relate directly with customers through social media. Remember: social media itself is neutral. It’s just an interface through which relationships are facilitated. And that’s nothing to be afraid of!
Fact: ten years ago, there were 150,000 journalists in the United States. Today there are less than 50,000, even though there are more than 5 times the number of media publications than there were a decade ago. These days, reporters don’t have time for the volume of incoming requests from those seeking attention from the media. It’s only a select few of the most energetic PR dynamos who have backstage access to the top reporters, and this is a full time occupation. For the rest of us, backstage access is closed. But shhh. There’s another way to get backstage, and identifying it is our work in this article.
Why are press releases significant?
Contrary to popular notion, the intent of PR is not is not necessarily publication in the WSJ or NYT, especially when you’re interested in reaching a lot of people… but it’s the rotation that’s triggered by the press release. Even PR repositories like Yahoo will likely be socialized and that puts things into rotation on social media. It’s all about the rotation.
What do reporters want to write about?
Identifying and then delivering the story a reporter needs, well that backstage pass is nearly ours. And what a reporter needs is a relevant, credible story. A story that’s relates to trend or an industry they’re focused on. A reporter doesn’t want fluff or waffle — obviously. They also don’t want jargon nor superlative — “awesome this, and fantastic that.” Stay credible, relevant and current. Let’s look at exactly what this means.
To come up with a story, look at what influencers are talking about in your industry. Here’s where your story begins. Next up is taking
The characters in your story are a) current trends and b) an industry-changing aspect of your product or creation. Your story will need to stitch together a) and b) in a believable and matter-of-fact way and voila, relevance is born. You now have a story. After all, the reporters who you want to get your story will be looking out for these important factors: a current event or a breaking trend — and a good story to hang the event or trend on to. You want the effect on the reporter to be, “This is going to be someone that I’m going to want to write about.”
It’s worth mentioning that you don’t always need to give reporters stories about you or your product. If you have your ear to the ground, you can also just give a reporter a news tip. It’s a kindness, and helping journalists with scoops creates a strong bond with the reporter. Now you’re someone the media wants to come back to, and now you have your backstage pass.
What if I’m a startup without a brand or credibility.
As a startup with no brand or market credibility, you have the opportunity to get coverage through contributed articles. All major publications are desperate for these because journalists and reporters don’t have the mental resources these days to write about, let alone learn about, all the new movements being hatched and all the new stuff being made. When you contribute an article, it has the same weight as earned media because it has the blessing of the publication itself. And the best part? You don’t need a reporter, you can do it yourself.
Making PR click.
To make connection points that click, do the following:
- Ask yourself what’s a major issue or trend in your industry that you’re trying to change or fix? Not technical or specific or too granular but rather think big: industry, world, life, business, health.
- Find a trend that you can jump onto that’s just breaking in among social media influencers within your industry. Social media influencers are usually the highly opinionated bloggers with lots of followers.
- Connect what they’re trending or talking about right now to what your product can do, and make it into a pitch that’s simple and articulate — and free of superlative.
The effect is not only good fodder, but this also facilitates the need of a reporters whose ability to be first-to-tell is key to their own credibility. It also gives you one opportunity after another to keep coming out with new stories by simply taking a trend, and connecting it with how your product is innovating or making change in its industry. Click.
Where to be seen?
Are you conscious of what is your audience is reading? Are they looking at Forbs? Techcrunch? Or Medium and Twitter? Are they only reading industry publications and local news?
Well, if it’s all of the above, your tactic should be the famed 🔥firestorm🔥 technique: you identify your target, and you surround them with media from multiple sources. Social media, big publications, local ones, industry journals etc. all as part of your strategy. This multi-pronged approach forms the impression that “you’re everywhere” which is very good for credibility.
How the blogger sphere works.
This sphere can be divided into two:
1. Blogs that we’re all familiar with, like Mashable, Techcrunch etc. but they really function like journalists. They tell us what’s hot.
2. There are hundreds of organic blogs… they are called “influencers”. They tell us their opinions.
These little industry influencers are what many reporters rely on in order to validate their stories. Consider them third-party validators. Why? Because they’re they’re authentic, honest and opinionated and well, 3rd party.
Research firms like Forrester are called analysts (as opposed to influencers) and are another source of 3rd party validation. Both influencers as well as analysts function as early warning signals of upcoming trends that will likely precede those of which TechCrunch and Mashable will be looking for.
Getting in early is key to identifying the right influencers can be a firehose of ideas for your press releases that click.
The three types of media.
Earned Media — the media you get placed through personal effort.
This includes social media shares, reposts, reviews, mentions.
Paid Media — the media you get placed through your hard earned cash.
This includes paying for clicks, display ads, retargeting and even paying influencers influencers. Paid content promotion and social ads are part of this too.
Owned media — making a destination of your web and social media properties.
This includes your website, your social media properties and your blog.
What kind of content should we put out?
Social content, ad content, PR content, industry and product announcements, promotions more. Content can also be thought leadership driven — sharing insights and expert ideas. How do you choose what content you’re going to use your valuable time creating? Well, the answer is the content you’re most equipped to put create. You don’t have to do it all. You just need to focus on one thing that’s within your scope and just do it. If you spread yourself too thin, you’ll end up neglecting doing any of it.
Have you ever considered doing a Twitter Round Table?
A Twitter Round Table is an organized a discussion within a particular industry on a topic where you present ideas and get a couple influencers to participate. Conjuring up and hosting an online event like this requires nothing but simply doing it. Identifying and then inviting influential Tweeters is appealing and amusing for any industry audience and sets your social brand to “neutral.” Your audience finds this neutrality valuable because it’s safe and nurtures conversation. In other words, your social media presence isn’t all about prodding and promoting, which is very one dimensional.
The value of the CEO to the press.
The CEO has to have the time and willingness to parley on any topic or any story that the reporter is writing about. It doesn’t really matter if you’re the world expert in a given topic, as long as you can speak with confidence and strong opinion.
As a CEO, when a reporter is covering a given topic even if it’s at best remotely related to your story, your job is to support their story through your lense. What you’re doing is using hijacking in a sense, the trending news topic as the common ground in order to facilitate the story needed to make a click. You’re also helping a reporter out.
With the CEO’s presence, credibility is more easily and quickly acquired. My advice to all CEOs is to go out and be a thought leader by connecting current trends to how your ideas are changing things within your particular industry.
Channel and venue overload.
Given the sheer volume of channels, it’s overwhelming to keep up with. When I see CEOs spending all day on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram etc., I ask myself how they’re effectively running their company. And the truth is they’re probably not. One way to navigate this is to share the burden in your entire organization and get them to post. You can use a tool like Yala to manage that collaboration on Slack. Of course, if you’re going to have the whole company posting, you first need a policy about style, voice, subjects etc.
Twitter: hot or not?
As far as earned media, Twitter is by far the most pervasive and it’s going anywhere in the immediate future. Granted, Twitter’s viability is in question but who cares… let the academics banter it out. If you’re engaging influencers, media, Twitter is the place to do it. Twitter is huge. Customers use the phone, they use email. Businesses, thought leaders, the media and influencers all use Twitter right now.
Get an influencer without spending much.
If you’re bootstrapping, regarding paid media, brand-ambassadors are perhaps the most bang for your buck. Bloggers who are hungry for money and have a big following are often eager to be an ambassador for your brand. For $500 or so, you can get ambassadorship at events and tradeshows, via social media. It can be tricky to track the value here so proceed with caution, but a good ambassador can drive lots of love.
Three kinds of social media.
Using the news
Look at the current news, steal a topic that’s envogue, connect it to your story in a way that’s amusing or informative.
Look at competitive landscape, and see what your competitors are blabbing about. You can also harness negative sentiments to address them to your advantage.
Using the public
Look at what articles or industry stuff you’re reading. Let ideas from trending articles inform your social media. Don’t pressure yourself in trying to come up with posts from scratch. Create debates and dialogue on this material.
Never a monologue
Just do not talk to yourself on Twitter. You need to identify where your audience is receptive and attentive and share their space.
The Tools people use.
Here are some tools the pros use:
Media and Influencer management
Sprinklr, Vision, Augure
Social media management and monitoring
One final comment about social media: content is still the most important asset.
When you’re doing social, see to it that the information you put out is valuable, sincere, honest. Things like debates and round tables are superb additions to your strategy.
Lessons for us.
PR and social media are often misunderstood by small businesses but because there’s no cheaper way of getting publicity off the ground. That, and the fact that nothing has the value and the impact of PR so if you’re a small business or someone just starting out… just start somewhere — anywhere, and just keep swimming!