Media Requests: When to Say Yes and When to Say No

When you’re pitching an up-and-coming brand, raising the profile of a little-known executive or promoting your business in a new market, the process always looks the same in the beginning: countless pitches go out the door with very few media requests rolling in.

Until, at some point, momentum starts to build. Now, journalists who wouldn’t answer your emails are replying back with follow-up questions. New journalists are reaching out and asking for interviews. Outlets you’ve never worked with are calling to see if they can ask you a few questions.

So How Do You Choose the Best Media?

When you’re proactively pitching media, you’ve got a clear objective. This month, for example, Uber’s PR team is pitching stories to introduce their new in-app chat. Facebook’s PR team is hard at work driving coverage around the company’s redesigned video tab, Watch. Soundcloud’s PR team is telling anyone and everyone that they’re living to fight another day.

But when you’re assessing requests reactively, the objective isn’t always as clear. What seems like a straightforward interview from a respected trade publication can turn into a reputation-damaging story without proper vetting and consideration.

So how do you figure out which ones to go for and which ones to pass on? Here are three critical questions to ask each time a new opportunity presents itself.

1) What are your business priorities?

Incoming PR requests are like big shiny objects—they look real pretty but can be enormously distracting. The purpose of any solid PR strategy is to align with a specific business goal—whether that’s driving users to an app, a new video platform, or a music streaming service they thought was about to go under.

When your inbox starts getting noisy with requests, here’s the first and most important question you want to explore with your team: what are our short and long-term business priorities?

You can bet that, on the back of Uber, Facebook and Soundcloud’s recent announcements, they’re seeing an influx of incoming PR requests. For those that are focused on further promoting the company’s announcements—a clear business priority—their respective PR team are likely seriously considering them.

But if, at the same time, Soundcloud’s CFO is being asked to be profiled by a reporter they’ve never worked with for a trade publication they don’t follow? That’s probably going to be a no.

And, at this moment, rightfully so.

2) What’s the journalist’s track record?

For any of us who’ve lived through a crisis communications event, we know that the old adage “any press is good press” is, in fact, completely false. (Uber would agree with us.)

When you pitch announcements proactively, you’re more likely to accept opportunities with hard hitting reporters. But as requests roll in, you have the ability to be more selective. As John McCartney, Managing Director, West Coast of Wise Public Relations offers this sage advice, “Not every outlet is the right fit for a brand. One needs to really see the treatment a media outlet gives to their stories. Are they snarky? Are they hard hitting?”

To find out, you want to thoroughly research each and every journalist that sends a request (even if they’re just asking for a comment or statement). Check their social media updates. Google their past coverage. Look at their Linkedin profiles. Use your media database to track down their history of covering your industry and brand, their beat, their story and angle preferences, and any other noteworthy tidbits you can find about their work.

Is their coverage aligned to the type of reporters you trust? Let this answer guide your decision.

3) What’s the relationship at play?

No one needs to be told that PR is an industry built on relationships.

The final consideration is who the request is coming from. Have you been building a relationship with the journalist or media outlet? Is it a reporter you have a good rapport with? If the answer is ‘yes,’ it’s an easy yes. If it’s not a journalist or media outlet you know or, after researching, care to forge a relationship with, politely decline.

As your pitching efforts take-off, stay away from the knee-jerk reaction to accept each one that comes your way. In the long run, it’s far more strategic to say no to those that don’t align with your brand values or business priorities, aren’t led by journalists you know and/or trust and don’t further important industry relationships than to drag your brand into a media storm unnecessarily.

Make your work easier by using a media database to help you research journalists and the media outlets they contribute to.

10 Reasons Your Organization Needs an Internal Newsletter

Most communications pros are focused on getting the word out, not in. But, as we’ve recently covered, internal communications are important and there’s plenty of overlap between the priorities of a PR professional and the internal newsletter that might come from your culture or HR team. Whether you have a newsletter dedicated to your media coverage or not, any intra-company newsletter is an opportunity to keep everyone in sync.

For PR and marketing pros, newsletters are a great way to tout successes, make sure everyone understands a brand’s message and tone. It can also serve as a central document to gather resources for your organization, with links to brand graphics, a style guide, and access to a social media guide. Having this info front and center can cut down on valuable time spent looking for these resources.

When embarking on an internal newsletter strategy, remember that the values you want your company to reflect should be the values underlying your newsletter content.

Here are some ideas for what to cover, your organization’s internal newsletter can:

  1. Funnel content to internal pipelines. When working in a large office, it may be difficult to find information about what other teams are doing. And the reverse is true as well. You might be more successful targeting outside media than your own colleagues. Make sure they know what you’re up to, and encourage them to share as well.
  2. Promote social advocacy and provide guidance. Keeping track of social platforms that an organization participates in can be daunting. An internal newsletter can help promote brand channels and make sure everyone is aware distinct strategies for each one and specific messages to share.
  3. Reinforce brand voice, style, imagery, and personality. Quick do’s and don’ts can go a long way in keeping everyone on their toes. Plus linking out to key documents will be useful to anyone creating presentations and reports.
  4. Highlight evergreen content. An internal newsletter can be a resource for sales and other front-facing colleagues to parse evergreen content to the public. Make sure they know about your great thought leadership pieces.
  5. Highlight customer case studies and bring in suggestions for new ones. Case studies are a great sales tool, and an internal newsletter can highlight new and relevant clients that are using your product or services.
  6. Complement existing company collateral and resources. An internal newsletter is a weekly, monthly, or quarterly examination of what the company finds important. It broadcasts what management and internal comms deem important to an organization at a point in the company’s evolution. It can be a platform to welcome new employees, announce new product versions, highlight the company’s successes, and ask for input on a rebranding. In this way, it reinforces the messages and information in all the other content that your company produces.
  7. Highlight cross-departmental collaborations. Calling out collaborations and results on a company-wide platform helps those involved feel appreciated and encourages more sharing of ideas and resources.
  8. Reinforce transparency as a mindset. Having a newsletter opens up a line of communication that doesn’t clog up the email inbox. As comms pros, we know that the best way to start a conversation is to provide the subject and the platform. At the very least, an internal newsletter can be the jumping off point to discuss company values and employee culture.
  9. Share news updates. If a newsletter is implemented right with a predictable cadence, it can be an invaluable mouthpiece for internal stakeholders throughout the organization. The resulting content can be a 360-view of what is going on in an organization. The material can be as diverse as a recap of the CEO’s recent “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session; the sales team’s exceeding their monthly sales quotas; issues with a recent product launch; or highlights from the social media team.
  10. Include industry news, trends, and insights. No matter how innovative a company is, competitors are a healthy part of any industry. That’s why highlighting the achievements, as well as the missteps of close competitors, can give employees insight into how to do their jobs. With a media monitoring solution in place, a company can monitor their own, as well as competitors’ keywords to see how well their social media accounts are leading to engagement. From this info, they can perform competitive analysis to share with the entire organization.

With the challenges of brand protection, doesn’t it make sense to cultivate a strong employee culture? Now, that newsletters are easy to produce, the question is not “why start an internal newsletter?” But instead, “why not start a newsletter today?”

Speak to us if you would like to learn more about creating a Newsletter.

4 Massive Trends in Communications and PR Your Brand Needs to be Dominating Right Now

The marketing world is constantly changing, and the environment we operate in today is entirely different from what we were working in even just two or three years ago.

The field of marketing communications doesn’t have quite the same fast, flashy developments that are emerging in many fields of digital marketing. But it’s still evolving at a steady pace, driven by constantly-shifting consumer habits and expectations. The brands that fail to keep up are at risk of fading into irrelevance.

How well is your business executing on these increasingly critical PR and communications trends?

1. Influencer Relationship Management

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Many traditional communications channels like mass media, celebrity endorsements, and product placement are quickly taking a backseat to an explosion of wildly popular “influencers.”

An influencer can be nearly anyone with a widely-heard voice and respected opinions, like a hot radio DJ or talk show host. But today the most popular and effective influencers tend to be online: bloggers, YouTube stars, podcast hosts, social media entertainers, etc. These individuals may not always have the largest audience, but they often carry a lot of respect and sway within a very targeted niche.

Earning the attention, favor, and trust of influencers either organically or through paid means is an incredibly effective (and usually very cost efficient) way to get your brand and products associated with whatever thoughtful insights, hilarious comments, valuable information, or unique personality quirks that make them popular. But engaging and interacting with influencers requires a unique strategy; they’re frequently not experienced public figures with agents or established systems for brand partnerships. Often they’re just busy professionals who run a podcast in their spare time or young bloggers that aren’t even old enough to have a career yet.

Creating and nurturing relationships with these kinds of personalities requires a delicate touch and a thorough understanding of an influencer’s audience, niche, and content.

Many PR and brand marketing executives are realizing this and recruiting digital marketers specifically to manage their influencer marketing campaigns and relationships.

The world of influencer relationships is still immature and wide open to proactive brands. But the longer you wait, the harder (and more expensive) it will be to get the attention of the right influencers that engage your target audiences.

2. Online Reputation Management

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When people Google your business, what do they see on the front page?

For most organizations, the first result will hopefully be the company home page (if it’s not, you have bigger problems to deal with). But unfortunately, the rest of the SERP is often filled with less-flattering content, like negative news coverage, a Yelp page packed with unfavorable comments, or a Facebook wall littered with customer complaints.

Over 80% of buyers do research online before making a purchase decision. Rest assured they’re not only reading about your products; they’re also evaluating your brand.

Unsurprisingly, they’re more likely to buy if they like what they see. But if they encounter unflattering content, reviews, and news associated with your business they’re likely to look elsewhere.

Good online reputation management doesn’t mean just covering up any non-positive mentions of your business and products online. It means putting yourself in a position to avoid that negative attention, proactively generating positive stories and press to balance out unfavorable content, and responding appropriately to criticism and complaints. A deft PR leader brought in with a public relations executive search can even turn negative experiences into powerful, positive press.

3. Tracking and Analyzing Your Communications Initiatives

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There was a time, not long ago, when businesses didn’t really expect to know how impactful their PR and external communications efforts were. They’d just issue some announcements, publish some press releases, maybe have a press conference, and hope for the best.

Today you should expect much more from your communications team. The PR industry alone will be a more than $13 billion dollar industry this year, yet many business and marketing leaders will have no idea whether those investments are paying off.

If you’re not tracking the impact of your communications, you’re probably wasting your time. An exact, hard dollar ROI value might not always be possible. But you should at least be able to have a good idea of basic KPIs like brand awareness and favorability, social engagement, quality traffic driven, etc.

Just as importantly, you should see active efforts to test new communications tactics and improve your strategy over time.

Need some help measuring your communications success and building analytics systems? Work with a good marketing analytics agency or bring in some analytics staffing.

4. Internalizing and Streamlining Communications Teams

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Matters of public relations and communications have often traditionally been handed off to specialized agencies. However, in today’s fast-paced media environment many brands are finding more success insourcing their communications teams, bringing in new leadership through communications executive search, and cutting out the middle man.

A communications opportunity–or crisis–can appear and spread in the blink of an eye. Your brand’s window to respond to them in the most effective way is often very short.

But when you need to be fast, agency channels slows things down with an extra layer of internal processes, approvals and gatekeepers. And as important as a time-sensitive opportunity might be for you, there’s no guarantee your agency will have the interest or ability to prioritize it over their obligations for other clients.

That’s why it’s best to be prepared with aggressive marketing communications and PR recruitment to stock your business with a team that’s intimately familiar with your brand voice and strategy and can act directly under the direction of your communications executive.

Third party partnerships still have a place in the world of marketing communications as buzz generators or connections to valuable media relationships (though a PR executive search might be needed to find a leader who can choose the right agencies). But it’s probably wise to ween your business off reliance on someone else for your own communications strategy.

To learn how to spot trends in PR, download our latest ebook and add these valuable skills to your public relations toolbox.

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This article originally appeared in MarketPro, was written by Mark Miller from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.