Pitching Smarter: Gaining the Media Coverage You Want

I recently listened in on a webinar hosted by Michael Smart, an independent communications trainer. Michael works with PR professionals to help them land media coverage. Here are his tips and tricks for successfully pitching the media.

1) Frame Boring Content
Chances are your clients aren’t going to have a new product or “earth- shattering news,” every month, but you’re still going to be expected to get them media coverage. This is where framing comes in. You make the clients’ “boring” coverage interesting and relevant. One way to do that is to exploit pop culture. Even if your clients are B2B you can still draw parallels between what their business is doing and what is relevant in pop culture. Another way to frame content is simply to change the format. Think about what format works best for page views. Generally these are articles that incorporate lists, photos or GIFs. Tip: When creating your content try to get a link back to your client’s homepage. This is the best way to get SEO from your site.

2) Apply the 80/20 Principle to Your Media List
One of the biggest hurdles PR professionals face is time. We feel like we don’t have enough time to customize our pitches for each editor in our media list. Michael recommends spending 80 percent of your time pitching the top 20 percent of your media list. Focus most of your time on the 5-10 absolutely crucial influencers. Make sure your pitches are customized to meet the needs of the editor and publication. For the next 30 percent, do your best to briefly customize your pitches. You can send the same pitch to the last 50 percent of editors. You might ask yourself, “How do I know who the top 20 percent are?” All media relations should drive revenue and drive valuation. When determining who the top 20 percent are, think about which publications will have the biggest influence on driving revenue and valuation. Those publications are your top 20 percent.

3) Specific Formulas to Pitch Your Email
Once you have identified your 20 percent it’s time to do your homework. Be sure to reference the editor’s earlier work. Make sure to be as specific as possible. You want to let the editor know what you’ve actually read his or her past articles. Then tie in how your pitch relates. When tailoring your pitch makes sure it is short, specific and sincere. Even if the editor comes back with a “no,” showing editors you’ve done your research will help put you on their radar.

After your top 20 percent start using your database for the next 30 percent. Open with, “I know you cover…” Still try to be specific though. For example, if you are tying to pitch a tech story don’t simply say, “I know you cover tech.” Say something more specific like, “I know you cover start-up tech companies is San Francisco.” For the last 50 percent you can make the pitch very broad depending on the amount of time you have.

Tip: Snail mail editors’ pitches, content or products to get their attention and then follow up with an email. Also, don’t pitch via Twitter. Use Twitter as a way to build a relationship with editors. If they do happen to follow you back you may consider pitching them through direct message, but pitching on Twitter is too public. Many editors don’t want to pitches to be seen by competing publications.

 

Making the Most of Twitter Analytics

I recently attended a webinar where Jimmy Hang, Twitter’s SBM marketing manager, explained how to use Twitter Analytics to inform and improve your business’ marketing strategy.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter Analytics, you can login using your Twitter account credentials at analytics.twitter.com. Once you login you can see how your tweets have performed as well as your follower’s demographics.

The tweet activity dashboard displays your tweets, how many people saw them and what type of engagement they received – retweets, replies and favorites. This helps you see what your followers are engaging with and create content to match what you followers want to see. The best way to do this is to create a content/social media calendar to plan out what type of content you are going to post each day. Again, always be sure you are following the rule of thirds. One third of the content should be about your business, one third should be news and informational tips about your industry and the final third should be engaging with your audience.

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Twitter Analytics also shows you a breakdown of your followers’ demographics. You can see what your followers are interested in, where they are located, their gender and who your followers are following. This is a great way to gear your tweets and blogs for your followers’ specific interests. The location breakdown can help you geo-target news or try to branch out to new cities or areas you feel are underrepresented. You can also figure out when to time your tweets based on your followers time zones.

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Finally, Analytics gives you easy access to Twitter Ads quick promote. This allows you to promote your best tweets outside of your network to users that might be interested in your industry and content. 

Fighting Content Failure and Fatigue

I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks so I thought this topic would be perfect, because it is something we all struggle with. You create an editorial calendar for your blog. You agonize over what to write about. You give it a withy title and pack it full of insightful content. You spend time rereading and editing it. You think it’s perfect, and you are sure that everyone is going to want to read it. You post it online and…nothing. The blog gets a handful of views and maybe a spam comment or two. How can this be? You were sure this post was going to be a hit. What I am describing is called content failure and fatigue, and it happens to the best of us.

It’s Not Your Fault
Millions of great blog posts, tweets and websites go unnoticed everyday. It’s not a content problem. It’s an audience problem. There is just an abundance of content on the Internet. Sadly, great content goes unread.

The Facts
Every minute:
• 571 websites are launched
• 350,000 tweets are tweeted
• 48 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded
• 3,800 blog posts are written and published

What can you and your brand do?
I’ve said this in almost all of my blogs, but it is about quality not quantity. Quality doesn’t just apply to your content. It’s also about your promotion. Brands can step down content production and step up promotion and distribution to get better results.

The solution is content promotion. Identify the key influencers in your industry, pitch them, get coverage and promote the coverage. You can promote it through social media or a content marketing strategy- like a newsletter campaign. You can also pay for sponsored ads or to get placed in the “Recommended News Articles.” These are sponsored links at the bottom of most news articles that are selected for you based on your search history.

Whatever method you chose to promote with just make sure you are being consistent and putting out useful, quality content your readers will enjoy. 

Three Public Relations Resolutions for the New Year

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I’m not a big fan of resolutions. They are so easy to make and so hard to keep. Eat less, spend less, exercise more and get organized. They all seem to center around self-deprivation and denial.  I know it’s good for me, but sticking to it day-to-day isn’t a walk on the beach. Still the beginning of the year does get me thinking about what I can do better. How I can improve and what steps I need to take to do that.

It’s a time to look at yourself personally, but also professionally.  I work with a lot of clients on public relations and time and time again I see the same simple ways they could easily step up their public relations strategy with just a little bit of effort. I am talking about the low-hanging fruit that too many companies just don’t take the time to grab.  Here are three things I think you could do this year to get more recognition and attention in your industry and community.

#1 – K.I.S.S.
I have always thought that when Einstein said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough” he was referring to news (press) releases. I know he wasn’t. He was probably talking about some complex theorem, but it’s still the same concept. You should be able to write a news release about your products or services that the average person can understand. That means cutting the jargon, simplifying and saying it in plain English. Save the tech talk for the spec sheet or the white paper.  Making your releases complex doesn’t get you points. In fact, it loses you readers.  Of course, this means the people writing your releases also have to understand the products and service well enough to explain them simply.

#2 — A picture is worth a thousand words
Photos, graphics, videos aren’t just the icing on the cake anymore. They’re more like the baking soda that makes the cake rise. Instagram just announced it has more users than Twitter; Twitter posts with photos get retweeted more often; and selfies are more ubiquitous as the smart phones that take them. Photos for a news release, media kit and event or product announcement shouldn’t be an afterthought. They increase coverage of your public relations efforts to the point that they should be just an automatic part of the process. Put it on your PR checklist and try to think in terms of good photo opps. And take it beyond the standard product shot.

#3 – Stay on top of digital and social media efforts
Continuous content is the most crucial element for success in a digital or social media campaign. A steady flow of good blogs, Facebook or Twitter content really makes the difference between success and falling flat. The New Year is a great opportunity to put together a social/digital media calendar. Calendars should be flexible and subject to change, but there are some dates that you can map out in advance. Start with any holidays you want to acknowledge on your social platform. Then add in any industry event like tradeshows or seminars, conferences and training sessions. Next, fill in with upcoming announcements or rollouts. By developing a calendar in advance you have a plan to build on and that makes it easier to keep your momentum.

Done right these three things can really make a difference. They take a little time, but very little money and you should begin to notice a difference pretty quickly. 

Keep Tweeting During the Holidays

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Merry Christmahanakwanza…Twitter?

With the holidays in full swing it’s easy to put your business social media accounts on the back burner. However, understanding how to engage with your Twitter audience during the holidays can be of great use to your business.

Have fun with your posts 
Since it is the holidays you can have more fun with your tweets. Post pictures of your office holiday party or what you are excited about for the New Year. This helps show your followers your business’/ brand’s personality. Use the hashtag #happyholidays to promote your brand with a trending hashtag. A Crimson Hexagon study showed that twitter holiday influence continues to increase until Christmas Eve. Also, try to relate your industry to the holidays. Many businesses continue right on through the holidays. Tweeting about having a happy holiday season is a great opportunity to include a link about your products and services.

Fewer tweets means more attention.
It’s true that a lot of people take off the last couple weeks December, but not everyone. Many professionals continue to work and check their social media accounts throughout the holidays. Fewer people tweeting means that your posts will get more attention. Also, work tends to slow down giving people have more time to give their social media accounts the due diligence they deserve. 

Scheduling your posts
Even is you’re out of the office for the holidays you can still keep up with your social media accounts. Use a platform like HootSuite to schedule holiday tweets before you leave. It’s a great way to promote your business and/or brand while still being able to enjoy your holiday vacation. 

-NP

Content Marketing: It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

How PR Pros Converge Media and Content Marketing

Content marketing is a term that’s appeared many times on our blogs. We use content marketing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when we put out our DW Security Update headlines. Despite content marketing being a trending topic in the PR world, many PR pros are hesitant to implement it into their PR strategy. Why you may ask? Marketing. The word marketing throws PR pros off. We aren’t marketers and we aren’t sales people so why should we handle content marketing?

In its simplest form content marketing is building relationships and trust with your audience. You create helpful content for current and potential clients and in turn they see you as someone they can turn to when they need help or information on your industry. This is exactly what PR is.

Why it “Fails”
Content marketing has a reputation of “failing.” The truth is content marketing isn’t failing. You’re just thinking about it wrong. When most people think of content marking they have this general outline in their heads:

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Just because someone reads your content doesn’t mean they are going to buy – just yet. Content marketing is a much longer process. It starts with making interesting, usable content. The hope is people will click on it. If they like what you’ve posted then they’ll remember you. You start to build trust and relations with people. You want to show them that you are someone they can trust –whether it be in the product or service you are selling or simply the information you can provide them. When they are ready to buy they will remember you and select your product or service.

It’s Not All About Sales
Content marketing is not about selling. Of course sales are vital to the growth of your business, but it has to be in the back of your mind. It is about building trust and telling a story. When you are writing content ask yourself these two questions: Why does you audience care about this? And, is this news just about your business? If this is just news about your business consider packaging it as an office memo instead of a press release or blog post. Your primary focus is being an expert and helping potential customers and clients do better in their businesses.

 

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Don’t Forget LinkedIn in Your Content Marketing Mix

Let me start out by saying that I don’t think advertising is dead.  There is a lot of talk out there that it’s limping along as content creation sprints forward leaving it in the dust.  But, let’s be real, good advertising still sells.  That said, content creation has been around for a while, but as a relatively newbie to the marketing tool kit it’s getting a lot of attention. There are some pretty compelling reasons for this. Study after study shows that people respond to informational content.  What catches people’s attention is useful content that provides some insight or understanding.  A good blog – one that tells your customers and potential customers something they need to know — is a perfect example of persuasive content.

The biggest challenge with a blog is consistency and providing useful information.  But, there is more to it than that. Once you have the blogs written and posted your work isn’t done. If you have spent the time and energy to put together a useful blog you have to market it to keep it alive and reaching as many targeted people as possible.  Good content is marketing gold, but only if you get people to see it.  You can create a great ad, but if you don’t place it, it doesn’t sell anything.

There are lots of ways to market content.  Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ should all be part of the mix.  But, I think one of the most overlooked marketing tools for b2b communication efforts is LinkedIn.  We all know (or should know) that LinkedIn isn’t just for recruiting and job searches any more.  People use it to keep tabs on contacts, network with peers, follow industry groups and get company news.

According to reports, LinkedIn has 300 million worldwide users with 100 million in the U.S. alone.  And it’s estimated that 40 percent of those users check their accounts daily.  The average LinkedIn user has 150 connections and many have more than 500.  When you post something to LinkedIn it appears on the news feed of all of your followers (depending on your privacy settings).  If one of your connections sees it and likes it then it appears on the news feed of all of that person’s connections, if one of his/her connections likes it, it appears on the newsfeed of all of that person’s connections and if someone from that person likes it . . . well you get the idea.  The number of people who see your post adds up pretty rapidly and exponentially.  

If your post links back to your website, you not only get more visibility for your content but you also have the potential of driving more people back to your website.  And remember all of this is free.  All you have to do is assign someone (or your agency) to regularly post all blogs and news coverage to LinkedIn. It should be on the check off list along with posting to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

LinkedIn works pretty much like Facebook, but I like it because it is a business platform targeted to professionals. Facebook is great for family photos, funny animal videos and personal opinions, but LinkedIn is for business. When you post on your company page that post appears in the news feed of everyone following your company. These are people who have shown an interest in you. Keeping them updated is important and should be a priority. These are your evangelists – people who will spread the word for you.

Airport PR: Art on the Go

If you travel a lot like I do you’ve probably experience that split second of confusion getting off an airplane.  That moment when you think “Where am I and which airport is this again?” I mean they all start to look a look alike – gray walls, blue carpets, big glass windows and lots of people.  If you’ve been immersed in a book, work or sleep for the last three hours and only fed pretzels and diet soda it’s easy to forget where you are. 

Some airports try to spruce things up with scattered art or colorful tile murals, but it’s really nothing that catches the imagination.  I recently made a trip to a large convention in Atlanta.  Now, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International is not my favorite airport.  It’s bigger than big, busy and crowded.  And it seems to be perpetually under construction. 

I typically take the underground tram to baggage claim. Usually an overcrowded mode of transportation where you have to jostle with other passengers just to find a spot to brace yourself for the jerky stop-and-start-ride. Instead, this time I decided to walk.  Well, I didn’t really “decide” to walk.  I got off too early because the electronic signage on the tram wasn’t working.  But, my mistake actually turned into an unexpectedly pleasant detour. 

Between T gates and concourse A I stumbled upon a gem of a little art exhibit.  Doing some quick research later I found that it’s called “Zimbabwe Sculpture: A Tradition in Stone.”  According to the airport website it’s a permanent collection of 20 contemporary stone sculptures from Zimbabwe.  Most of the pieces are large with simple lines and varying textures.  The artist do all of the work by hand – no power tools allowed – and then they hand sand and polish selected areas. 

The themes are universal with an emphasis on family, women, children and nature. I am not an art critic.  I appreciate it, but I really don’t know what I am talking about.  All I can say is that these pieces made me stop and look. I appreciated the size and simplicity of them and the feelings that each sculpture evoked.  The photos I took don’t do the works justice.  (Did I mention that I also have no background in photography?) I think you have to see these pieces for yourself.

So, I appreciate the airport’s efforts to make my journey a little more inviting.  It was a short respite, but fully appreciated.  I have a much better feeling for one of the busiest, if not the busiest, airport in the world.  Of course, the new free WIFI didn’t hurt.

Have you had the same experience?  Let me know if you have run into any unexpected pleasant surprises during your travels through airports.

 

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Common PR Myths

 

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As a small business you want to promote your company in the easiest and most cost- effective manner possible. While we can’t all foot the bill for a PR firm be weary of these common PR myths.

1.Any press is good press

This age old saying only applies if you are celebrity. While Miley Cyrus’s career may be benefiting from bad publicity, your business won’t. Arguably an unknown, small business may see a slight increase in sales after a bout of bad publicity, but this is a losing strategy. You want to focus on putting out the best product and the best content for your business. Good press is good press.

2.All you need is a press release service

It is easy, albeit expensive, to put your press release on a wire service and watch it get coverage, but that doesn’t mean you are necessarily getting the right coverage. Even though you can customize who gets your release through services like PR Newswire of BusinessWire, the best coverage comes from pounding the pavement. Find out who the key influencers are in your industry and pick up the phone or send an email to get coverage for your business.

3.You don’t need social media

It is hard to measure social media ROI, which can deter companies from putting in the time and effort to grow their social media channels. Social media is a great way to gain exposure, increase traffic to your site and improve your website’s search ranking.

4.You don’t need to advertise.

PR is earned media, which means you aren’t directly paying for it. Advertising is still a great way to bring in new customers. Advertising is also a good way to build better relations with editors when it comes time to implement your PR strategy.

5.Good products don’t need PR

Just because a product is good doesn’t mean you should publicize it. PR can help expand the reach our your product whether it be in a niche market or a preexisting one. If you truly have a good product, the more people know about it, the more they will buy it.

It is also important to note that the cost of a publication plan designed and implemented by professionals often pays for itself. Choose an agency that will become a real partner, get to know you business and help you reach new targeted audiences.

PR Pitching 101

As a PR pro you want to find influencers, pitch stories and gain coverage for your client.

How Do I Find Influencers?

The best way to find influencers is to ask yourself what your end goal is. Are you interested in making a new connection? Are you pitching a story? Do you have a new client or are you expanding into a new industry where you don’t have any contacts? These questions should help guide you when looking for new influencers.

Take the Time to Know Your Influencers

Once you have narrowed down your search it’s time to learn a little bit more about your influencers. See what they have recently written. Start following them on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn. This helps them remember you when it comes time to pitch. Also, editors and reporters might tweet personal things like, “At my kid’s soccer game,” or “enjoying my vacation.” This is a good way to know that they probably aren’t going to have time to read or respond to your pitches. Interacting with an influencer on Twitter also helps when trying to achieve the elusive Twitter pitch. A Cision research survey of reporters and editors shows that, “Twitter pitches go smoothly when you have already engaged with the editor or reporter on Twitter.”

Pitching

After you have done your homework it’s time to pitch. When pitching, whether it’s be email, phone or social media try to be as helpful as possible. Offer to schedule any additional interviews with a client/expert, be able to answer any questions he or she may have or even offer to write or package content for them. You want to make it as easy as possible when pitching your influencer. Also, as a  rule of thumb, never send attachments. Send everything in the body of an email. Editors and journalists do not have time to open your attachments and large attachment files may slow down their email.

Organizing your coverage

Once you have pitched your influencer and they have agreed to place your coverage make sure you ask them when you can expect it to appear. Do this for every piece of content you place regardless of how big or small the coverage is. Gather the coverage and organize it neatly and concisely in a coverage report. This shows you client ROI.