Marketing & PR Tips: The Importance of Media Relations to Your Marketing Plan

December 24, 2009 No comments


Media relations is an integral part of every successful marketing plan. It shapes your company brand, tells your unique story to the news media, and generates sales leads. By maintaining a consistent stream of news, you tell prospects, customers, competitors, and the media that you are a vibrant business and a key player in the industry.

As with journalism, storytelling is at the heart of good public relations. What’s my story, you may ask? The unique benefits of your products and services. Your perspective on the industry. You are a resource to the news media. By understanding that dynamic you can develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Below are seven basic steps to consider when planning a media relations campaign:

  1. Each month read the top publications of your industry. You don’t have to read a dozen magazines, but scan three or four and get familiar with their staff and story topics. (For example, if you’re in the recruitment and staffing space, read Workforce Management and Human Resource Executive).

  2. Review the editorial calendars of these publications. This is where you’ll get some basic insight on what topics the pubs plan to cover each year (*Note – HRmarketer subscribers can access editorial calendars in the database profiles of all major publications.) Coverage topics are always subject to change, because “edcals” are primarily designed to assist a publication’s advertising staff. Still, they are the most reliable guide for planning media pitches and press release topics.

  3. Develop your own editorial calendar to map out topics for future news announcements and possible bylined articles. What new products and services are you launching this year? Why are they vital to your customers and the industry? What makes them different from your competitors? What research have you done that might interest readers? Any industry trends that you foresee?

  4. Keep tabs on your competitors and read their press releases. How can you differentiate yourself? Do you have similar news on the horizon? Do you have a better story to tell? Also, read your competitor’s published articles to inspire your own article pitches.

  5. Formalize a press release calendar for the year and outline the first few releases you’d like to send out. At minimum you should distribute one release per quarter, but we recommend once a month (or more if your company is a hotbed of activity).

  6. Develop an ongoing media list of major industry trades, business pubs, business journals, newspapers, and online newsletters that cover your space. Be sure you are targeting the right publications and journalists. Don’t “blitz” your news to every publication — it’s a fast way to get blacklisted. Make sure each and every news release is appropriate for the journalist to whom you’re sending.

  7. Campaigns should always include a newswire outlet such as HRmarketer’s Direct2Net service with PR Web. Newswire releases are the best way to reach search engines and related news portals, many of which are syndicated throughout the Internet. You’ll be amazed at how many places a release might appear, increasing your potential to attract sales leads and media interest. Also, increasing numbers of buyers in the HR space use the Internet to “shop” for potential vendors, so it’s important to be highly visible on search engines such as Google and Yahoo!.

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Marketing & PR Tips: What Not to Say to a Journalist, and Other Media Tips

December 8, 2009 No comments


Media relations is about relationship building, telling a good story, and conveying that story to the appropriate media. Patience, persistence, and consistency are the keys to effective media relations. Your mission is to develop a core message, communicate that message quickly and creatively, and think like a journalist. By thinking of yourself and your company as resources, you’ll eventually hit the right combination of story and timing that meets a journalist’s story needs.

However, there are five phrases that will quickly torpedo your efforts. Writers and editors tell us repeatedly that these comments and/or questions are all-but-guaranteed to get you added to a very unpopular list:

  • “Did you get my press release?”
  • “We bought an ad in your magazine – where’s our coverage?”
  • “You always cover our competitors . . . why not us?”
  • ‘We’d love to invite you to our event, as long as you write a good story.”
  • “Did you get my press release?”
  • Tech industry journalist Rafe Needleman has a great blog where he offers tips to PR and marketing professionals on how not to pitch reporters. In short, his advice is “do your homework and be courteous.” Some other PR tips he offers (in his own words):

  • Make sure your email subject line gets your point across. Unless you want it to be all I read.

  • Emailing a pitch? Put your company or product name in the first paragraph. Better yet, first sentence. Best: first word. I’m not reading to the end of your pitch regardless, so why take chances?
  • Any pitch that starts, “In today’s tough economy…” gets ignored.
  • Making up new acronyms and jargon doesn’t make your story sound better.
  • Study your target. How hard is it to read his/her stuff before you pitch?
  • Anything you say can be used against you. Or for you. Assume that your phone call, email, IM, or Twitter message is on the record. We sure do. Want to be off the record or anonymous? Agree to it beforehand.
  • If you’re pitching me on the phone, talk to me. Don’t read me the flippin’ press release. It puts me to sleep.
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    Marketing & PR Tips: Online Press Rooms and Media Kits

    December 8, 2009 No comments


    Online Press Rooms

    Until recently, media kits were the best way to provide a journalist with company news and background details during a face-to-face interview or briefing. Today it’s essential that your Web site has an online “press room” for writers and editors to quickly learn about your company and recent news. Whether it’s called “Newsroom,” “Press Center,” or something else, every home page should have a clear, visible link to this site.

    An effective press room should include the following;

  • News releases and a press archive of news dating back to the company’s founding. A journalist should be able to absorb your company’s history and achievements simply by reviewing this section. Media coverage can also be included here.

  • A corporate “fact sheet” that includes a brief history, your products and services, customer markets, the current management team, office locations, and awards/achievements.
  • Biographies of the management team with downloadable high-resolution photos.
  • Product or service data sheets with high-resolution photos for press use and/or screenshots.
  • Company logos that can be downloaded for Web and print use.
  • Customer case studies that illustrate your company’s unique benefits.
  • Contact information for company spokespeople.
  • Media Kits

    Today the Web has largely replaced media kits, but they can still be useful at conferences and events. So much is online today that a physical kit may be effective as a “counter programming” move. That said, a media kit should work in concert with a company’s online press room and not attempt to replace it. The key components of a modern media kit include:

  • Company Fact Sheet: One or two pages of quick facts about the company: name, headquarters and office locations, a brief history, products or services, key markets and customers, management team, board of directors (if applicable), and PR contacts. Be sure to include the company’s URL.
  • Recent news releases: Choose only those with broad appeal and timely news value — no more than 3-4 releases total. Be honest about what’s new – don’t change the original release dates.
  • Product/Data Sheet (if applicable): If you provide technology products, these can be especially helpful to journalists.
  • Customer Case Studies: Brief customer stories that relate how your company or service assisted clients and helped them overcome a business challenge.

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    Marketing & PR Tips: Media Relations at Conferences and Expos

    December 8, 2009 No comments


    A great way to build relationships with journalists is to meet them in person at conferences and expos.

    Event organizers usually provide an advance list of media outlets who will attend these events. Call or e-mail targeted writers and editors at least one month before the event and see if they’re willing to meet for 15 minutes. (Contact them two months ahead if it’s a big event such as the annual SHRM conference.) Don’t pitch them a story or ask for coverage! The chief goals are to learn what story topics interest them and to introduce them to your company and its unique offerings. Your secondary goals are to share any recent news and answer questions. Be familiar with their publication so you can speak intelligently. Bring a media kit along for them to read on the flight home.

    By the way, try not to schedule any meetings immediately after a media briefing. If the discussion is going well and the journalist is engaged, you don’t want to be checking your watch or cutting them off.

    Upon returning from the conference, send them a note or e-mail of thanks. The journalist now has a face to associate with your company – a big plus in today’s world of e-mail-driven media relations.

    Media Kits

    Most major conferences and events have a “media room” or “press lounge,” where writers and editors can work on stories. There is typically a spot for attending companies to display their latest news and company information – either in the form of “media kits” or individual news releases.

    Media kits have largely been replaced by online press rooms, but they still serve as good background pieces to offer reporters, especially if you’re announcing news at the event. At the start of the event, locate the media room and leave copies of your news release or media kit there. This is a free opportunity, regardless of the event. Always ask the event organizers ahead of time if they will have a press lounge. Keep a few copies for any journalist briefings you’ve scheduled.

    The key elements of an effective media kit are detailed in our article “Online Press Rooms and Media Kits.”

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    Marketing & PR Tips: Make the Most Out of Editorial Queries

    December 8, 2009 No comments


    Journalists always need sources for stories. Many turn to editorial query services such as Profnet, Help A Reporter Out (HARO), and HRmarketer’s “HR Source Net” service. By keeping the following tips in mind, you’ll be ready for the perfect opportunity:

    1. Seek out customers of your services and products who are willing to speak with journalists. Do this now, so you can respond quickly when a media opportunity arises. Journalists typically seek HR managers with corporate experience who have been “in the trenches.” However they also need thought leaders, consultants, and vendors.

    2. Don’t be afraid to forward editorial queries to a customer, even if they don’t fit your company. When a journalist lands a good source, they are more likely to remember the person who made the connection. The key is to make the journalist happy — their next story may be your perfect opportunity.

    3. Read every story query carefully. Make sure you understand the journalist’s need. Don’t send a pitch that doesn’t relate to the query! Doing so is a ticket to Blacklist City.

    4. Act quickly. Many journalists post queries just a few days before their deadline, and it’s not uncommon to see a same-day query. Be sure to monitor HRmarketer’s editorial alerts, and respond immediately when a query fits. In some cases, the first response may be all the writer needs. If they list a phone number, call.

    5. Don’t expect (or demand) a response. Don’t call the writer to make sure they got your pitch. Journalists are extremely busy and it’s nothing personal . . . they’ll reply if you are a good match. If not, there’s always the next story.

    6. Context is key. A brief mention of your company can be every bit as meaningful as a big story. That’s why it’s important to offer a customer who successfully used your service to save costs and/or overcome a challenge.

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    Marketing & PR Tips: How to Use Editorial Calendars

    December 8, 2009 No comments


    An editorial calendar is a schedule of story topics that a media outlet plans to cover through the year. These are available to HRmarketer.com members in the database profiles of all major publications. Click the button in the upper right column and you’ll see a grid of topics sorted by issue cover dates.

    Contrary to popular belief, “edcals” are not updated monthly, and some coverage topics may be postponed due to breaking news. Think of an editorial calendar as the publication’s roadmap of coverage for the year, designed to assist the advertising staff. Listed topics are subject to change, and not all story assignments are related to what’s on the calendar. So it’s important to submit new story ideas by sending regular story pitches and press releases.

    That said, edcals are the most reliable guide for planning pitches. If you can contribute to a particular topic or know of an expert in your company, contact the publication and find out which journalist is writing the article. Then e-mail or call the journalist and offer your expertise. The journalist will reply if he/she determines you fit the needs of the story. Don’t be promotional in your outreach – position your company as a resource. With regard to timing, monthly magazines require 3-4 months’ lead time and we recommend two months’ lead for publications with greater frequency.

    Finally, edcals provide an advertising opportunity: consider placing ads in specific issues that relate to your product or service.

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    Marketing & PR Tips: Pitching the Media: Telephone or E-mail?

    December 8, 2009 No comments


    Sending story pitches to the media is a great way to get news coverage, but it’s intensely competitive. Journalists are constantly deluged with e-mails and phone calls, so you need to do the proper homework and hone your story idea in advance. Otherwise, your pitch will be greeted with a hang-up or “delete” key.

    Today’s journalists have hectic schedules and most prefer to get story pitches by e-mail. E-mail allows them time to review a story idea when it’s convenient; it allows you to present a clear and concise idea. The best e-mail pitches are only two paragraphs in length (or less), enough to trigger the writer’s curiosity. If they’re interested, they’ll respond.

    However, it’s true that editors and writers are inundated with e-mail, and yours can get lost in the avalanche. If you truly think your idea is unique, or if it’s time-sensitive, a call may be best. When calling, get to the point and deliver your pitch in 20-30 seconds.

    Whether you’re using phone or e-mail, the basics of story pitching are the same. The goal is to position your company as an ongoing resource among key journalists. Follow these tips and you’ll stand above the vast majority of PR people who are mired in a “dialing for dollars” mentality.

    * Choose three or four targeted journalists in your space. Get familiar with the publications and the coverage topics of each journalist before contracting them.

    * When pitching an idea, stick to the basic details – who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why their readers should care.

    * If possible, reference a recent article written by that writer or a national news trend and show how your idea relates. Think of yourself as a story resource rather than a pitchman who needs to make the sale.

    * For many journalists (especially those at newspapers), earlier is better. As editors and writers move through their daily schedules, deadlines loom and time becomes precious.

    * If you’re pitching a press release, start with a quick introduction and summarize the key news in one sentence. Don’t begin by quoting the entire opening paragraph of the release.

    * Don’t call to ask the journalist if they received a press release. They hate that.

    * If you get a voice mail, leave a quick message and follow-up via email. If they don’t return your call, let it go until next time. It’s not personal; they’re busy and may not need your release at that moment.

    * If the writer responds, be ready to immediately provide interview sources and additional background info. This will establish you as a reliable source.

    * Once an interview has been conducted, ask where and when the story is expected to appear. If the piece doesn’t appear on that date, it’s fine to send your contact a brief e-mail asking when it might run. Always be polite.

    Many journalists are now on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. HRmarketer monitors those who have profiles, so check there first. This is a great way to get to know them better and keep up with their story interests. However, don’t send them pitches this way until you’ve developed a relationship.

    Another great way to meet journalists is to attend media workshops held by PR trade organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org). Or request meetings at trade shows and conferences. See the related tip, Media Relations at Conferences and Shows.

    Sample E-Mail Pitch #1–

    This story pitch was accompanied by a press release — the editor requested a copy of the client’s article.

    Subject Line: “News: EmployeeScreen Article Reveals Secret World of Diploma Mills”

    Hi Anne,

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the daily spam emails that promise cheap, fast, and easy college degrees. EmployeeScreenIQ recently investigated this world of “diploma mills” and released an article today about their growing scope and popularity. The background screening provider purchased their own degree and saw first-hand its startling accuracy.

    Please email me if you’d like a copy. It’s a timely story for HRE Online that addresses a genuine threat to employers in terms of financial risk, litigation and reputation. If we can help, I’d be happy to connect you with EmployeeScreen’s CEO.

    Thanks for considering,

    Sample E-Mail Pitch #2–

    Below is a standalone story idea not connected to a press release. It ultimately resulted in Summit Health being featured in a Workforce Management cover story about the flu vaccine shortage.

    Subject Line: “Benefits story idea: Flu vaccine selling out early”

    Hi Jessica,

    Hope you’re doing well! I wanted to pass along some news that might make an interesting benefits story.

    One of our healthcare clients — Summit Health, an employee wellness & health screening provider — has run out of flu vaccines already for the season. They saw an “unprecedented flow of flu orders” during the last two weeks…. based on pending orders, they appear to have sold 325,000 flu shots. At this time they are drastically reducing the number of new orders, and are placing customers on a waitlist until pending orders are processed. It’s the earliest Summit Health has ever run out of flu vaccine. I’m sure H1N1 virus fears are at the core of this. If you’d like to talk with Richard Penington, Summit’s CEO, I’d be happy to connect you. Thanks!

    Sample Telephone Pitch (generic)

    “Mr. Jones? My name is Mark Willaman and I’ve just built what I think is a better mousetrap. Getting some coverage in “The Best HR Magazine” would be most appreciated, so I’d like to send you a press release with your permission. Might I send you the story along with a photo and some customer testimonials?” Mr. Jones will likely be OK with this. At that point you might say “Great, I won’t take up any more of your time and I’ll get this out to you today with my thanks.”

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