Three Surprising B2B PR Tips to Secure Media Attention

By Chancelor Shay —Director, B2B & Infrastructure Development
Twitter: @chanceshay

If you’re not on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence-controlled robotics or have the fastest supercomputer in the world, it’s probably hard to get journalists and media outlets charged up to talk about your B2B brand. Brands that struggle with this typically fall into the trap of believing every editor is interested in their niche position in the B2B world and talk (or type) ad nauseam about what it is they do.

Nobody cares.

Even if it’s a trade publication and the writer covers your vertical, they still don’t care.

What they do care about is writing cool stories their readers will dig and doing their job well. Your PR success depends on your ability to help them achieve that goal.

Here are three counterintuitive steps to secure more coverage while wasting less time.

The best stories aren’t about your brand

Most media outlets don’t like to dedicate an entire piece to one vendor. They’re job is to tell stories that will be as interesting as possible to the greatest number of readers. Unless your brand is already a household name, this means that the most impactful story pitch will tell your customer’s story. The outlet’s readers can relate to your customer because they are just like them. A story about how your customer did something awesome (and how you played a role in it) stands a better chance at being picked up than raving about how innovative your product/service is or its features and benefits.

Don’t talk about your product/service

If you’re proud or excited about what your company does, go tell your mother. If a journalist was already interested in your brand, they’d already have reached out to you instead of being on the receiving end of your pitch. Instead, develop a pitch to address what your customers (a.k.a. the outlet’s readers) are dealing with. Speak in terms of their pain points. The odds are that that your company isn’t nearly as cool as the ecosystem in which you operate. So, bring in as many different perspectives and folds to the story as you can so that the reporter or writer can envision an engaging story with a story arc that shares real-world challenges and not just free publicity for your brand.

Be the oil can, not a squeaky wheel

Any PR pro will tell you that if you ask 10 different journalists how they like to be pitched, you’ll get 10 different answers. However, one thing is for sure – PR pros’ jobs are to make the journalist’s job easier. This means helping the journalist write about something they’re interested in covering rather than trying to convince them that they should write about something interesting to your brand. Do you want to be the kid crying on the playground for attention or do you want to be the kid who brought the Pokémon cards to recess? When you approach pitching the media from a service mindset and ask yourself, “how can what I or my client know help them reach their goals” (see tip #1), you’ll become a resource to reporters. You’ll have to start by reaching out to the writer and in two sentences summarizing their recent coverage and writing style (to validate you know who they are and what they do) and then offer up a C-Suite executive in your company who has a reputation and can help the writer make sense of topics they’re interested in. After they use your spokesperson for the first time, then you can start pitching them your own story ideas.

If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, check out our post on How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets.

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(W)right On Communications won a Silver Bulldog Award for Best B2B Product Launch for our work on this campaign. Read the full case study written by the Bulldog Reporter for in-depth tips.

How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets

Earn media coverage in major news outlets

The Wall Street Journal is the world’s most influential business news outlet. For subscribers of our agency newsletter, The Strategist, we recently put together this helpful infographic on how to earn media coverage in major news outlets like The Wall Street Journal.

It outlines 12 steps to catch the WSJ’s attention for your business, nonprofit or client. These steps can be followed to earn media coverage in any major news outlet:

This approach is how we earned coverage in the WSJ for our client, EVS, as well as a retweet by Arianna Huffington to her 3 million Twitter followers and an inquiry from a Fortune 500 technology partner. Such is the power of The Wall Street Journal.

SUBSCRIBE: Get our quick, timely communications ideas and insights each month.

(W)right On Communications won a Silver Bulldog Award for Best B2B Product Launch for our work on this campaign. Read the full case study written by the Bulldog Reporter for in-depth tips.

PR Best Practices Can Restore Public Trust in the Post-Truth Era

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


It is not business as usual in the media industry.

Some say we’re in a post-truth era. One thing is for sure: the role and honesty of spokespeople, the press and state-sponsored fake news has us all talking. And, it turns out, this controversy has had an enormous impact on public trust.

Trust levels in the U.S. and around the world are measured by the Edelman Trust Barometer. This annual report provides an in-depth analysis of trust in the U.S. breaking it down by trust in the media, CEOs, businesses, experts, NGOs and more. This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed a crisis in trust in America. The deep plunge recorded year over year was akin to a stock market crash.

It found that  63 percent of the U.S. general population struggles to distinguish between what is real news and what is fake. Trust in U.S.-based companies dropped from 55 to 50 percent continuing a decline that began in 2014. Trust in NGOs fell from 58 to 49 percent.

This is the environment in which public relations professionals, their employers and clients are communicating. Information from most sources is greeted with skepticism or outright disbelief by the public.

So, here we are. The scarcest commodity in the U.S. today is trust.

Last week, I interviewed Lynn Walsh, project manager of the Trusting News project to find out how the media is working to restore trust with its readers, viewers and listeners. This week, I’m asking how PR pros can work to restore trust with the public?

The answer is to stick to PR best practices and good media relations fundamentals and to recommit ourselves to the crucial role that public relations best practices play in building and restoring trust.

Let’s Refresh on Media Relations’ Primary Goals

Media relations strategies typically start with two high-level goals in mind.

The first is to raise awareness of a brand’s story and messages with its target audiences through well-placed articles, features and other media mentions.

Since earned media cannot be bought, unlike paid media (advertising), it is more credible—with the public and with Google too. Have you noticed that news articles in major media outlets have a much higher search engine ranking? That’s because the websites that they’re published on have a much higher search engine authority, so Google ranks them higher. (This can cut both ways: it’s awesome when the news in such links is great, and terrible when it’s bad.)

The second goal is to influence perceptions and preserve or build an organization’s reputation.

This starts with ensuring media coverage is accurate and fair. It continues with proactive strategies to communicate a brand’s excellent financial performance, corporate social responsibility program, product innovation or corporate culture.

As brand storytellers, the PR team is approaching these communications as an ongoing process or narrative and not as a one-off event or announcement.

When both of these goals are achieved, the news stories topping your brand’s Google search results are the stories you’re most proud of and not the cringe-worthy ones. Plus, you maintain your organization’s trust with its stakeholders (customers, employees, constituents, vendors, partners, patients, donors—whoever you need to keep onside in order to operate effectively).

In short, PR’s first goal is to get you into the media spotlight and its second goal is to ensure, once you’re there, that you’re lit to show your best side so that your audience applauds, or at least understands, your behaviors and decisions versus throwing tomatoes at you.

Along the way, we apply media relations best practices: knowing what’s newsworthy, building good media relationships and being authentic, timely, accurate and transparent.

Truth and Accuracy are PR Best Practices

We are also ethical. Most PR professionals are members of the Public Relations Society of America. As such, we are expected to uphold the society’s professional code of ethics (PDF). This means that we are advocates for our clients and respect their confidential or privileged information, while also being honest, accurate and truthful in our representations to the public. We take responsibility for the authenticity of the information we represent in our communications and outreach.

It’s not an easy task. Public relations is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, and it’s not a thankful task to be the media spokesperson when the chips are down or the heat is on. (That’s one big reason why so many of us appreciate our thankful clients and employers so much.)

But, here’s the point of this refresher. Ethical PR that follows PR best practices like transparency, accuracy, authenticity and timely communication is what builds trust.

And trust matters. It has an ROI. There’s even a name for it: brand equity. When brands and people are trusted, they’re valued. When things go wrong, trusted people and brands get the benefit of the doubt. When you look these benefits, an investment in PR best practices makes incredibly good sense.

If this resonates with you as either a PR pro or someone who can influence a company’s PR strategy, I encourage you to fight for PR best practices, to remember that PR is not happy talk and spin. It is also tough talk and the hard work and soul searching that sometimes come when tough conversations are required with your stakeholders.

Remind your colleagues in the C-suite and at the board room table that when they hold strategic communications to the same high standard as you do, the public will hold your brand in higher regard. And when your brand consistently communicates with transparency and truthfulness, you’ll earn the public’s trust. Trusted brands have higher valuations because trust is a precious commodity. So, stand up for standards and stand up for trust.

 

Best Media Training Tips

By Julie Wright —President

Twitter: @juliewright


Our agency meets every two weeks for in-house training and recently Practice Area Director Chance Shay shared his best media training tips in a fun session he titled “Crushing Media Interviews.” I’ve participated in or delivered many media trainings, and I liked how Chance’s presentation so concisely shared our agency’s media training tips. So, I’m sharing a recap here.

To avoid a media meltdown, follow this four-step media interview process and our best media training tips:

Step 1. Screen the Opportunity

When you see a media interview go bad like this British interview with Quentin Tarantino, the culprit is typically a lack of preparation combined with an unrealistic expectation as to how the interview was supposed to go. When things don’t go as we expect, some of us—like Tarantino—will lose our cool (which makes great, if cringe-worthy, television for the rest of us).

Screening requires basic fact finding to ensure the opportunity is a good fit for you and that you prepare appropriately.

Chance’s best media training tips started with reviewing the outlet’s and writer’s past coverage. Is this media outlet and opportunity a good fit for your business and its goals? Is it a top-tier media outlet, smaller and scrappier blog or trade media that look for advertising in exchange for editorial coverage? Will the writer do their due diligence and apply a professional code of ethics such as the Society of Professional Journalists’ code? (The established rules of journalism are not always followed or respected by many new media outlets and blogs–from pay-to-play to twisting quotes to fit a partisan political agenda.)

A blogger seeking clicks has a different goal than a long-form magazine feature writer or a local TV news reporter needing video for broadcast, video for the webs and an article for the web. Print and online journalists will often want video to accompany their stories as well.

Find out who else the reporter is interviewing for the story. Are you one of many voices or are you the only person speaking to your side of an issue. They may or may not tell you who else they’re interviewing, but it will certainly help you better prepare if you can find out.

If you’re not clear what it is that the reporter wants from you for their story, ask for more details or clarity. If their explanation doesn’t make sense to you, it is okay and often safer to politely decline.

If this is an opportunity you are interested in, it is important to get the reporter’s deadline and commit to the interview well before that time. I have seen clients hold out until the last second and, as a result, miss the opportunity. The reporter wants to complete all interviews as early as possible so that they can write the story. The longer you wait to provide a comment, the higher the likelihood others will shape the story and your quote will be placed at the very end of the article, if it gets included at all.

Step 2. Prepare for the Opportunity

Take the time to prepare yourself by drafting or reviewing your key messages and talking points.

If you don’t have these already, start by narrowing down the main points you’d want to communicate. Pick your top three. Practice them in front of a mirror or with a friend.

If you are expecting challenging questions during your interview, brainstorm all of the worst rude questions you might be asked and practice your responses to them. That way, when the nasty question arises, you’ll be relaxed and able to respond without losing your cool.

During our discussion of preparation methods, Chance was asked by a participant whether it was true that Sarah Palin had refused media training. Famously, she did and famously, it showed.

Step 3. Interview Smart

“After all of this, it’s go time,” Chance said. “If it’s an outlet that’s challenging for your client or client industry, you can still get a great win.”

During the interview, remember your ABCD’s.
  • Acknowledge the question: “I’m glad that you asked that.” Or “I get asked that question a lot.”
  • Bridge to key messages: “That’s a great question that I get asked a lot, but what’s really important to people is / what our customers ask is…” These phrases help you move from the interviewer’s questions to your key messages. More examples: “Let me answer that question by putting things into context…” “Let’s talk about something I’m even more familiar with…” “Well the answer is no, but what is really important here is…”
  • Conclude with proof points: “… we know that because we did a customer survey and 95% said…”
  • Dangle the next topic if you’re feeling lucky: “… and it’s dang cool software design” or “… and that discovery leads to a really surprising new problem to solve.”

Chance’s best media training tips included being brief. The less you say, the more poignant and quotable your points are. It also lets the interviewer be engaged so they can ask questions and leaves them wanting more. It’s easy to drone on, especially when a reporter is interviewing you by phone and taking notes. Just because the reporter hasn’t asked another question, doesn’t mean you need to fill the void with ramblings. Make your point and wait for the next question.

Avoid negatives or charged words. A “problem” is a “challenge.” You don’t “hate” something, you “prefer its alternative.” It wasn’t a “failure” but a “learning opportunity.”

Recent media research shows that the media don’t have a political bias. They have a bias for ‘negative’ angles. Conflict sells. When everything is going smoothly and harmoniously, there’s no news.

Remember during your interview that nothing is off the record and the camera is always rolling. What you say before or after the interview can be picked up by a hot mic. Chance’s best media training tips include not saying anything you don’t want to see all over the Internet.

Be conscious of your energy level and body language. Your nonverbal communication can say more than your words. Voice, gestures, posture, eye contact. Avoid eye rolls or big sighs. And if it’s an on-camera interview, dress for the part.

Step 4. Follow Up

Correct any inaccurate statements or provide more follow-up to clarify content from the interview. This could include emailing a full study or images and other links to the reporter. If you have an agency or PR department, they will often take care of the loose ends.

But you can still debrief on the final published story to look for opps to improve for next time.

Chance shared additional do’s and don’ts among his best media interview tips. It was an excellent session but it is no replacement for a full, customized media training session including on-camera practice that is based on your industry, your company’s needs and your own level of comfort in the media hot seat.

To learn more about getting our best media training tips in a customized session for your team or your media spokesperson, please contact us at (W)right On Communications. Call (858)755-5411 or email info@wrightoncomm.com.

HR Communications: You can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame

Communications

By Katherine Beaulieu─ Communications Strategist

@katstubborngoat


It’s every HR Communications staff person’s nightmare—posting an excellent job opportunity that isn’t attracting top candidates while having a hiring manager full of helpful suggestions, like “Why don’t you advertise in Arizona?” or “My brother just hired someone through LinkedIn, why don’t you try that.” or “Can’t we just post the job in the Wall Street Journal?”

If you’re already trying every tactic in the book and still can’t attract top talent to your company, one simple place to start your analysis is with your job ads. Maybe you can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame.

What makes a job ad lame? All the same things that make any marketing and PR efforts lame – which mostly boil down to not connecting with your potential audience. Are you writing a job ad that sells an intriguing experience or are you writing one that reads more like a legal waiver with grave consequences if its breached?

Businessman in troubles Free Vector Think about how many resources your organization invests into reaching out to new customers and developing new markets. It’s a process that usually includes writing key messaging, identifying consumers’ pain points and developing a memorable brand.

Now think about how much time you’ve spent developing your job ad. Think about the time you spent identifying the key messaging, studying your target markets and identifying pain points. Have you put much thought into it?

For starters, have you looked at the job from a “What’s in it for me” standpoint?

  • What turns your target audience on? Do they like autonomy, or do they prefer a more structured environment?
  • How does this target audience gain a sense of accomplishment and how does the job deliver that?
  • What does a good day look like? What are the amazing milestones the employee can expect to hit?

Recent statistics listed the unemployment rate at 4.8 percent in San Diego County, compared to 5.3 percent for California and 4.7 percent nationwide. By many economists’ measures, this is nearly full employment, which means finding top talent is getting a lot more competitive. If your job ads speak directly to qualified candidates, you’re going to be one step ahead of the competition.

Kat Beaulieu has expertise in HR marketing and communications—from upgrading your job ads to developing full employer brands. Reach out if you’d like to chat about your HR communications needs.

No Shortcuts to PR Glory, Then or Now

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


How PR Worked Before the Internet…

I started out in PR before the Internet or email. It was the era of fax machines, the Yellow Pages and 400-page media directories that you combed through to research and build your media lists. There were few shortcuts on the way to mastering your PR skills, but in some ways, all of today’s technology and automation tools might actually be shortchanging entry-level PR people and getting in the way of developing PR fundamentals.

Back in the day, once you had your list built, you then had to call each reporter until they picked up the phone and then use your verbal skills to hold their attention more than eight seconds to pitch your story. Those calls helped you develop a thick skin, fast. That real-time feedback taught you which approaches worked or didn’t.

Unfortunately, in today’s email environment, you’ll never really know what they loved or hated about your pitch. (Unless you follow @smugjourno or @DearPR to monitor Tweets from journalists losing their s*** after being addressed with the wrong name for the 10th time in one day, sent another off-topic pitch, distastefully news-jacked or sent a 120 mb attachment.)

In the pre-email era, entry-level PR pros had to work the phones but that process made us better, faster.

We had another tool beside the phone. It was called the fax machine. Part of paying your dues was standing over one feeding it hard-copy press releases with your fingers crossed, hoping to hear the modem answer. (If you don’t know what a modem sounds like, it’s kinda like a DubStep drop.) That sound let you know that your brilliant press release was transmitting.

http://img.memecdn.com/father-of-dubstep_o_166238.jpg

If you were sending a fax to a busy newsroom, you could often expect repeated busy signals and multiple attempts to get your press release through. Faxes could only be sent one at a time. You could punch in several fax numbers, but they’d be delivered sequentially and not simultaneously.

Think about that, for a moment.

You, literally—and I mean literally–experienced the sensation of your pitch colliding and competing for bandwidth with other pitches. The idea that your pitch was one of hundreds being sent to an outlet or reporter was not just a concept. It was something you actually heard and saw.

Anyhow, damn. Those days could be a real grind. Some labor-intensive, inglorious work. Like walking uphill both ways to and from school. But it was just what you had to do so you did it.

So, here’s my point: While the tools may have changed, I honestly do not think that the fundamentals have.

PR still requires an awful lot of legwork to do right and over the past quarter century, I have found that there is no substitute for that hard work—particularly as you are starting out. Generating a Twitter following, mastering Facebook’s algorithm, researching blogs for your thought leadership project—it’s a different grind, but to succeed you’ve got to do the work.

jw-quote

The practices I learned in the early 90s as an entry-level Gen Xer gave me sound fundamentals. It was a methodical process—detailed, diligent and it kept you close to your media contacts. You worked hard to find each contact and cultivate it. You knew the value of each contact and sent your pitches out into the world with each recipient in mind.

If I wanted to target my client for a radio interview, I had to listen to that radio show. If I wanted a trade or consumer magazine to feature my client’s project, I had to read the magazine. There was no website to consult or Google to search.

You had to be dialed into your media list, totally aware of who each contact was and why the hell they’d want to do a story on your news. I think this is one of those basics that has been lost in the race to automate our work, and it is the bane of the remaining working journalists who are inundated with off-topic email pitches. It’s also the bane of PR professionals who know that it takes time to do this job right but get pressure from clients who think PR is just distributing press releases to massive lists.

What Can You Do Today for Maximum Career Growth & Success?

What would happen to your pitching skills and PR instincts if you adopted these old school practices. What if you voraciously consumed the very same media you were expected to earn coverage in? What if you approached every single media contact on your media list like a wedding guest—knowing their background, your relationship to them, whether they’d want the ribeye or the vegetarian option and who they’d want to sit with?

I tell you what. You’d be successful. You’d be a rock star.

In today’s environment of cheap, plentiful and immediate information, taking pains to research and document each entry in your media list probably makes you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

Stifle that impulse. Take the time. If you have a passion for communications and telling great stories, then focus on your fundamentals. Do what might feel like drudgery. It’s called paying your dues. We all did it. If we wanted it, then we did it.

So if that’s you, don’t miss the opportunity to shine because it looks like hard work.

Put that extra care and attention into your work. Invest extra time in your day for attending a webinar to build your knowledge. Spend a little extra time every day reading up on your industry and talking to the more experienced people on your team about what you’re learning to get their take and advice.

And for god’s sake, show up. Network with journalists, other PR professionals, peers and business leaders. Volunteer on a committee so you can practice your leadership skills outside of the office to get more confident contributing during team and client meetings.

It may sound old-timey but work hard, pay your dues, take chances with your new knowledge and you will get noticed and rise quickly. I assure you, don’t be afraid to do these things for you will have one of the most exhilarating and rewarding careers imaginable.