One of the most frustrating feelings for any professional who knows their company is doing great work is that of hearing only crickets after trying to share their story with journalists. Sincere as you may be in your belief that you, your business or your product are newsworthy, there are several common mistakes likely hiding in your blind spots from being too close to your own story.
Mistake #1: Not understanding what reporters really want
Journalists are looking for stories that: 1) they’ll enjoy developing and, more importantly, 2) their readers will want to read. Especially in the digital age, publications are accurately gauging views and engagement around articles to see what content gets the most attention.
So, step outside from the value you personally get from your business and ask yourself, “So what?” What about your story would resonate with people both in and out of your particular field, offering value to a media outlet’s broader audience? What is unique about your story that makes it stand out from others; offers insights into broader, popular emerging trends that can capture the reader’s imagination; or provides valuable and interesting perspective for application beyond your own particular industry focus? That’s the so what.
Mistake #2: Being shamelessly self-promotional
Related to the previous mistake, being too self-centric means not understanding that your story is often just part of a much bigger one. Instead of focusing on trying to insert your product or services into every aspect of a pitch, offering perspective on the broader industry from the point of view of an insider can make for a stronger story and expand your relevance as well as likelihood for inclusion in a reporter’s coverage. Look for trends you’re seeing in your industry that may be impacting or running parallel to other industries because of some greater factors. If farmers find their crops are negatively impacted by a drought during an economic recession, the story isn’t just that food prices will likely go up but that it will happen when people’s wallets are much tighter.
Although your company may specialize in a specific service that only relates to particular industries or professionals, think of ways to apply your perspective or proprietary tools to demonstrate your capabilities in creative ways and tie in with new angles. For example, a company that specializes in SEO optimization for large corporations could apply their data tools around Google Search to develop new insights around trending news stories. While this might be outside the scope of their offered services, providing timely and unique data-based insights on regional searches relating to a seasonal event like holiday shopping or serious news topic like economic trends can demonstrate the company’s expertise around Google Search and tie into stories with crossover appeal for their target audiences—especially at tier-one news outlets, which can focus heavily on both business and human interest news.
Mistake #3: Not Saying Enough
Afraid of giving away the secret sauce to your company’s success? If this fear is keeping your pitches or even conversations with reporters from achieving the end result of actual coverage, your high-level strategy is likely translating into vagueness and hyperbole for anyone on its receiving end, making for no real story at all.
It’s important to clarify early on what you really can’t say due to any partnership NDAs, intellectual property or other proprietary company information so you know what you can actually offer up for the media when the opportunities come. Doing this will help you make sure to provide enough information to validate your position and give meaningful content for reporters to include you in their coverage, as well as save time and money in developing and executing your PR strategy.
Mistake #4: Saying too much
Just get to the point. Reporters, editors, and producers are under a constant barrage of pitches coming in through email and by phone. They will likely skim an email if the subject line is interesting and read through only if you can hook them early on in your pitch. On a phone call, more likely than not, they’ll be busy and suggest you send a note.
If someone is free to talk, make sure you don’t waste their time or they’ll regret hearing you out. If you have a new product announcement, are offering expert commentary, or seeking to develop a contributed article — whatever it is, clearly state what you’re offering and why it’s newsworthy and relevant to their audience within the first few sentences. Once you have their interest, that’s when you fill them in on the whole story.
Mistake #5: Relying on copy & paste messages
Are you using a copy-and-paste pitch or generic script when conducting media outreach? If so, you should slow your pace and try a more personalized approach. By addressing your contact, mentioning aspects of their reporting, and relating how your company has relevance for their particular audience, you’re much more likely to pique a journalist’s interest and keep it. You’ll have much more success seeking out recent coverage relevant to your industry and connecting with the journalist behind each story with a brief personalized message that hits on points shown to be most important in their reporting.
Mistake #6: Not being flexible
Ultimately, the greatest way to increase media coverage is to try new things and find what works best for you. It’s important to try different strategies from offering commentary and contributed articles to leveraging internal tools for data and research, to even executing a clever stunt to generate some buzz. News announcements can work well for targeting niche publications already familiar with your products or services and are important for promoting your company’s hard news with the targeted trades. But, if you want to grow your media presence by breaking into new verticals and more mainstream news outlets, you’ll need to connect the dots and find your place in new, bigger storylines that still make sense for you and your brand.
While media outreach may be a small part of your broader marketing strategy and take longer than paid campaigns to generate results, remember that earned media can deliver unique value and validation that ads and sponsored content never will. Like anything earned, it takes work and time to see the payoff. If you feel like you’re hitting a wall at every turn with your media strategy, don’t give up. Rather, take a step back to assess your current messages and look for ways to be more flexible and creative with the storylines you’re offering. Find ways to contribute to bigger stories rather than trying to own every headline outright. You don’t always need to be the star. Gaining smaller inclusion with a new publication is a great way to develop relationships and awareness within the broader journalism community, build relevance as a resource and plant seeds for future coverage down the road.
For tips on landing the perfect media interview, download our “Sweet 16” eBook!