The most effective way to increase your brand’s presence in independent news media coverage is to hire a PR agency. The right PR agency can give something invaluable: an outside view of how your brand can contribute to the topics that reporters are working on.
Think of the latest news article you read about a product, issue, or market that pertains your organization. You sure found errors in it. Perhaps these were small details, but there may have been big misses too. It may have been a matter of perspective. In any case, they left you with a feeling that the reporter “didn’t get it.”
This type of reading happens to professionals in every industry. For example, the technology industry is now under antitrust scrutiny. Facebook is frequently in the news for their content moderation problems. When media reported on an advertiser boycott as a huge risk for Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg countered that the boycott was a reputation issue, not a business issue.
Zuckerberg was right if you look at Facebook’s financial results, which go from record to record. But if you look at the news, he was the one who “didn’t get it.” Content moderation is important for the public because it affects them personally, in their politics and in their relationships with their friends and family, often mediated over Facebook. The issue might be secondary to Facebook’s business, but it’s crucial to the public. That’s why reporters are on it.
A PR agency is in the perfect place to pick this. Working with reporters all day, they can tell you how they are approaching any current issue. This approach is bound to be different to yours. Keep an open mind and think how your knowledge can add to what the public knows. Your PR agency will help you at this by coming up with questions that reporters are likely to ask. You’ll then work together at answering them.
If you do a good job at this, you’ll help make coverage better by removing the errors you found when you first read it. That’s really valuable to the public, and to reporters, and you will be rewarded with a bigger presence in news coverage. If you don’t do it, coverage will continue to be wrong. A missed opportunity. If you do a bad job the entire thing can backfire.
Despite the old saying of “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” negative coverage will disrupt your operations, and could cause lasting damage to the organization and to its leadership if left unattended. What they call a crisis. A crisis can happen whether you want to leave reporters alone or were trying to show up in the news.
So how to avoid a bad job? The key thing to keep in mind is that independent news coverage is never guaranteed. You just don’t know how it’s going to come out until you see it. If you think it is guaranteed, it just means it is not independent. Paying for news presented to the public as independent is just poor content marketing. It’s nowhere as effective, could be unethical, and even illegal.
Trying to get media coverage? Remember that journalists don't work for you.— Michelle Garrett (she/her) (@PRisUs) September 7, 2021
This & more tips straight from the journalists themselves in my latest post.
Journalists Sound Off on How PR Pros Can Improve Media Pitches https://t.co/ovk4kzId3Q#PRtips pic.twitter.com/jsGgLSuwvv
That’s why having an outside view is beneficial. Your PR agency will help you prepare to answer media questions you never thought of, so that the public can understand the issue like you do. Don’t ask reporters for questions in advance: that just means you are too scared to prepare yourself. And never ask to see coverage before it runs: that just means you don’t trust reporters you’re working with. They are independent, remember? If you don’t trust them, don’t give them interviews.
Often, just one good story with your point of view in a relevant media outlet is enough to change the beat. That’s the power and the magic of a good PR job. Go for enduring relationships with reporters willing to hear from you. One famous such relationship in the tech industry was between the late Steve Jobs and Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. Jobs would personally call Mossberg to share certain news announcements. They were not friends but colleagues who treated each other with respect and had a mutually beneficial relationship. Occasionally, your colleagues can even help you change your mind.
Fred Cook of Golin remembers Jobs going over a list of reporters and picking the ones he would call himself. Jobs wasn’t always happy with the coverage Apple got, but you have to agree that the company has mostly been well represented in media. That is something that your PR agency can help you track: to what degree are media picking your messages up? Where are the problems? Don’t stop at a count of the stories you got, and whether they are positive or negative, but also measure if your message is coming through.